99. Afloat, Towed and Finally Docked 🇯🇵

Our vessel was being washed with salty waves of the Philippine Sea as she pushed herself through this part of the Pacific Ocean.  I wondered how much longer till we’d reach our designated Japanese port of Yokohama.

Relief from the turbulent storm as well as from the Skip, it couldn’t come soon enough.  Our Captain has been fed and even better was that I would have my breakfast and boy did I savor the feast I requested!  The Officer’s saloon was empty save for this little brown man eating alone in a sea of white table linens.  I had what looked like a mini-banquet laid out for at least 2 or 3 but it was all mine.

CS Phil walked in, saw me tucking-in and with a grin he addressed me, “I see you’re enjoying your breakfast?  We’ve got a lot to do this morning so eat well and report to me just as soon as you’re finished in here!”  He knew, as did the Captain, they could count on me to be present and attend to my duties.  

A moment here and there to myself, they allowed me.  Ha ha! I remember one time when I slipped onto the Captain’s chair on the Bridge.  Whaat?!  I went in there to ask him a question, he wasn’t in there.  I had turned to walk out when I realised I was looking at his vacant chair.  I so wanted to see what it felt like to sit in it!  As I observed the present crew, they all had their focus out on the sea.

No further thought and I was in the chair!  Oh it felt real nice!  Truth?  I felt like a little kid playing Captain of his own ship!  I dare not stay perched too long, wouldn’t want to get caught!  

I kept a little stereo in the saloon and when no one else was around, I listened mostly to my Indian music cassette tapes.  I can fondly recall Captain occasionally coming down to the saloon to grab a coffee or something and if my music was playing, I’d see him enter the room bopping and groovin’ to the music’s beat.  

The expression on his face was as if there wasn’t a care for him in all the world … at least in that moment.  I can’t tell you how much delight this brought me.  It would be one of those feel good moments amidst such situations I found myself in!

As our ship traveled her hindered pace through the ocean, it would be just after midnight of the second night/third morning, four mighty strong towboats came out to us from Japan, to bring us the rest of the way in.  

I found myself going outside at least 3 times to watch these little (but very powerful) boats hauling us to safety!  It was about a 20 hour tow into the Yokohama Port.  Thank goodness the seas cooperated for a mainly uneventful tow.

With the patched-up holes, the busted boilers and the somewhat shakey disposition of our well-being it was good to see some excited hubbub begin to surface among a lot of the crew. 🎼 “These Boots Are Made For Walking” was once again blaring out of the father & son cabin.  Cold beers and happy conversations were passed all around.  

I took to my cabin fairly early that evening.  Dan, my cabinmate was in and out, visiting with his friends.  I just relaxed and enjoyed the calming float on the sea.

We arrived at Yokohama Harbor late that night. 

The two tugboats which were to either side had left us and the two in front brought us near to our parking spot for however long we’d have to be there.

Our ship was braced and tied in to place during the night while we slept.  Physical examination begins under the flood of lights so bright, one would mistake for daylight.

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横浜港  The port is located at a latitude of 35.27–00°N and a longitude of 139.38–46°E

97. Alphabet Sea With White Paper Crests

In the wee hours of the dark sea morning, we were already on our way to France before my necessity to be awake.  

Up and at it, for Skip’s breakfast needed serving.  I tidied up the Captain’s quarters after having my breakfast.  Then priority duties and my cabin were the remainder of the morning.  

Now while it was known that I knew the ins & outs of my job like the back of my hand, Phil must always inspect everything to cover his own Chief Stewardly butt.  Did I stock the upstairs saloon with fresh everything for the normal day’s wants?  Are the Captain’s quarters exactly as it should be?  

Last post I mentioned the main bulletin board just outside the Bridge; there was a second board just outside the mess hall … posts were consistently on white paper and it wasn’t long [the days in & out] before black type-written words were like a sea of alphabet,  just floating around an ocean of white papers.

About 9:30 that morning I got a surprise … well really, we all did.  I was walking out of the mess hall towards my morning deck time when an outstanding colored piece of paper on the bb caught my attention.  

I read the words.  There was my surprise, a change of destination; France was scrapped.  Now instead of due west, a slight adjustment due northeast was already being made by the time I finished reading the notice. 

