B.H.S = Boredom – Heat – Sand (and for my British readers BHS is not British Home Stores!)
We sailed from Muscat for Doha, but for some reason, which I can’t remember, we were diverted to Bahrain, which is 130 km ( 81 miles) as the crow flies from Doha, but a little longer by sea.
The above map shows how close most of the ports are to the Straits of Hormuz.
Before we arrived at Bahrain we were diverted again to Dammam, which is in Saudi Arabia. I have underlined Dammam with a green line. Again, not all that far as a diversion but . . .
The problem for us was that we had loaded the cargo in a set way for discharge i.e Doha, Bahrain, Dammam, but by making Dammam our first port of call we had to move the Bahrain & Doha cargo before we could discharge Dammam cargo – a small detail that had to be taken in to account.
Due to delays in Bahrain I think our Gulf agency was trying to avoid further delays by unloading Dammam before Bahrain.
Dammam was, and still is, an oil port, so there was little incentive to go ashore, plus Saudi Arabia was ‘beerless’.
We had to contend with sandstorms mixed with dust and the overpowering smell of crude oil. I thought I’d left that particular perfume when I left tanker life in 1963.
It was not a happy stay because we had to constantly check the cargo being discharged. The supervisors failed in their jobs to identify cargo destined for Dammam, as against Bahrain or Doha.
With a language barrier (supervisors were expected to speak & understand English but didn’t), and the heat and dust, while standing on the wharf sweating pints to get the labour to reloaded certain cargo was a ‘trying’ time.
I was told by one supervisor that he was a fine fellow who had worked on many British ships . . . biting ones tongue so that we were not in this port any longer than necessary, was a huge effort.
There was a suggestion made that we should ask Australian exporters to write the contents of each box in Arabic, because this might stop the labour breaking in to as many boxes as possible to find something worth stealing.
We had cartons of tinned peas, and other vegetables, which were broken in to, and the cans were opened by the labour, who then drank the liquid and threw the rest away. The pictures of peas & vegetables on the cans didn’t mean anything.
Cartons of liquid detergent were also broken in to and the detergent consumed, at least the thieves would have been ‘regular’ thieves. . . .
I think we were in Dammam for two long days before sailing to Bahrain and anchoring off while waiting for barges to come out to us.
Bahrain did have berths for deep sea ships, but the only time I was on a ship that went alongside was on my first ship in 1962, which was a tanker. So, I think the berths were tanker berths, not general cargo berths, which is why we anchored.
Arad Fort Bahrain – built in the 15th century, before the Portuguese arrived in 1622.
Manama Bahrain in the late 1960’s – Manama is the capital.
Manama today – Picture is from the internet.
Another shot of Bahrain in the 1960’s – we liked Bahrain because it allowed us to buy Red Barrel beer legally. Buying a beer in the Gulf was always ‘hard work’, unless you had access to private clubs such as the British Club in Basra or you went ashore (via dhow) in Bahrain.
It was very pleasant to sit ashore and drink a cold beer, a different feeling than drinking the same beer on board ship – small pleasures.
Our next port was Doha, and we arrived at 4.00 am and anchored. We hoped that we would begin discharging cargo at daybreak, but we just sat at anchor all day. To keep cool we would shower, but not dry off but just stand in the shade on deck allowing the water to evaporate to cool down.
Doha in 1968 – picture is from the internet
Coastal strip in 1968
Today . . .
Qatar, the capital being Doha, gained independence from the British in 1971, after being a British protectorate since early in the 20th century.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Thani signed a treaty with the British in 1868 that Britain recognised Qatar as a separate status at the end of the Qatari – Bahraini war of 1867–1868.
In 1867 the ruler of Bahrain sent his brother with 500 men and 24 boats to attack Qatar. The attack was joined by a force of 200 men under Ahmed al Khalifa, and the Abu Dhabi ruler also sent 2000 men in a further 70 boats.
Doha was sacked and basically wiped off the map, the houses destroyed and the people deported.
The following year, 1868, a Qatari force counter attacked Bahrain, and destroyed 60 ships and 1000 people were killed.
British Resident at Bahrain Lewis Pelly – Lt General, KCSI (Knight Commander of the Order of the Star of India) awarded in 1874. Click on the link to read of an interesting life.
Lewis Pelly, accused Bahrain of breaking maritime law by attacking Qatar in 1867 and he fined Bahrain 10,000 Iranian Tomans.
One Iranian Toman was the equivalent of 10,000 dinars or about £740 British pounds at that time.
So the total fine was around £7 million (GBP) in 1868, which allowing for inflation, is about £125 million (GBP) today. A large sum for a small area like Bahrain that had yet to find oil . . . .
The official currency of Persia was (is) the Rial and 10,000 rials would equal one toman, which itself is a Mongolian word due to the Mongolian invasion around 14 AD, but spelled as tomen, which in Mongolian means ‘unit of ten thousand’.
The current Iranian currency can be referred to in two ways as rials or toman, which for a foreigner is confusing, but the actual notes and coins are the same.
In 2019 the Iranian Government passed a Bill that the currency would change from rial to toman and this would take place in May 2020, and the change over will be phased in over the next two years.
Back to 1968 . . .
We sat at anchor for days waiting for labour to come out to us and discharge the cargo. With temperatures around 40 c (109 F) at 4.00 pm in the afternoon, life was a little tedious to say the least.
We did have one high moment – a group of us where outside around 4.30 pm having a beer (in the shade) when we heard a loud shout from the Chief Engineer – he’d just had a telegram from England that his wife had given birth to their first child – it was party time!
We lay at anchor for thirteen days, the sea like a mirror and our position was sheltered from any cooling breeze. It was hot!
We did experience a ‘small’ distraction when another BI ship anchored near us – she was the MV Chyebassa.
Any diversion from the heat and boredom was welcome. On the day of the Chyebassa’s arrival I was on duty, but the other officers went across to her and many stayed the night, and the following day MV Juna reciprocated the hospitality.
It was a pleasure to rekindle friendships with two cadets that I’d sailed with when in MV Bankura, in 1966 on the India to New Zealand run and the second engineer I’d sailed with when in MV Pundua in 1967 on the India, Hong Kong, Japan run. It was have another beer, and ‘remember when’ time . . . . a very pleasant interlude.
Thanks to the heat during our time at anchor I think we were Allsopp’s best customers in the Persian Gulf,
and when we eventually sailed for Kuwait we didn’t have any regrets leaving Doha, even though Kuwait was not on our holiday list.
Kuwait maybe on certain people’s holiday list today, but I doubt that it was a holiday destination in 1968.