Khorramshahr

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With such a long time at anchor off Doha, Qatar, there was not any excuse not to write home – at least we didn’t pay for the postage. We handed our letters to the purser or chief steward, which was then handed over to our agent, along with any Company communication. The Company mail was bagged for head office in London and posted. As you see everything was what we call ‘snail mail’ today – life without the internet.

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We sailed from Doha for Kuwait after our thirteen days of hanging around at anchor and only working cargo for a day.

Leaving Doha on the 12th July, we arrived off Kuwait at 4.00 pm on the 13th and of course we anchored . . .

Kuwait from the air

Kuwait from the air – picture from the internet.

We stood anchor watches (the same system as at sea), so I was on the mid-day to 4.00 pm and the midnight to 4 am. I remember recording the temperature at 4.00 am as I completed the ship’s log  37 c ( 98 F), It was a warm night, but not as hot as the lunch time report, which listed the temperature as 45 c (113 F) mat 1.00 pm, and we didn’t have air-conditioning and everything that was metal was too hot to touch, which meant most of the ship outside the accommodation.

The following day we moved alongside to work cargo. An uneventful day of heat and dust and the smell of oil, but what would I expect being in the Gulf?

To reach our next port we would be sailing up the Arvand Rud if we wished to discharge in an Iranian port or the Shatt-al Arab if we wished to do business with Iraq. Both side of the river were ‘touchy’ as to how we named the river.

shatt_al_arabAs you see Kuwait is at the bottom of the map and our destination was to be Basra in Iraq.
Khorramshahr & Abadan are both on the Iranian side of the river.

Shah

In 1968 the Shah was still in control at that time and things did not change until Khomeini

Khomeini arrived in 1979.

From Kuwait we sailed to Basra, the plan being to call at the Iranian ports on the way south – this was our normal procedure.

We arrived in Basra on, I think, the 17th July, which was the day of the Ba’thist bloodless coup d’état in Iraq

Sadam

and this gentleman became Vice President. The photo is of when he was a very young man and became more recognizable later in life

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Saddam Hussein in 1980

From memory, the change in government did not affect us and after working cargo we sailed for Iran.

On arrival in Khorramshahr (Iran) on Saturday 27th July, I received a letter from the Company that I was to fly home because my contract for two and a half years on the eastern service had come to an end.
I don’t think I’d ever packed my bags as fast as I did that day – goodbye heat and sand!

My relief walked up the gangway and I warmly welcomed him and offered him my last cold bottle of beer. . . .what a sacrifice!

The ship’s agent drove me to Abadan to catch a plane to Tehran for the connecting flight to London.

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Iran Air B727 /100 had been in service with Iran Air for a couple of years before I flew with them in 1968, configuration was 106 passengers in two classes, I was of course in economy.
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B727 / 100 seating – I was near the back.

As I checked in for the flight at Abadan airport I was surprised at the large amount of hand baggage  that passengers were allowed to carry in to the passenger cabin considering how small the cabin was, in comparison to today’s aircraft.
I’d flown around Asia & Australia to join various ships so I was aware of the restrictions re cabin baggage, but Iran Air didn’t seem to have the same restrictions.

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One person had a small primes stove.

After we had taken off and the seat belt light had been switched off the man with the primes stove squatted in the aisle and lit the stove to make his tea . . . .

Nobody reacted near the tea maker, and as I had an aisle seat I undid my seat belt to tell the tea maker to put out the naked light. Before I had had gone two steps there was a blared movement of a stewardess (one could use this word in 1968) moving from the forward part of the aircraft to the tea maker. I’ve never seen a crew member move so fast before or since.

The flight was IR 800 and we left Abadan at 10.45 pm (2245 hr), flight time was about 90 minutes.
We landed at Mehrabad airport, which at the time was Tehran’s primary airport. The link will give you an idea of ‘yesterday’s’ travelling – it is silent. There weren’t any aero-bridges at that time.
The aircraft in the short film was not the aircraft in which I flew.
My connecting flight was due out at 02.55 hrs (02.55 am) Sunday, it was going to be a long night.

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In 2007 a new airport opened in Tehran for international flights. It is called
Imam Khomeini International Airport. (Picture from the internet)

 

 

 

There are rivers and there are rivers

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You can sail the Danube or

Mekong

the Mekong

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or even the Amazon

for pleasure, and not have a worry, but I doubt that you would choose to sail up or down the Shatt Al Arab for your annual holiday.

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The map will give you an idea of where we were heading  – we bunkered (refuelled) at Abadan, then sailed to Basra (which is in the province of Al Basrah) Iraq for dates, and later to Khorramshahr  (Iran) for pistachio nuts.

