Fact or fiction for historical stories.

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Writing historical fiction is time consuming to say the least. Each scene that surrounds a character must be true for the reader, and the easiest way to make this scene true, is research and more research. You cannot afford to be wrong, unless of course you do it deliberately, because you are writing an ‘alternate history’ novel.

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A few years ago I wrote an historical novel, which took me at least two years to research. I’d write a scene and then study it to make sure that a character could do what I wanted. For example, I had the main character board a coach in London to travel to Liverpool in 1804. The first thing that comes to mind, was from where in London would he leave – research.

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How big was the coach, how many horses, how many passengers, did they all sit inside or did some sit on top and if so was it cheaper to travel ‘up top’ than inside? Research, research and more research.

My wife considers that I more interested in the research side of writing than I am in producing the finished novel. There may be some truth in her comment . . .
Small details can pop up that you consider and then either use or discard. Too many details will slow the story and you are trying to entertain, not educate, but you do inadvertently educate, so accuracy matters.
One small detail that I didn’t use was that the cost for sitting inside was 5d (five pence) per mile and if you sat up top it was 2 1/2d (twopence h’penny). If I play trivia pursuit on NYE I wonder if I’ll get this question?
How fast did the coach travel, – the average speed being about eight to ten miles an hour until the roads were improved by Mr. McAdam allowing the speed average to increase to fourteen miles an hour.

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How long was it before the horses were changed?
The route was cut in to ‘stages ‘ hence the coach was a ‘stagecoach’- and they would change the horses every ten to fifteen miles.
Some stage stops would allow the passengers to have a meal, but if a coach carried mail many stage stops would be to just change horses, and the post office would only allow five minutes for this procedure, but a crack team could do it in three minutes. To warn the inn and to save time the guard at the rear of the coach would sound his horn in a way to warn the coaching inn that they were approaching, and to have the horses ready for the change.The tone of the sound informed the inn keeper that the coach only wanted fresh horses or that it was a meal stop.

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Was there anything special about the coach; – a Royal Mail coach would have the origin city’s name and the destination city’s name blazoned on the side along with the Royal coat of arms. Royal Mail coaches used numbers whereas commercial coaches gave their service names ‘The Flyer’, ‘The Union’, ‘The Courier, and ’Umpire’ was a Liverpool bound coach and so on.
One would think that a novelist could make up the answers to many of the questions, but if he was wrong then this would taint the overall story and if a reader thought that the author had ‘cheated’ then the reader might not finish the book or the they might post a negative review, which would be worse.
In my novel I had the London to Liverpool coach stop at an inn at Stony Stratford, which was well known as a stopping place for stagecoaches on their way north to Liverpool, Manchester etc, Stony Straford being a day’s ride from London.

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The picture illustrates the inside of a coaching inn (not Cock Inn).
The inn I used was the Cock Inn, which is just up the road from the Bull Inn, which was also a coaching inn. It is known the both inns would exaggerate their services and after a time a story teller would be told that his story was a load of Cock and Bull.
Jon Cok was the original landlord in 1480, which is how the inn got its name not from the bird. Although the pub sign shows the bird.

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Stony Stratford has been around since 1194, and the word ‘Stratford’ in Anglo-Saxon means a ford on a Roman road – the ford being across the River Ouse. The ‘stony’ bit is referring to the stones on the bed of the river.
A friend of mine from my Conway days, who lives near Stony Stratford and had read my book, sent me photographs of the same street today.

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The Cock Inn is now a hotel.

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As is the Bull Inn, which is to the right of the Cock Inn.

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The Bull Inn can be seen on the right of the picture with its Bull Inn sign and further along the road, near the flower baskets close to the lady in red, is the Cock Inn.

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Cock Inn late 1800’s – I doubt that this coach & four was on its way to Liverpool.

All this research for a small part of one chapter – if nothing else I learned a lot.

If you wish to know the connection between the slave picture and my book, read the blurb on the book’s cover. If it is unclear or too small, try this link

https://www.amazon.com/Ice-King-Geoff-Woodland-ebook/dp/B0042P52VG/ref=sr_1_15?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1483139337&sr=1-15&keywords=ice+king

Notes on an Aussie garden at Christmas.

