84. What A Way To See The Golden Gate!

In service as a naval auxiliary we were preparing to deliver necessary materials to the troops already present in Vietnam.  

The better part of the days and nights had been full with loading of supplies including the earlier mentioned jelly bombs.  With the end of the week arriving way too soon for me, the time had come to hit the open sea.

Early Saturday morning the Pilot (Harbormaster) has boarded the ship.  The dock workers have left the ship and it’s now 90% in our control.  It’ll become 100% once the Harbormaster has left us to the open sea.  He will guide the ship out from the docks towards the Golden Gate Bridge.

I said my prayers; ‘You Lord are the only one to protect us and help us come back safe to our families and homes … if it is Your will.’   The fear of the unknown did rise up in me, it was more real now that the knots of the ropes which kept us at the docks had been released.

I went back in to serve breakfast to my lot (the officers).  A tray of coffee and pastries was taken up to the Bridge for the Pilot also.  As I recall it took about half a day going through the narrow passages, simply having to go at a crawl as we’re not yet out in the open sea.  Then it happened.

I was back out on deck now when the engines were cut.  I looked out around the ship at the waters below and saw the little Pilot’s boat with all his rubber tires secured completely around; bumper boats!

It was time for the Harbormaster to leave us to our own devices.  We weren’t yet at the Golden Gate but I could easily see it in the distance.  The rope ladder was rolled back up seconds after he touched floor on his little boat.  I keep saying little in contrast to our gigantic ship.

The rumble and vibration of the engines firing back up to full throttle was thrilling I openly admit.  We’re headed into the open sea.  There’s already no turning back; we had several jobs to do and we’d do them to the best of our potential.  

I found myself momentarily concerned with the ship’s smokestacks being able to clear the bridge.  I knew in my mind of course they wouldn’t attempt this without a thousand successful experiences.  Still, child-like I wondered. C - Golden Gate sideview b&w

And looking in the direction of the Golden Gate, the beauty of this moment overrode my looming thoughts of danger which we would soon be facing, point in fact I didn’t fully understand what in actuality it was going to be.  I was truly in this moment.  

Most of us were out on deck taking in this last peaceful mental picture for a memoir of home; it was so beautiful to me.  

Everything appeared toy-like as the cars passed one another on the bridge.  We’d already passed Sausalito at the changing of the Harbormaster’s guidance and now the homes up on the hillsides were as though a giant’s child placed his Monopoly toy houses along them.

As we were passing underneath the bridge another ship was coming into the Bay; an interesting sight by its own rights.  We all turned now to look back upon the magnificent Golden Gate Bridge as he was quickly becoming a view in the past.  

Our ship was now dashing upon the open sea.  Into the sunset we were headed.  Oh!  It was time to get back to work … had to serve the officers their lunch.

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a little extra information from: http://www.usmm.org/vietnam.html

The Military Sea Transportation Service had the job of bringing war supplies to Vietnam– 10,000 miles from the Pacific coast.  MSTS had four separate customers to serve: the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.  MSTS ships were staffed by “civilian” crews, but carried 95% of the supplies used by our Armed Forces in Vietnam including bombs and ammunition into combat zones under fire.

MSTS took about 100 Victory ships out of the National Defense Reserve Fleet (mothball fleet), repaired them, and assigned them to private companies for operation to carry ammunition across the Pacific.  MSTS carried guns, tanks, trucks, trains, riverboats, barges, helicopters, bombers, fighters, reconnaissance planes, food, fuel, and medical supplies.  By 1965 MSTS had 300 freighters and tankers supplying Vietnam, with an average of 75 ships and over 3,000 merchant mariners in Vietnamese ports at any time.

 

 

49. Sailing,​ ​Sailing​ ​Upon​ ​the​ ​Ocean​ ​Blue

And once the P&O Liner Orsova has got herself directional, we look back to barely see specks of people at the docks and really only the coastline is in view.

The haunting Isa Lei is but a faded hum joining in the ever so faint lull of the engines as my mind and the ship tap into the Koro Sea – we have left Viti Levu and all those I love so dearly in the Fiji Islands.

