From Shanghai we sailed for Hong Kong.
On entering Hong Kong harbour, we encountered thick fog or very heavy sea mist. It was so thick that we put our engines on ‘dead slow’, to enter harbour very carefully. We had lookouts at the masthead, as well as down aft in case another ship came at us from astern. Being one of the two cadets, I was posted forward to the forecastle, with a crew member, to listen for sounds. The crew member listened on the port side (left hand side), and I listened on the starboard side (right hand side). Regular blasts, from our foghorn rent the air to inform any other vessel of our position.
A ship’s bell was permanently located on the forecastle, for the lookout when at sea. If at night he saw a light on the starboard side he would strike the bell once, for a light on the port side it was two strikes, and dead ahead was three strikes. The number of rings told the officer on the bridge the direction of the light. The bell was used in the same way during fog. Instead of distant lights, striking the bell indicated sound or even a sighting.
Suddenly I heard a sound and rang the ship’s bell with a single stroke. The sound that I could hear was very close. There was also a phone link between the bow and the bridge, and now it rang.
The captain asked me what I’d heard.
‘Judy, Judy, Judy, Sir!’
‘What the blazes are you talking about?’
‘It’s the name of a pop song, Sir. I think we are close to a junk, and they have their radio on very high.’
As I finished my report a small junk came out of the mist, and when the junk’s crew realised how close they were to a 7,000-ton ship, they altered course to pass down our starboard side, shouting and cursing in Cantonese, and waving their arms in anger as Johnny Tillotson kept them company with ‘Judy, Judy, Judy’. The junk rocked back and forth due to our wake, even though we were hardly moving through the water.
Slowly the fog began to lift, and we were able to enter harbour safely and anchor at the appropriate place.