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Unlike Christmas in the northern hemisphere, Christmas for us is the height of summer. It is the time to have our meals outside as often as possible, time for warm evenings to stretch an evening meal in to darkness, before switching on the garden lights..
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The BBQ on the right near the fence –

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Table ready for a group of friends on Australia Day earlier this year.

DSC07436r.jpg Frangipanis with their distinct perfume is on one of my favourite flowers. We have both yellow and red flowering frangipanis.

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I think the yellow has a stronger perfume.

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Cumquats in flower and if the wind allows we will have enough for a batch of marmalade – nice and sour.

Down the side of the house we have a herb garden -chillies of course because I love them, try them in an omelette or mixed in scrambled eggs.

dsc07442rWe used to have several different varieties of chillies, from very hot to a more civilised ‘hot’, but now we just have the one kind (Birds Eye I think they are called, which has nothing to do with the frozen food company). They seed themselves – one less job  . . . If the crop is too large we just freeze them whole and they last for years. Chillies are easy to grow in our climate, as are most herbs.

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The palm trees are not mine –

Maureen is very keen on her herb garden – the European mint spreads so quickly we have to cut it down to keep it in check.
Parsley needs looking after due to the bugs, rosemary has to be cut back because it grows so much, lemongrass has to be chopped back in winter and it springs back (in the spring of course  . . .old jokes) , basil likes the heat and plenty of water, we also have Thai basil which has a different taste with its hint of licorice.

The Vietnamese mint needs a little looking after, which has a different taste than European mint, oregano is enclosed to keep it in check, French tarragon is nursed a little, sage is under the lime tree and ‘protected’ by the tree, and the tree at the end is a lime tree.

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Limes are coming along fine, but stink buds need to be kept in check.

stinkI used to pick the stink buds of by hand and drop them in to kero  – but I always used gloves because they give off a liquid (defense mechanism) that STINKS and the liquid dyes the hand orange / yellow and it will not come off, regardless of the amount of scrubbing and the use of soap or white spirit. It does eventually come off after a few days only because one grows new skin.

Just because it is 30 c during the day doesn’t stop it from snowing just in time for Santa. This not my house.

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and if you can’t find snow perhaps sand will do . . .

A Very Happy Christmas and a safe and healthy 2017.

AE1

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I’ve managed to trace my family back to John Woodland, who was born around 1610, near Newport Pagnell.
His grandson, Richard, married Mary Exon, a girl from Ware in Herts , which is 50 miles (80 km) from Newport Pagnell. The distance today is less than an hours drive, so to marry someone so far away in the 1600’s must have been a huge challenge. Later members of the family grew up and married for generations in and around Ware, Hertford and later St Albans, which is ‘only’ 17 miles from Ware.

As time passes I noticed that certain male Christian names are repeated time and time again – Robert, William, Thomas, and Frederick.

My father was Robert William, my grandfather was Frederick, my great grandfather was Robert, my great uncle was Robert William – perhaps the family lacked imagination until my mother was allowed to name me, and my father was allowed to pick the spelling of my Christian name.

Earlier this year Maureen & I visited Perth, Western Australia, and during our short stay we visited, with friends who lived in Perth, the maritime museum in Fremantle.

maritime-memoriesPicture from the Maritime Museum web site.

We arrived late in the afternoon and the guide said that the museum would be closing in thirty minutes and perhaps we should just visit the submarine display on the ground floor.

We were happy to just brows around and I wandered over to the display for HMA (His Majesty’s Australian) submarine AE1, which had been built in Barrow in Furness and launched in May 1913.

She was the first of two E class submarines built for the Australian navy.
726 tonnes submerged and 599 tonnes on the surface. She could do 10 kts submerged and 15 kts on the surface. Her range at 10 kts was 3,225 nm.

AE1 along with AE2 sailed to Australia and reached Sydney in May 1914. AE1 had a mixed crew of Royal Navy and Royal Australian Navy.

