The last voyage of the Pundua – part three

We arrived safely in Moji, and when off duty, I was free to walk around the town.
It was 1967 and the lack of English language signs was noticeable, considering that all of the other Japanese ports (about five or six) that I’d visited, had some western symbols, even if it was only a neon Coca Cola sign.

The map below shows the Inland Sea of Japan – it stretches from the green circle on the left to the right-hand side of Shikoku. Each time that I’d sailed this sea it had always been calm.
When we left Moji we sailed between Honshu & Shikoku under the advice of a pilot.

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The green circle on the left is Moji and the larger of the two green circles on the right is Kobe, which was our destination, and across the bay from Kobe is Osaka.

I worked the night shift in Moji and we sailed for Kobe in the afternoon of the the next day. The transit time was about eight hours.

Torii at Itsukushima Shrine

Temples in the water of the Inland Sea.

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Calm and peaceful – the above two pictures are off the internet to illustrate the calmness of the Inland Sea.

I always liked Kobe, because it was an exciting town, with a good choice of bars and restaurants.
To order food in the restaurant we would take the waiter outside and point at the models of the dishes in the window. I’d never seen plastic models of food before, but it made life easy, because my Japanese was limited. I could get around via taxi, and use a bus and order a beer, but ordering a meal in a restaurant was beyond my ability.

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Even the lettuce was plastic

One of my favourite bars in Kobe was Clancy’s Bar.

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It was owned and run by Clancy (of course), who was an Australian and he’d remained in Japan after the war.
Clancy was a large man and wouldn’t put up with any troublemakers. Any problems and you were out on your ear.

We were in Kobe for a day and a night before moving across to Osaka, which is a short twelve miles (19 km) ‘voyage’.

Osaka was an eye opener for me, due to the large underground shopping centres, which contained restaurants, cinemas, cafes, car show rooms and thousands of people shopping or eating (but not when they walked – very bad manners), it was an underground city.
The neon lighting and flashing advertising wasn’t any different underground as it was ‘up top’.

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Underground shopping centres are common today, but in 1967 I’d never experienced this type of shopping in the UK or anywhere else.  The above pictures are off the internet and are much later than 1967.

A day or so later we were in Nagoya famed for the crockery industry – tea sets, dinner sets. We didn’t load cargo in any of the ports that we visited, but only discharged our cargo.
From Nagoya it was Yokohama for a couple of nights before sailing once again via the inland sea for Moji.

We were as empty as any ship can be, and we were high out of the water and the propeller thrashed the sea as it pushed us south. The problem being that only half of the propeller was in the water, which caused us to rattle and bang day after day, and the shuddering shook the whole ship so much, that to try and write the ship’s logbook during a watch was a challenge.
It did cross our minds that she might shake herself to bits before we reached Hong Kong.

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Found the above on the internet to give you an idea of a ship empty and her prop out of the water.

Our reason for visiting Moji again was to load 2500 tons of cement, in the hope that the propeller would be under water for the crossing to Hong Kong, where the ship was to be sold – the idea of Pundua being scrapped in Japan had changed  . . .again.

We reached Moji safely.

While we were loading the cement, I had a few hours off so decided to go to the cinema to see the Ten Commandments, because it was the only film I recognised.

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The above is the Japanese version of     Moses

I bought my ticket and entered the cinema and took a seat in the middle far enough back that I could easily see the screen. The shows were not continuous as they were in the UK at that time.

After a few minutes I was asked to move by a very polite Japanese man who kept bowing and showing me his ticket.  I presumed that he had booked the seat in which I was sitting.
During the next five or six minutes I had to move several times because I was always in the wrong seat, and none of the cinema staff or the patrons could speak English, so I kept moving.

I ended up joining a small group of people near the front who were standing up waiting for the picture to start. This was when I realised that I’d bought a ticket that entitled me to watch the film, but standing up, I was not entitled to a seat!

I was so close to the screen that I had to keep swiveling my head, if I wished to see where an arrow had gone once fired from one side of the screen. Plus looking up Mr Heston’s nose for 220 minutes was not my idea of a day out.

