A radio message arrived to inform us that we were to call at Trincomalee to pick up mail and to investigate the situation before leaving the area for Fremantle in Western Australia.
This suited us all of us on board because picking up mail was one of the most important events for anyone at sea – news from home. The mail had been forwarded from Colombo.
At that time, in the late 60’s, Ceylon (Sri Lanka) was not a common holiday place for those living in Europe, so there was little in the way of holiday style facilities. The above picture is a current view of a Trinco beach scene.
We arrived at 5.00 pm (1700 hr) and anchored. Trinco was a port where we had to anchor to work cargo and barges would come out to the ships.
Work started the following morning to load tea – the strike was either over or we’d offered an ‘incentive’ to get them to work, I never knew which.
A few of us had the afternoon off so we took the ship’s motor boat for a spin.
Trinco harbour is the finest harbour in this part of the world and the water was as clear as could be, so clear and safe that one could swim off the side of the ship.
We found a small beach and secured the boat while swimming – the choice of beaches was unlimited.
Then we found an old small raft that still floated, so of course we wanted to tow it behind the ship’s motor boat – this is when I had my first experience at ‘water skiing’ . .
Look Dad – no hands . . .
It was great fun and we all took turns to ride the raft and steer the boat.
Two days later I had a full day off (I worked nights) so a group of us took the ship’s boat again and landed on tropical island that was pure story books – yellow sand, lush vegetation just beyond the sandy beach, palm trees, clear blue water and a bright blue sky. It would have cost a fortune for anyone to have joined us as a holiday maker from the UK.
Late in the afternoon we went back to the ship to pick up the rest of the officers, all but the second mate and one engineer, both had volunteered to stay on board.
We collected a stack of food and of course a crate or two of beer – it was picnic time.
We built a fire in the sand and set about our B-B-Q, plus we had our own music (battery tape recorder).
The food was well cooked – didn’t wish to take any chances of the Trinco Trots. I was so concerned that my steak was more like a burnt offering than a well-done steak. We also managed to cook chips (French fries), which was a surprise to me.
I was back on board by 10.00 pm (22,00 hr) dead beat and slept like a log – my next shift was 7.00 am in the morning – I slept the sleep of the dead.
One of the senior people in the agency asked the First Mate if he’d like to go hunting – of course he would . . . wouldn’t we all if we had the chance?
The First Mate was supplied with a rifle, and along with his host went wild boar hunting.
He was successful and arrived back on board with his bounty of wild boar. It was given to the cooks and that night we had wild boar for dinner. It had a strong pork taste, which isn’t all that surprising.
The comment was made that it was a pity we didn’t have it on a framework over the BBQ.
I went to the internet for a picture of the Sri Lankan wild boar (see above) and on reading of the history of the boar I realised that shooting wild boar was illegal in 1968 (the time I was there for the shooting) and had been since 1964, although to be technical the actual shooting of the boar was legal if the boar had invaded farmland . . . it was the moving of the remains, which was illegal, and perhaps the eating of the same in a restaurant (which was very popular). So, the First Mate had not broken the law by killing nor by removing the remains (the agent did this) it was like all of us on board, it was the eating of the beast.
Small roadside shops who usually sold coconut and corn products, would at times have boar meat for sale, and the locals would ask for ‘dadamas’, which in the local Sinhala language means ‘bush meat’ because it was illegal to sell boar meat.
Currently the boars have become so prolific that the current Sri Lankan government is considering allowing the shooting in certain circumstance.
We arrived in in Trinco on the 18th March, and should have sailed with our cargo of tea on the 21st March, but we were delayed (for reasons that I can’t remember) but I do remember that every three hours we were told that we’d be sailing, but didn’t, and these three hour delays added up to three days in the end when we finally sailed on the 24th March for Fremantle in Western Australia.
Once out of the shelter of the island of Ceylon the weather began to deteriorate as we head on a south easterly course for Western Australia.
The storm that we encountered was not as bad as the typhoon off Formosa (Taiwan), but overall, we found it very unpleasant. The above picture is a from the start of the typhoon, so I used it as an illustration.
The main difference being that the storm in the Indian Ocean caused the ship to pitch up and down, which one can get used to it and compensate.
In a corridor outside your cabin one minute you are climbing up, and the next minute you are running down.
The other movement is that the ship will roll, and again you can get used to the ship rolling, (watch a sailor walk down a street).
The problem is that when the ship rolls and pitches at the same time the movement, called corkscrewing, will cause the brain and stomach to be out of sync causing a very unpleasant feeling that goes on for days . . .you still have to stand your watch and do your job.
Another from the Pundua to show that pitching will bring tons of water over the decks.
Of course the storm slowed us down, which was a concern for the chief steward, because we were getting low on meat and potatoes.
He’d bought an extra 200 pounds (91 kilos) of potatoes in Colombo and paid an extortion price of 2/- (two shillings) a pound (the average cost in the UK was 2d (2 old pence) a pound. or 1100% more expensive than the UK retail price, never mind the wholesale price. Our chief steward was not happy.
A couple of days out from Fremantle we’d ran out of potatoes & meat – the wild boar had long gone, and we were low on water.
All we seemed to dream about on watch, as we scanned the horizon for the first sign of Australia, was an Ozzy steak.
The simple things in life are only missed when you don’t have them such as – fresh meat and fresh crunchy salads – from memory we made a pig of ourselves on arrival in Fremantle.
British India Steam Navigation Co.’s ships were known as good ‘feeders’, we seldom went without and we always had plenty of good food unless circumstances out of our control caused a shortage. It was not unknown to order a steak and eggs and chips (French fries) for breakfast. I only did this once after a very long night shift and slept well after.
We had three good meals a day – breakfast, lunch & dinner, plus I used to have a plate of sandwiches wrapped in a damp cloth on a tray that contained cup & saucer, milk and sugar and the ‘makings’ for either coffee or tea – we had a kettle on the bridge.
I’m surprised that I didn’t put on more weight, but we did work hard particularly when in port.
This has been posted before, but it is an illustration of a lunch menu on a BI tanker (my first ship),
I know it states Christmas menu, but overall, it was similar to most days, but without the Christmas feel.
Each day we had a menu for each meal, and the main courses changed every day – breakfast was of course eggs to order, with sausages & bacon, and most days we had a choice of fish.
If you were hungry you could start at the top and work your way through, but this was not common.
Food wasn’t wasted because the evening roast was the following day’s curried lunch, and the Goanese curries were very good, and were one of the choices for lunch.
I thought all ships ate like the BI, until I met up with several old Conway cadets who put me right.
Fremantle 1968 – the white ship is not the one I sailed in . . . you can see the cranes on the left of the picture, which is how cargo ships were unloaded at that time before containerisation became the norm, which was just over three years later.
Loading cargo – all my yesterdays . . . .
At the same time as containerisation became popular in 1971 the Juna was sold to the Great China Steel Enterprise Company to be scrapped in Kaohsiung.
Like at sea was about to change