I stood on deck awhile longer taking in the deep ocean blue; I know this was allowing all my thoughts and actions to settle in.  After a little while and a lot of sea spray in the face –love that! I went back inside, slowly walking to my cabin.

Sitting on my bed -one of 2- I look across to the other one taking notice of a suitcase, a coat I think and another bag.  Smiling to myself I hoped my cabin mate would be of the female species.  It’s all really very silly I know – this was not a coed dormitory after all, ha ha!

What? Okay enough daydreaming. I take a moment to unpack my suitcase.  No one showed yet so I thought it wise to find the dining room and I may as well get busy checking out the local scene.

I approached the purser’s desk for the evening’s schedule.  She naturally was only too glad to share all the lovely details about the SS Orsova. “Our dining room is one deck below.  I would recommend that you go down now, if you’re not doing anything else and familiarise yourself with your mealtime accommodations.”

The lady then asked if I was comfortable in my cabin and if I had met my cabin mate.  ‘Not yet!’  Thinking again about my earlier thoughts with a slight smirk, she must’ve caught it; she looked up my cabin mate’s name in her book and told me.

This time without another thought I laughed out loud for she gave me the name of a man; a man with a given-Christian first name and an Indian surname.  🔱 My daydream balloon was popped!

I found the dining room. Right away I was able to connect with the dining room captain who briefed me politely on how it all worked.  There was always two seatings early/later for meals and my table would remain the same throughout my time on board.

There were four chairs and only two of us assigned to this table although free to move about if invited to another.  I see how this works, two available seats if we should find someone to invite to our table.  Us?  The other dining chair being my cabin mate … okay, makes sense.

It was probably a bit past six in the evening and I thought it good to stroll about for a little while, not that I needed to work up an appetite or anything.  I explored my surroundings some more and of course still had hopes of seeing where the ladies might mingle.

Yes, what can I say?  This was a semi-important quest for me; can’t help it, I enjoy their company.  I know what you’re thinking … don’t worry, Noori is still sitting heavy on my heart and will be there for a very long time.  One in a million no doubt about it.

Goodness! It’s 7 o’clock and I should return to the dining room; 1st seating it will be.  All this questing was making me hungry.  The dining room’s aroma led me right to my table.

I am the only one and I take a seat.  A larger-than-life menu is handed to me and my drink request taken.  A young man approaches with a beaming smile.

I return the smile and he states, “You must be my cabin mate.”  I reached out to introduce myself, we shook hands and he tells me his name which I already knew, “Joseph.” and after seating himself, “I sure am hungry!”  Already something in common, nice.

And this is one of the many things I love about shipboard dining, there’s no wasting time on the waitstaff part.  It wasn’t long before we two young lads were enjoying an excellent meal and mutual conversation.

Joseph and I parted company after dinner.  I wanted to see if I’d find something of interest.  Truthfully I cannot recall neither what I had for that first dinner or what I chose to do that night.

I do know I enjoyed breathing in fresh salty air and sort of slipping into a peaceful, half-conscious state.  ✨ Are the stars out above the sea going to keep me aligned?

What I really wanted was to stroll the deck with someone, catch a movie, a show or dance a little, you know what I’m saying.  It sure would’ve been nice if that someone was Noori.

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You know back then a ship was my transportation -prior to that, my employment- not a leisurely cruise for the sake of a vacation.  🌏 I’ve been on a few extensive and leisurely cruises in my life since and apart from how the times and services have changed, being on board a luxury liner or freighter, yacht or speedboat, ferry or any boat really, the joy for me remains the same;​ ​it’s​ ​the open​ ​sea​.

It’s the endless horizon, some of the freshest possible air to fill my lungs with, the constant spray of the salt water, 🐬 the giants of the sea 🐳 occasionally accompanying our vessel, the starry sky of night and the twilight of a new morning.  I feel the cobwebs of my mind clearing out and if even momentarily, like I can do anything.