96. Office Furniture From France?

While I was busy vacationing at the Air Force Hospital, our remaining cargo of napalm had been unloaded.  There was of course no reason for us to be in the war zone any longer and within 24 hours of my return, we were on our way back to Subic Bay.  

I was already feeling better and looking forward to once again enjoying the beautiful people of the Philippines and possibly, just maybe someone would say, “We’re on our way back home.”  

The next morning after wrapping up breakfast, I was making my rounds about the ship when I discovered we’d just received orders to leave Subic Bay… first thing tomorrow.  Europe.  Whaat?

My ship had a bulletin board on the wall space just outside the Bridge.  The real important information would always be found here and that included our next destination.  There it was, freshly posted up on the board:   🇫🇷 France.

Guess it wasn’t in the cards for me or any of us this time … and it doesn’t look like I’ll be seeing my family anytime in the near future.   

Our now empty and -ready for whatever was next- cargo ship was in for a very long voyage.  Our ship’s mission was to retrieve remaining military equipment left behind after France withdrew themselves -formally that is- out of NATO’s integrated military structure, sending the headquarters over to Belgium.

As I understood it, France was the host country since 1952 and their President, Charles de Gaulle, gave foreign forces the ol’ dismissal letter; all were given one year to depart France.  

Based on whatever news tidbits I’d picked up here and there, de Gaulle wanted his country to be completely independent of any foreign military influences; such a sensitive issue to be sure.  

As we had a lot of American [Air Force] stuff over there, to include tons of office furniture (?) our cargo ships were empty, ready to repossess those jeeps and what-nots!  

As I stood on deck after lunch, I was looking out over the sea in gratitude, acknowledging that I was still alive and yes, in good health.  Well then, tomorrow shall bring on a new adventure and I’m ready!

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95. Vinh Cam Ranh – Việt Nam

We had traveled just over 660 nautical miles, a near 2 days journey when we reached our new destination of this amazing assignment.  Because you see, in spite of some hair-raising predicaments which I had found myself in so far, I was really being amazed.

And now, to carry on about my last stop in Việt Nam, which of course at the time, I didn’t know this would be as such.  

So, in the Khánh Hòa Province of Việt Nam, Vinh Cam Ranh (the Vietnamese way to say Cam Ranh Bay) is beautifully situated on the southeastern coast.  And if I were to grab a jeep and drive north east out of Sài Gòn, I’d travel about 180 miles.

You know I gotta tell ya, I really was amazed when I learned of this extraordinary deep-water bay.  What makes it such a special place is that its waters are well, very deep as they are met, immediately off the coast.  

And then there’s the way it’s located at this particular inlet off the South China Sea; it seems to bring year-round protection from a temperamental ocean for anchored ships in the bay.

Notwithstanding there’s some protection assistance in that area from the peninsula jutting out from the northeast at the bay’s forefront as well.  And it was here we temporarily became part of the impressively expansive U.S. Naval sea and air base.  I’m pretty sure all of our Forces, some allied too I think, utilized the area.  

By now there was one thing I became accustomed to and that was listening for the sound of the heavy cable lowering anchor; that way I knew we’d arrived at our new home for however long -which at this point really seemed irrelevant- it would be.

Officially parked and dinner was served.

Early in the next morning I began feeling very, very sick; gut-wrenching stomach cramps and oh I just knew I wouldn’t be able to do the breakfast shift, to say the least.  

My co-worker/roommate Dan, quickly called upon our CS Phil, and he rushed to our room.  Taking only a couple of moments to look me over, he radioed the Captain.  Shortly thereafter, Skipper arrived at my bedside.  

He took his turn at looking me over, “Oh you don’t look so hot my friend,” he said with a slight grin, then added, “I’m gonna send you out for repairs!”  And with that he nodded to Phil who clearly knew what that meant.  

I was too busy clenching my fists and grinding my teeth to be laughing and carrying on with Skipper’s sense of serious humor as he left my room, “Now who’s gonna fix my breakfast just right and make my coffee?” he said to no one.

Phil called the radio operator and it was all arranged before I even knew what was coming; the Air Force Hospital had been notified of my arrival.  Within I’d say no more than half an hour, I was blanketed and strapped into a basket.  

I was alert enough to notice the cable (as in the only thing between my pathetic self and the chopper) only raised slightly up into the Huey and oh my goodness, if I wasn’t so distraught in pain, I quite possibly would’ve declined the ‘lift’ -no pun intended.

And there I was, dangling precariously (to me most certainly) in the sky, riding a freewind, airlifted to a waiting ambulance at the shore and they took me to the Air Force Hospital up on the hill.  And while quite simple a process this was in the eye of a professional, for me, all I can say is, what a ride, short and not so bad after all!

After I’d been loaded into the ambulance, I remember looking out of windows on both sides.  More than anything in all the surroundings, I took notice of the ever so many jeeps.  For whatever reason, this picture burned its image in my mind.

When I arrived at the hospital, staff was waiting to take me in immediately.  Ha, ha! star treatment must’ve been on the Skip’s good word?  Admitted immediately, no time was wasted sticking me with needles and drawing my blood.  Oh if I could only call Diana!

I was on an unplanned, mandatory mini-vacation of sorts …well it’s what I told myself anyway.  For whatever reason it took nearly 2 days to determine what was my ailment.  

And that, of all things, was food poisoning.  Rather interesting I thought as I hadn’t eaten for several hours before the pain began.  

Oh yes and I just want to add one more thing to this segment.  I remember at 5a each morning, if one is well enough (and able of course) to sit up, you sat up!   

A Colonel, possibly a General or the Base Commander would stop in to see the patients; a morale boost I’m thinking. 

And on the 3rd day I was well enough to surrender my mini vacation.  The hospital discharged me and I was promptly returned to my ship. Well, for nothing else, a good rest was had and there were no more Huey rides.

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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.