Just as this was sinking into my brain, I heard Skipper’s voice over the P.A. announcing our new destination to be …Yokohama.  Japan 35.4434°N 139.7024°E 🇯🇵

Wow!  Well considering I’d never been neither to Europe or Japan, an adventure was still in my forecast.  I went about my stroll on deck knowing I’d have to get back inside real soon.  Lunch duties were close at hand.  

I noticed the waves seemed a bit busier than they had been the past couple of days but hey, isn’t that exactly what the ocean does, keep one guessing?  I’ve always enjoyed anything I’d experienced on the open sea, so, bring it on!

The rest of the day went along as my usual routine always did.  All of us, we were rather excited to be going to Japan, so much so that we held a little party later that evening after dinner and duties were complete.  

What fun would a bunch of guys have, enclosed together on a moving ship?  Well let’s see, we’re negotiating the South China & Philippine Seas, set on to yet another voyage and this time,  just over 1700 nautical miles!  

We were most prepared with excellent meals and lots of cold beer, exchanging plans about what we would possibly do in Japan, and most importantly thankful we safely left Vietnam behind.

I turned in a little later than usual and slept solid for about 4 hours.

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91. “We’re Americans, Don’t Shoot!”

Day 5:  Sài Gòn.  Two of us, my cabin-mate (I’ll call him Dan) and I are busy sucking down a few ice cold beers in one of the bars and as was becoming the norm, flanked by local femme fatales.  Before we realized how late it was, already we had broken the curfew missing our boat back to the Trans Western.  

Desperate to get outta there we made quick inquiry for a way to return to our ship, to anyone who’d listen.  We needed someone with a boat who’d take us out to the anchored ships, for pay of course.  One Vietnamese man with very little English stepped up to the job.  We three made haste to his boat.  

So now we’re putt-putting through the dark waters under black velvet skies, studded with stars brilliant as diamonds.  I see little twinkling lights of the ships anchored all around the harbor.  

In my mind I’m thinking, how on earth are we gonna find our ship in all of this?  They seem so close to each other from a distance but as we get nearer, they’re all really far apart from one another.

Marines on constant patrol are no doubt hearing the putt-putt of the small gasoline engine of this little man’s smallish boat.  Suddenly there were two spotlights splashing us in harsh white light and our boatman quickly shuts off his motor; he definitely doesn’t want to get his ass shot off in any language, of that I’m sure!

Feeling the panic, Dan thinks quick and takes off his tee shirt.  He stood up and began to wave his white shirt, “Don’t shoot, we’re Americans!” he yelled out in fright.  I didn’t think twice and removing my shirt, I too stood up and did the same. ‘Don’t shoot, Americans, we’re also American!’  

We’re waving our shirts and they’re getting closer; upon reaching us, I’m guessing they relaxed only a small bit, assessing we are most likely harmless.  

They cuss us out. “What the hell are you guys doing out here after curfew …(then pointing the barrel of their guns at the boatman)… with him!?”  ‘We missed our boat outta town and … and we made a desperate decision’, I nervously explained.  

They talked amongst themselves for a moment and then ordered us to climb aboard their boat.  The Vietnamese man was also brought on board.  His little boat was tied up to theirs and after identifying us with our ID cards, we were transported to the Trans Western.  

Boy did we get an ass-chewing and that was just by the Marines who picked us up!  The Skipper had yet to have his go on us.  Upon arrival we had to of course, be re-identified to the guard soldiers on board our ship; up the rope we went.  

The patrolling Marines left with the little man still in their custody; I’m thinking most likely they escorted him back to shore.  This type of scene may have happened to others before us and most probably would occur again in the years to come.  

Dan and I made tracks for the mess hall.  All this excitement made for a great appetite.  A few of the Marine soldiers were down in the galley enjoying some grub.  

We made fresh coffee, tuna fish sandwiches with some crunchy pickles and proceeded to eat as though that would fix anything.  I tell ya, what a night!  To our immediate relief, the Skipper’s ass-chewing was not on tonight’s menu.  

Retiring to our cabin I was on autopilot until my head finally hit my pillow and I was able to think for a moment.  I was filled with gratitude that my butt was not blown to bits by the US Marines!  Or anyone else for that matter.

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