Obviously the soundtrack had sub-titles in Japanese – one set down the right hand side of the screen from top to bottom, and the other along the bottom of the screen. I assumed they were different languages, Japanese from top to bottom & Chinese along the bottom. Perhaps this was to save issuing a Japanese, and a separate Chinese version (for Taiwan & Hong Kong) of the film, so saving money. I doubted that it would have been released in the People’s Republic of China anyway.

Most of my ‘standing’ group did find seating on the steps at the side of the cinema, very close to the screen. This was my one and only visit to a Japanese cinema.

As soon as we were finished loading we sailed as quickly as we could and headed for Hong Kong – why the speed you may ask – another typhoon was on our tail Typhoon Gilda, and we had to try and out run it for the shelter of Hong Kong harbour.
Thinking back, it was odd that we had the confidence to try and out run a typhoon at our top speed of under 10 knots.
There is a web site that makes interesting reading about Gilda (click on the name) as to what happened to the people who were ashore during the storm.

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Picture of Gilda taken from the internet –

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The track of Typhoon Gilda – the islands on the left pf the picture are the Philippines, and where Gilda crosses land, it is the island of Taiwan – in the picture Hong Kong is to the left of Taiwan Island, and the larger green piece of land is China. Our course from Japan would take us down the Taiwan Strait, which is between Taiwan and China.

The sea was rough, but not as bad as on our voyage to Japan. We bounced around quite a lot which was also due to the lack of cargo, but we did manage to out run Typhoon Gilda and reached Hong Kong harbour and shelter before she struck Taiwan in force.

Once in Hong Kong we anchored off the island and began to strip the ship of equipment and stores – the ship had been sold, but the stores belonged to the Company.

We also helped out by having several parties so that we didn’t have to unload the champagne, wine, spirits and beer from the duty-free area. I must admit that we worked particularly hard with certain commodities to help out the Company.

The Pundua was sold to Jebshun Shipping of Hong Kong, and during one of the days that the new owners were checking over the ship I was approached and offered a job as 2nd Mate of the now Shun On, which was the new name of the Pundua.

My initial reaction was that I felt flattered, and then another thought passed through my mind. I had a 2nd Mates ticket and was sailing as 3rd Mate, and after I gained my 1st Mates ticket I’d be looking to sail as 2nd Mate – this was the norm for British registered ships & seamen.
So I asked which ‘trade’ did they anticipate using the Shun On, perhaps the Persian Gulf or the Japan to China trade.
I was told the salary which was VERY good, and then I was told that the Shun On would be running from China to Vietnam with ‘supplies’.

This is when I completely lost interest, particularly as the United States Seventh Fleet was operating in the Gulf of Tonkin, and would not take it kindly of anyone supplying the northern part of Vietnam.

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The red circle is Hong Kong & the green dot is approximately the location of Hanoi, so you can see why the US 7th Fleet considered the Gulf of Tonkin to be so important.

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The 7th Fleet was jokingly called the Tonkin Gulf Yacht Club . . . . .  I turned down their generous offer to become a 2nd Mate.

The following day the Pundua was no more, and I left Shun On in a motor launch, which took me to the airport. At that time Hong Kong airport’s runway ‘stuck out’ into the harbour.

I flew out of Hong Kong via MAS – Malaysian-Singapore Airlines, which, at that time, was a joint venture between the two countries.

Singapore Airlines, as we know it today, did not come about until 1972, when the MAS split due to conflict of direction for the future.

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Malaysian- Singapore Airline Comet Four at Hong Kong Kai Tak in 1966.

It was this type of Comet that I took from Hong Kong to Singapore the following year. I arrival in Singapore around 2.00 pm, and was met by our agent and taken to the Ambassador Hotel to await the BOAC flight BA 712 to Perth in Western Australia.

Oddly enough I’d flown BA 712 from London to Singapore a couple of years earlier to join LST Frederick Clover.

It was a night flight from Singapore to Perth and I had a very chatty Italian sitting next to me who wanted to tell me his life story in broken English. I was polite, but during one long story I fell asleep it had been a long day.