Upon sailing from Colombo we cleaned ship – the crew hosed down the decks and all rubbish was thrown overboard (well before it became un pc), the smell of the land fell away and we could unlock our windows and doors, we were free of petty thieving and the smell of industry, our destination was Chalna in East Pakistan (now called Bangladesh).
Each cabin had two doors – an outer door that was a thick solid door that was only closed when in port, and an inner door (only a couple of inches between each door) which was a louvered door. When opening the main door we could lock it open by the use of a hook attached to the bulkhead in the passageway.
The door was similar to the one in the picture, but on the ships in which I sailed our inner door was not full height, but about three quarters high of a standard door, and the slats could be moved to allow more air in to the cabin or to close it off completely.
One seldom locked the inner door so if one wanted to sleep or a quiet time, we would hang a bath towel over the top of the door and people would respect your privacy. We never locked our cabin doors when at sea because we felt that trust of ones colleagues was paramount.
The feeling that the ship is ours again after being in port is a definite feeling of ownership.
Once again, I was on the ‘graveyard’ watch – mid-day to 4.00 pm and midnight to 4.00 am, I loved that watch – peaceful, and particularly at night one felt in total command.
There are certain nights that I can remember and the short voyage from Colombo to Chalna has been in my mind for a long time.
The weather was perfect – cloudless sky, about 29 c (84 f) with a light breeze that took the sting out of the sun. The waves were small with very few white caps, and the flying fish were – flying, and visibility must have been about twenty miles.
Sunset was dramatic with shades of blue green yellow orange purple grey and red beams that reflected off the sea. As the sun set the sky became silver as the moon took over from the sun.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have a camera at the time of the sunset but have used the above which I took during a cruise. of course the sunset was not during my watch times, but later when we would sit outside – feet on the lower bar of the ship’s rails and a beer in hand and all was well with the world.
The gives you an idea, but the deck space on a cargo ship was a small area and we didn’t march around the ship for exercise as people do on modern cruise ships.
As we approached the coast of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) we were looking for the light vessel that warned of sand banks and other dangers.
This is not the Chalna lightship, but I posted it to show those who may not be aware of a light ship. The lightship would be moored at a designated spot, and its light would flash at night in a certain pattern to warn vessels of danger.
We arrived off the lightship at around 5.00 pm (1700 hrs) and anchored and waited for the pilot to guide us up the Pasur River the sixty miles to Chalna.
Once again we waited and waited and finally, we heard that the agent didn’t even know that we were due in to Chalna. The added problem was that the date that we arrived was the 12th March, and we had to be out of the river and in to the Bay of Bengal no later than the 14th March because the water in the river might drop so low that we wouldn’t be able to cross the bar (sandbanks) at the mouth of the river.
I must admit that there were times when I was glad I was not the Captain, and this was one of them.
When the pilot did arrive to guide us up the river we could only cross the bar at high water, and when we sounded the depth we had less than two metres (seven feet) under the keel of the ship as we crossed the bar in to the river.
We moved up the river in the evening and moored to a buoy off Chalna.
Chalna at that time was the main seaport in the area (second only to Chittagong) having been created in 1950, but due to difficult currents in the Pasur river it was decided in 1954 that the anchorage should be moved nine miles south towards the river mouth to a place called Mongla although in the 1960’s it was still referred to as Chalna, but now it is known as Mongla, due to the port’s expansion.
Warehouse style barges came out to us and using our cargo derricks we unloaded / loaded cargo. I took the above picture in 1968.
The flat land on both sides of the river were just mangrove swamps, the main town of Khulna was thirty-two miles further up river, which was the regional administration centre. At our anchorage the river was about five miles wide.
We were due to load 1500 tons of cargo and so had five gangs working flat out because we had to leave the river while we had enough water to cross the bar at the river’s entrance.
We managed to load our cargo and cross the bar, although we were later than expected, the water was deep enough for us as we entered the Bay of Bengal on the 16th March.
Destination Trincomalee in Ceylon (Sri Lanka), a destination which is on the north east coast of Ceylon.
One of the finest harbours in the world, which was of great importance to the British during the colonial period. It was a safe harbour, and an ideal base to protect the Coromandel Coast, which is the south eastern coast of India.
The light brown area marked on the east coast of India is the Coromandel coast and I hope you can see the pink dot on Sri Lanka, which indicates Trincomalee.
Madras (now called Chennai), marked on the Indian coast with a pink dot in the light brown area, was an extremely important port for the British during colonial times.
In 1812 Britain order a couple of frigates to be built in India, due to the shortage of oak in Britain during the Napoleonic wars. The ships were built in Bombay (now Mumbai) out of teak.
One of the ships was named HMS Trincomalee after the battle of Trincomalee in 1782.
Launched in 1817, and is still afloat in Hartlepool ,in the UK after major renovations.
Considering where she was built note the figure head.
As we sailed to Trincomalee we heard that the labour in Trinco (as Trincomalee was called) were on strike, which meant that we would not be able to load our cargo of tea.
The Company asked if we could make Fremantle without stopping for fuel – we could, but it would be a ten day voyage from our location in the Bay of Bengal, and we had enough water for fourteen days, so as long as we didn’t hit any inclement weather we should be able to make Fremantle.
2 thoughts on “Bay of Bengal”
I take it that dredging a channel through the bar of the Pasur River at that time, was either not available, too expensive or the majority of shipping were smaller than your vessel. – Or maybe a channel would silt up too quickly making it pointless to try ?
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Hi Mike – you are correct –
Bangladesh (as we know it now) receives around 65 inches of rain in a normal year and all around the river in question is flat land as it is part of the Ganges delta, so the amount of silt and land washed down is huge, so it wouldn’t matter how many times they dredged, and this was in the 60’s when the country was broke.
The ship I was on was about 7000 gt and they could work five similar ships at anchor / moorings at the same time. They didn’t have a railway system because to build a secure base for the lines would have broken the country due to flooding and land movement in the monsoons.
As far as I know they still don’t have a railway.
In the 60’s Chalna was East Pakistan and all the power lay in Karachi the other side of India – all this added to the people declaring as a separate state i.e Bangladesh.
The warehouse style barges allowed the inbound cargo to be carried up river about 35 miles to the main admin town Khulna.
Not a holiday place –
Thanks for reading & your comment :-o) I’ve gone on a bit sorry . . .