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Shatt Al Aarab from the internet taken in the early 1970’s.

Shatt al-Arab, (which means the river of the Arabs in Iraq), but it is also known as Arvand Rud (Swift river) in Iran (Persia).

The river is 200 km (120 miles) long from the confluence of the Euphrates and the Tigris to the Persian Gulf.  Just above where these two rivers meet is thought to be the location of a well known garden – The Garden of Eden.

The pilot joined us at 4.00 am at the mouth of the Shatt al Arab and we made our shaky way upstream to Abadan in Iran. Being so light (empty of cargo and nearly empty of fuel) we didn’t have to worry too much about running aground, just the hope that the vibrations, caused by the propeller, would not shake us to bits.

The Shah had celebrated his coronation only three months earlier –

Shah,_Reza_and_Farah

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At that time Abadan was an international cosmopolitan city, and the people appeared happy and carefree. Eleven years later the Shah had been deposed and the people were under Ayatollah Khomeini. How things have changed in the last forty years.

After a short stay in Abadan to bunker (refuel) our next stop was Basra in Iraq.

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Ships alongside in Basra.

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Basra was the end of the line for the British India Steam Nav Co passenger ships from Bombay (now Mumbai). The above shows one of the passenger ships arriving in Basra. The picture is off the internet.

We anchored in the river and waited for about five days to go alongside, why we waited so long I don’t have any idea, perhaps because the cargo wasn’t ready, or perhaps the berth was occupied, or the agent hadn’t ‘looked after’ the right people, but for us it was stinking hot, and a very uncomfortable time.
Once again we swapped old pieces of wood for uncut water melons – wood was valuable to the locals and the water melons a nice change for us.
In the evening, during the our ‘beer time’ it was melon pip flicking time to see who could flick the pip the furthest as the river was only about 37 metres (120 feet) wide at this point and we were not far off the river bank. Life at sea could be stimulating at times. . . .

Basra was the departure port for Sinbad on his third voyage. It is also renowned for being one of the hottest ports to visit. 50 c (122 F) on the Persian Gulf run.
This port is a destination that has never been on my return ‘bucket’ list, even though it used to be known as the Venice of the East, due to the canals.

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Venice of the East?

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Venice of the East

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This picture is off the internet of one of the Company’s cargo ships, very like the one I sailed in, alongside at Basra in the late 1960’s.

The reason for our visit to Basra was to load dates – it was harvest time.

dates

While we loaded the dates and other cargo, the only form of distraction in our free time, was the British Club, which had a swimming pool and a bar that sold cold beer.

Khorramshahr in Iran was our next port of call where we loaded bags and bags of pistachio nuts, as well as general cargo.

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Pistachio nuts before harvesting.

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As we know them . . .

There wasn’t much to do ashore and after our shift we would sit on the river side of the ship, drink a beer or two and see how far we could flick the shells of the pistachio nuts, I told you a life at sea could be stimulating . . .

Once our cargo was loaded,we sailed down the river to the Persian Gulf, and to our next port, which was Bushire, which is a port in Iran. I’ve indicated the port on the map.

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We were warned before we reached Bushire not to bother posting any mail because it would never reach the UK, because the locals would steal the stamps and throw away the letter.
We were told to hold our letters until we reached Karachi. A small thing to remember so many years ago, but for us, at that time, mail was important. The internet was 25 or 30 years in the future.

We anchored off Bushire and barges came out to us – so to speed up the process we worked three holds.
The problem was that the labour was paid 1/ 9d a day or in today’s money AUD $2.52 a DAY! (USD$1.70).
If there wasn’t a ship in port to load or unload they didn’t get paid.

The Iranian company that hired the ashore labour considered that they were being generous, because they knew that the labour would steal anything from the ship that was not screwed down.
We had to post two crew members down each hold to stop the labour breaking into the cargo. At times the ship’s officers had to threaten violence to the shore side labour to stop them broaching cargo (breaking in to the cargo).
Even so some of the crew lost various items of of clothing, cargo went missing and various large crates were broken in to and some of the contents stolen.
The officer’s accommodation had been locked down, and all windows and other openings bolted shut, which made the accommodation extremely hot when off duty.

Stealing cargo was a common occupation across the world and it was a constant battle with shore side labour to put a stop to the thefts, but the labour in Bushire had it down to a fine art.

Juna

MV Juna 

I was 3rd Mate of the above ship during our ‘cruise’ to Basra & the Persian  Gulf.

A couple of years ago I visited Dubai on the way to Europe, and I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d ever stop over for a ‘holiday’ of four days in the Persian Gulf, but I did because we flew with Emirates Airlines. At least the bus stops in Dubai were air-conditioned.