On the 4th August 1914 Britain declared war on Germany, because German had invaded Belgium, so as to attack France. As part of the British Empire, Australia followed suite declaring war on Germany and offering support to the British, which was accepted on the 6th August.

At the outbreak of war AE1 joined naval units to capture a German Pacific colony, German New Guinea, just a few miles north of Australia.

painitingDennis Adams painting (1983) illustrates AE1 at sea.

AE1 took part in the German New Guinea operation and was in attendance when the Germans surrendered at Rabaul on the 13th September 1914.

Next day AE1 rendezvoused with HMAS Parramatta (destroyer) and patrolled St George’s channel. HMAS Parramatta advised AE1 that she was to patrol north east and that Parramatta would patrol to the south.  The weather was hazy and later in the day AE1 asked about visibility (she being very low in the water her horizon was limited) and Parramatta reported that is was about five miles. About 3.20 pm Parramatta lost sight of AE1 and being concerned, steamed to her last known position.

There wasn’t any sign of the submarine so Parramatta considered that AE1 had returned to port without informing Parramatta.

By 8.00 pm authorities were concerned that AE1 was over due and order several ships to search for her. She has never been found, nor any sign of her, not even the smallest sign of an oil slick.

AE1 had three officers and thirty two sailors.

The above is a brief outline of AE1 the ship and I found it all very interesting. I then moved over to the display of letters, photographs and paperwork relating to AE1 – and that was when I found something – a crew list, and listed amongst the crew was Frederick William Woodland AB, ex Royal Navy.

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A photograph of Fred W. Woodland

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There were also a letter of condolences from Winston Churchill, (he was First Lord of the Admiralty at the time), letter of condolence from the Australian High Commission in London.

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A scroll of remembrance

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I have tried to find a link between Bognor (now Bognor Regis) and Ware or St Albans, but have failed.

On our return from Western Australia I did manage to find the address of where Helen Woodland lived in 1914, but for some reason I can’t find it now!

http://sevenseasaustralia.com.au/club/?page_id=2829

an interesting link

Wrapped in the ocean boundless
Where the tides are scarcely stirred
In deeps that are still and boundless,
They perished unseen, unheard …

From ‘Missing’ by Will Lawson, 1914

The submarine AE1 still hasn’t been found.

Helen Woodland moved to Canada in 1921, and she kept all of the documents relating to her husband’s death. These paper passed to her daughter, Annie, and Annie’s son visited Australia in 2001.and was moved by the display in the Maritime Museum about AE1.

On his return to Canada he persuaded his mother to donate all of the papers relating to the Frederick William Woodland to the Australian Maritime Museum, and it was these paper that I read when in Fremantle.

An Ironclad Torch.

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Karanja, launched 1930, 9891 gt.

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She was no longer a liner that operated between Bombay and East Africa and down to Durban, she had been converted to a troop ship HMS Karanja LSI (L) and now she was off to war.

The WS 17 convoy formed off the island of Oversay, which is off the west coast of Scotland, in late March 1942. The WS stood for Winston’s Special convoy # 17. The destination was top secret. The final departure from the UK was the Clyde and Liverpool. HMS Karanja’s position within the convoy was 63C.

The destination we now know was South Africa. On reaching Freetown the convoy was split in to two parts and WS17A, which contained Karanja, sailed from Freetown escorted by a battleship, a cruiser and eight destroyers for Durban in S. Africa.

In Durban the two parts of WS 17 were reformed and the convoy sailed.

The destination was Madagascar, which was held by the Vichy French and Churchill was concerned that if the Germans overran Vichy France, then Madagascar would allow Japanese submarines to harass allied shipping in the Indian ocean.

map-murAs you see Madagascar was too close to Kenya and Tanzania (then it was called Tanganyika), which were both under British control. Plus it was a short sail from Durban in South Africa. Mozambique was Portuguese territory and they were neutral during the war.

Operation Ironclad was the invasion of Madagascar in May 1942, and HMS Karanja carried the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, who landed at white beach. In all, fifty ships took part in the invasion. Dummy paratroopers where used to confuse the defense of the island. This idea was used again at D Day and again at the attack on Arnhem, which is better known as ‘A Bridge Too Far’.

