106.   🚢ah, days & days of salty air!

Oh my beautiful blue Pacific Ocean ~

On this leg of the voyage, I rarely missed sunsets or a sunrise -these I quickly realized were gifts of the journey to me.  And if the seas were not rough, I’d find myself relaxing on an uncrowded deck in a comfortable sun-worshipping lounge chair, legs up and all!

It certainly felt good to just soak up the sun -nap style, getting hypnotized by watching the ocean go by or leisurely flip through the pages of a magazine, that is to say, if I could keep my eyes open long enough in this lazy position.  

Taking the most important daily walks from one end of the ship to the other and breathing in deeply the freshest salty air was always invigorating and enjoyable.  

Not every time but certainly at least half the time I was out there, I’d see some dolphins and an occasional whale or three.  The other fish I took notice of were schools of Pacific Bluefin Tuna in the course of their migration.  

There were others watching along the rails at any given part of the ship, at any time of the day and when a pod, a school or what have you passed alongside the ship, there was a whole lot of cheering coming out of the excited men.  This was ocean entertainment at its finest!

It was an awesome site -as was the whole of it- to see the flying fish and catching glimpses of billfish who were also being watched carefully by the ever-stalking seabirds along the way. 

Every now and then I’d spy a ship waaay out in the distance on the horizon.  One minute she’s there and another -gone!  

Not that any passed by close enough to say hello … 🔭 even if I had a telescope.  Well, maybe but then they’d have to have one too just to see me wave!  

Occasionally the Skipper’s voice blaring out of the bullhorn startled us.  It was like he’d wait for the perfect moment to catch us unawares.  He’d say things like, “I see you all out there having fun.  Good!  Go ahead and enjoy yourselves. Make the most of this time at sea, it’s good for you!”  I think he wanted to make sure we didn’t fall victim to sea madness … or something!

Along with some form of exercising, the strolling or brisk walks, any style of lounging or napping and daily duties, we’d play cards, most often, poker.  We played in my charge area, the officer’s saloon. 

These poker nights gave way to opportune time to share stories with one another; be it of home, passing thoughts or what experiences we had while on this Asian tour.    

Our evening snacks always lined up; sandwich makings, non-alcoholic beverages and snackable what-nots.  Beer 🍻or wine 🍷 but no 🥃 hard liquor; I’ll mention here, if we wanted it, the beer or wine that is to say, we had to buy our own and bring it on board.

Btw:  “Why is the rum always gone?Captain Jack Sparrow  

That reminds me I didn’t tell you how we mainly got our beer earlier in the trip.  The seasoned veterans of our ship told us about this barter.  We had cartons of American cigarettes on board and so while in the Philippines, when we saw a small boat approaching our ship, we’d load up a largish basket with some of those cartons.

It was attached to a very strong rope and then lowered down to those guys.  They were zippy in the unloading of this large basket and then refilling it with the favorite beer of their country, 🍺 San Miguel Beer. 

Cartons for 6-packs!  What a deal I thought.

|||

__________________________________________________________________________________________________

billfish because I’m not entirely certain if I was seeing swordfish, marlins or sailfish … not so close to the ship they were spotted and so without binoculares handy at those times unfortunately, I couldn’t really tell.  I had thought in my mind these must be one of them.

89. Quy Nhơn Chicken 🐓

The next morning, in conversation with Chief Steward Phil, he liked very much the thought of tailor-made slacks too.  He asked if I wouldn’t mind taking care of the transaction for him.  I offered a smile attached to a ‘No problem chief!’ and so he scribbled his measurements on a slip of paper and handed it to me with a few dollars from his wallet.

It may be only the 2nd time I went ashore but it felt like I’d already done it a hundred times.  Hot and muggy was the forecast for, like the entire time I would be here so naturally there was an ongoing thirst for ice cold beers!  🍻

Upon reaching shore, my first order of business was a detour to the Indian shop delivering CS’s order and measurements.  I was told 36 hours should see all the slacks ready.  

The first establishment we chose to walk into had a few people sitting at the bar, others were seated at tables; the majority of bodies being young Vietnamese girls and music played crisply out of a jukebox up against a side wall.  No sooner we sat down at a table, we were flocked by some of these girls.

In what sounded like their best broken English they’d proposition us to buy drinks for them.  They took our drink requests which would only be beer 🍺 and went up to the bar.  No hard liquor or sodas even were served here.  

It would seem the sodas were reserved for drink in the cafés.  I gotta say, these bars certainly knew how to grab their share of business from the foreign visitors! 🍹 The girl’s drinks we bought for them (later we learned) was simply colored water and each one cost near twice the amount of our beers!  

In our socializing I learned the power of the American dollar in Việt Nam;  approximately $5.00 would cover feeding their entire family for a week and the impression we all got was they’d pretty much do anything for these dollars.  