After two days of fighting Diego Suarez surrendered, but the capital refused and the fighting dragged on for another six months. During the time that the fleet was in attendance a Japanese submarine torpedoed a tanker, and damaged the battleship HMS Ramillies.

Later in 1942 HMS Karanja had returned to the UK and had been allocated to a new convoy and a new landing called Operation Torch, which was the allied invasion of North Africa.

In October convoys sailed from the UK wide out in to the Atlantic to avoid German submarines based in western France. American convoys sailed direct to North Africa so that all the ships arrived at the same time to maximize the effort for the invasion.

It would be a three pronged attack, which would commence on the 8th November 1942. The western side would be Casablanca in Morocco, the central would be Oran in Algeria and the eastern side would be at Algiers.

04_map_torchHMS Karanja was part of the Eastern landings.

mohaa-torch-map After Karanja had landed her troops at Bougie she moved back out to sea, when on the morning of the 12th November at 05.30 am she was attacked  by German Ju88 bombers.
She was hit by at least two bombs and an oil fire broke out amidships. The fire spread rapidly and the crew had their hands full fighting the fire. They managed to salvage some guns and ammunition, but by 8.30 am they had to abandon ship  when it was realised that nothing else could be done to save her.

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HMS Karanja just before she sank, and as far as I know, she is still lying on the seabed off the coast of Algeria.

When I went to sea with British India Steam Nav Co I was asked during my interview if I had any connections with BI. Wishing to please the interviewers (I wanted to join the company as a cadet after leaving HMS Conway training college) I mentioned that my father had sailed in Karanja, which was a BI passenger ship.

Silence fell as the interviewers looked at each other and muttered quietly between themselves until the chairman of the interviewing board said that he didn’t remember any officer with my family name having sailed with BI.

‘Oh! he wasn’t an officer,’ says I, ‘but an AB in the Royal Navy after she had been taken over by the British Government during the war, and converted to a LSI (L) – and renamed HMS Karanja. He was in Karanja when she was bombed and sunk off North Afirca.’

With a small cough the chairman looked at me and said, ‘We do not speak of our losses.’

The floor didn’t open as I had hoped, but thankfully I was offered a cadetship.

Dad had been involved in both Ironclad & Torch landings and was still in her when she was bombed off Bougie, Algeria. The only comment about his experiences came from my mother when she heard someone at the front door in December 1942. On opening the door she saw her husband standing on the step in a boiler suit, which was the only thing he had left, having lost everything else on the Karanja. He was given two weeks survivor’s leave and then sent back to sea.

When I found the photograph of the Karanja being on fire I had a very odd feeling knowing that Dad was on her at that time and fighting the fires. He survived the war and died from cancer in 1978.

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A thousand sail of the line.

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” we had the satisfaction of finding the finest harbour in the world, in which a thousand sail of the line may ride in the most perfect security…”
— Governor Arthur Phillip, 15 May 1788.

Today we know it as Sydney Harbour – the above picture shows North Head as we sail in to the harbour from the Pacific ocean.

dsc07398rSouth of the Heads

dsc07402rStill south of the Heads but with the zoom I managed to capture the ‘coat hanger’ in the distance.

dsc07403rEntering the Heads

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.South Heads with the city in the background.

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Entering the harbour  . .

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The harbour in front of us and we still have a long way to go to our berth.

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Shows our wake as we passed in to the harbour. The sun is chasing us up the harbour.

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As we passed under the bridge I had the sun hiding behind the funnel – it was going to be a beautiful day. and couldn’t be more perfect for us to enter Sydney Harbour.

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Lunar Park fairground looked happy to see us.

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The inner harbour area as we swung round to go alongside, which meant the end of the holiday.

Maré – Loyalty to the end

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Once again, we anchored and the ship’s boats ferried people ashore. We didn’t have to climb down the ladder, which is shown in the photograph. At the bottom of the ladder you can see the main exit / entry port. Each time we re-boarded we had to go through security screening i.e  x-raying of bags, and each passenger has to  walk through an airport style scanner. Of course I had the normal physical pat down, without the same insistent ‘I’m going to touch you ‘ apologies that I had in Sydney.