Some girls smoked our cigarettes and others did not but all were quick to light ours for us.  They were skilled in giving a nice little massage here and there, arms, shoulders, neck and/or running their fingers through our hair.

I smiled big when I looked at one of the guys across the table from me … his eyes closed in sheer delight and grinning away as the girl on his lap was massaging his brain!  

The one girl attentive towards me began massaging my head, gently pulling on my hair (which I had lots of it), of course it felt nice. 

The guys and I continued to talk amongst ourselves for the most part as we could tell they weren’t about to leave our company so easily.  It was of little matter to them as they too conversed amongst themselves. 

“Tonight you stay with me and you pay,” one would say to her guy and another would verbally climb over that (sometimes literally) and using as persuasive a voice as possible, “No! You come with me!”  We each heard this approach circulate around our table.

🍻 After a few beers and a considerable amount of dollars later, I noticed it was getting dark.  We all agreed it was time for food. A couple of us made sure to keep an eye on the time, curfew is definite, there was only one boat back and make no mistake, we’d best be on it! 

The girls collected a few dollars from each of us and a couple of them went quickly outside, coming back with some freshly prepared chicken for us to eat.  

It was made in a street kitchen just outside the bar.  Of course they ate with us.  The chicken was flayed open, seasoned, cooked between two racks over an open flame and it was delicious. 🍗

“Now we go home.” they’d say to us, gently tugging at our arms.  “No, no! We’ve got to get back to our ship!” protested a couple of the guys; definitely speaking for all of us in the group. 

We promised them we’d return tomorrow and breaking free at last, we headed as swiftly as possible through the town and down to the beach.  

We remained in the Qui Nhơn harbor for just over a week.  The best description of my daily routine on the ship; same, same.

Every early evening almost immediately following the dinner shift and next morning’s prep, I’d scurry down that rope ladder to catch the boat into town.  

Returning to the same bar as before, these girls who overnight became our friends, were waiting for our return.  

On the fifth day I picked up the slacks; lookin’ good!  After the shopkeeper showed them to me, I paid him and he wrapped them up so nicely, knowing they would have to travel a very long way.  

I asked him to wrap up the Phil’s slacks separately.  I noticed the shop had some postcards amongst their wares so I bought a few;  one for Diana and my kids and some for the family in Fiji.  

Back at the bar which we had made our own for the week, our company had now become more like one on one, no longer flanked by many.  We’d play the jukebox, dance with the girls, eat chicken, socialize, drink beer, and generally let our hair down as it were; wanting only a little bit of fun and relaxation.  

We remained diligent to the curfew at the end of every evening and always managed to wiggle away from our friends just in time.

A couple of days before our ship pulled up anchor, I was able to send out those postcards from our ship’s post office.  By now I was confident that half of my ‘war-zone pay’ salary, the 1st paycheck, was already on its way to my family in Santa Monica, via the pay center in New York.  

You know I felt great that I was providing for my family even while on this other side of the world but I never thought my life would go down a path like this one.  

While I cannot even compare to the soldiers’ lives here in Việt Nam at this time, I certainly was learning to understand a small piece of it.

|||


A coastal town located in central Việt Nam, Quy Nhơn wasn’t established as a city until 1986 and it is home in the Bình Định Province. 

 

 

 

 

 

10. Kiwis For a Queen and Aussie Burgers For Me! – part 4

My time in Sydney was also enjoyed at Bondi Beach.  Warm and sunny, big and beautiful, very clean sand, gentle playful waves which I believe were due to its shallow shores and well, it was just wonderful!

And it goes without saying there had to be hundreds of beautiful young ladies in their bikinis!  The beach of course was occupied by others as well, no discretion here, but it seemed as though these others were mostly under their beach ⛱, so how could I not notice the young, energetic ones!

Time’s up!  On to Melbourne which took only the day; we arrived late at night.  This would be our last drop of sugar.  Flour was loaded onto our ship, the SS Lakemba and that granted us three days here.

My Melbourne experience?  During this visit I was able to meet up with my cousin/brother who was there studying to be a pharmacist.  He asked me if I could get American cigarettes and so being able to buy these from our ship’s commissary (which was only open while the ship was at sea), I was able to supply a few cartons to him -I bought them for $1 each.

As confusion could set in about what seems like a little back-and-forth, I’ll try to clarify: Melbourne had an allowance of flour to load (also a couple of other factors) and that is why we returned to Sydney for flour instead of taking it on while we there the first time.  There had to be assurance for the Melbourne load first – something like that.

Now to pick up a fresh handful of +passengers, the remaining flour load and make our way back to the Fiji Islands.

|||

_________________________________________________________________

Sad note; this is where I took up smoking myself.  Happy note; I have been a non-smoker now for over 36 years!

+   The same basically applied to not picking up the Sydney passengers till the return trip; why pay to go to Melbourne, to return to Sydney and then onward?  Plus this way it allowed more time if others wanted to join the ship.