The main attraction for this island seems to be a fabulous beach, which is a short drive from the small town near where we anchored.
The island is basalt rock due to volcanic activity many years ago.

The tender ferried us to a small pier at the right of the picture below, where we were greeted by locals singing.

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I’ve always liked the Pacific islanders singing, whether as part of a local festival or in church on Sundays.  Pacific islanders singing in the Cook Islands – walk the streets in the Pacific on a Sunday morning I bet you can’t but help go to church, even if you don’t believe in God.

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The concrete pier / dock that you see is for small sea going vessel, and it also acts as a breakwater. The pier we used was much smaller.

dsc07275rAs soon as we stepped ashore the small market came to life.

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And you could have your hair braded if you wished, I think for around AUD $15.00.

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Buses waited for those passengers who wished to go to the beach, which has a reputation of being famous for its white sands, and is a place that people dream of when they think of the Pacific Islands. I’d had enough sun, sand and sea while in Lifou.

Maureen & I checked out the market and the surrounding areas.

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The memorial above in French, is to remember a small coaster, La Monique (Monike) , that left this bay on the 31st July, 1953, with 126 people on board. The weather was calm, and she was bound for Noumea.

laThis is the best picture that I could find.

The captain and his twenty-six crew members were from Ouvea, which is one of the Loyalty Islands. The passengers came from Ouvea (19), Maré (12), and Lifou (59), the fifty-nine from Lifou consisted of family member of three large chieftainships of that island. There were also civil servants, a policeman and his family and tradesmen. The nationalities beside those from the Loyalty islands were Japanese, Vietnamese, Europeans, and Kanaks from New Caledonia.
The vessel sailed from Maré Island on the evening of the 31st July and has not been seen since.
The monument is in the shape of a small boat, which faces out to sea at the spot where family members last saw the crew and passengers as they boarded the ship.
The monument does not call to mind the deaths of those on board, because to the people of the Lifou Islands, in their language called Drehu, they do not speak of death, ‘meci he’,  when they speak of the Monique, but of ‘patre he’, which means that they are no longer here, and yet are here never the less. The monument was erected sixty years after the loss of La Monique – 31st July 2013. On the reverse of memorial you will find the details of the tragedy in French and in English.

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dsc07285rI stood with my back to the memorial and took this photo – the place felt peaceful.

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If only I’d known of the swimming pool (you may be able to see the yellow ladder on the right) I’d have brought my swimming gear. The water was warm and crystal clear. I took the photograph from the small pier while we waited for the ship’s boat to come alongside.

dsc07316rAs we sailed from Maré a lonely yacht entered the harbour.

The day after we left the evening theme was the Gatsby era.

Once again we swapped our ‘smart casual’ code for a Gatsby dress code – or as close as we could.

dsc07333cA slight explanation – note the hat that I acquired in Robe, which is a small coastal town in South Australia, a couple of years ago during our road trip.
I was in a small pub and asked for a pint of Guinness.
As I picked up the glass with its white topped head covering the beautiful black liquid I was asked if I wanted a hat to go with the drink – of course I said yes, and received the above ‘titfer’ that’s on my head.
I’d forgotten that the previous day had been St Patrick’s day and it appears that the landlord had a few hats left over. By the way the hat it is made of paper, but doesn’t feel ‘delicate’.
As I thanked the landlord I mentioned that St Patrick was not Irish, but Welsh, and that he had been sent to Ireland as a missionary preach the gospel to the heathens across the Irish Sea. I don’t think he believed me, but I held on to my new ‘Irish’ ‘titfer’ just in case he wanted it returned.

The white belt is from my ‘white’ outfit – the ex uniform from the 60’s, and the braces (suspenders if you are American, which means something quite different to the English) are from the $2 shop at home. In the ‘old’ days ones braces had buttons to secure them to the trousers – my new pair had clips that kept pinging off – had to make sure the waiter didn’t have a full glass as one side pinged.

dsc07338cIsla and Olivia (grand daughters) joined in the Gatsby period – the head gear was made in the Kid’s Club, along with long dangling necklaces.

DSC07337r.jpgJosh (grandson) wanted my hat.

dsc07354rAfter the evening meal I tried to play Turn Back Time  on the piano – I failed.

Mainly because I can not play the piano, which is a small detail for a black shirted musician.

dsc07340cThe Gatsby Gang

dsc07341rMatt (son-in-law) with three great Gatsby kids.

dsc07391rOne more sunset, which in the picture is setting over Australia, and we will see the ‘Heads’ of Sydney harbour, the following morning, which will be the end of our cruise.

Islands in the sun

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Island in the sun

Approaching Noumea, New Caledonia

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Local yacht club – last time we visited New Cal we had lunch in this club and I can recommend their lunchtime pudding, which was a large bowl of ice cream floating in a sea of Tia Maria th– very more-ish if you were staying the night. . . . .

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Being welcomed by a local dance troop.

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Golden Princess berthed at the container port – launched 2001 at 109,000 gt compared to Pacific Jewel, launched 1990 at 70,300 gt. Being that much smaller we were allowed to berth at the cruise terminal.

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 Views of the city.

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Passenger road trains run around the city and the beach area. I think the colour of the train denotes the area.
Maureen & I didn’t go ashore because we’d been to Noumea a few years earlier and I doubted that it would have change all that much. Being on an ‘empty’ ship is a pleasure – smaller crowds, easy to find a seat anywhere are just two of the advantages of not going ashore.
As we sailed we had a small boat following us, which was the pilot boat. On our arrival, it was very sedate, but as we left in blew its whistle and started to do turns on the spot.

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It never went forward or backwards just round and round on the same spot until the pilot was ready to disembark – it got a large round of applause when it stopped spinning and made its way to the side of the ship for the pilot.
Our next stop Lifou, the largest island in the Loyalty Islands.

The name Loyalty island was bestowed on the island by European merchants towards the end of the 18th century to acknowledge the cooperation of the local people. Whaling and timber were the main trade in the 19th century. Today it is copra, and now tourism.

If you have every carried copra, before containerisation, it is not a ‘friendly’ cargo with all the black bugs that infest the ship from the copra.

We anchored off the shore and the ship’s boats ran a service back and forth for most of the day.

dsc07249rThis craft could carry about 140 people.

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Maureen and I were on one of the early boats because we had been warned by our daughter that the prime spots were under palm trees because of the heat. Our daughter’s family had  visited this island last year on another cruise, so we were the advance party to secure the correct area for when the grandchildren and their parents arrived an hour or so later.

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It was a very nice beach and the water was shallow for quite a way out. The coral out crops forced the swimmer to swim instead of wading in the shallow waters because the coral was very sharp. I found it easier to swim out on my back, which of course caused my front to get sun burned, which I paid for over the next few days. Not painful, just peeling.

dsc07236rAs Pacific Jewel swung on her anchor she appeared to be quite close at times. The motto on the stern is ‘Like no Place on Earth’. The swimmers in the water were from the ship.

The coral went out quite a long way – but Australia has some of the best beaches in the world, with little risk of being shredded on coral, yet we all swam in waters that unless you were careful, would give you a nasty wound. More and more passengers came ashore – the beach was only used by the passengers; the locals didn’t bother.

dsc07237r– the black pier is where our boats tied up to take on or drop off passengers.

dsc07234rYou know who, cast a drift on a desert island.

Back on board the theme of the evening was “WHITE”, so one had to make an effort.

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For the Conway readers I must brag a little here – the shorts that I am wearing are at least fifty years old – part of my BI uniform when I was at sea, and I can still get in to them with a little movement of the top button. It surprised me as well . . . . . .As you see with my white hair, I went a little further in to whiteness than Maureen.

dsc07258rGrand-daughters joined in the fun.

dsc07263rThe ship’s children’s dance team helped to get the children in to the swing of things.

dsc07259rSome of us just watched . . . Maureen & Sara (our daughter)