9. Fog in My Pocket With an American Touch 🇺🇸 part 1

Unloading the sugar took about 3-4 days this time; it all depends upon the volume of product and how many hands were present for any specific ship.  Once the ship is cleaned, the lumber gets loaded.

Man I tell you, when I see how hard those guys worked, I was so glad that this process wasn’t part of my job.  I don’t mind saying that I was young and having fun!  In order for things to run smoothly and safely it’s common sense that everyone should have their specific duties, doing exactly what you’ve been hired for; nothing more, nothing less.

I now give a moment’s thought to fact of the United States being just within reach across a border that-a-way, and so myself and a few of the guys decided we would rent a car and cross the border for the day just so we could encounter a taste of the USA.

We departed Vancouver 🇨🇦 in the early morning, marveled by pine tree inspired wonderment throughout the scenic drive, spent the day people watching, eating, and just the basic looky-loo stuff, making our way back by about midnight.  Chalk mark my first American experience.

That next morning I saw on the planner that our ship would be making an additional pick up of lumber as there was just enough room on board; the load would come from Coos Bay, Oregon.  How about that? back into the USA and this time by way of ship!

This detour would take us nearly three days.  Now I refer to this stop as a detour because as the normal route spelled out for the SS Lakemba and its sister ships; SS Suva & SS Lautoka, they do not stop in American ports at all.  🚢 The posted route was Suva to Honolulu to Vancouver and back to to Honolulu, Suva and the various Australian ports.

In fact this stop was quite significant in that it was actually the very first time this ship touched an American port at all, ever.  That’s what I heard, it was all over the crew’s conversations  – it would seem I lucked out!

⚓️  The loaders worked ‘round-the-clock, 24 hours a day; one shift ended, another took over.  The expense is great when a ship is docked in any port and so the faster the ship can be loaded/unloaded, the better for the shipping company.

When my duties were complete I would venture into the port town, in this case it is Coos Bay, and of course some of the guys would tag alongside for a sampling of the local cuisine and well maybe a beer or two.

I can still taste the deliciously fresh, steaming clam chowder and oh yes, the hot and crispy fish & chips too, which we obtained from a food stall on the nearby pier – sensational!

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Greetings to each and every one of you followers, likers, commenters and to the new visitors as well, welcome one and all!  Please don’t be shy, leave a comment with your thoughts on any of the posts; yes go ahead, encourage us!

 

7. Diamonds & Lumber – part 2

There was still time before lunch duty and so we relaxed on deck –yes, away from the passengers- and watched the ocean go by.  Regardless of how I was doing it, I was thoroughly enjoying my new adventures at sea.  I’d catch full views of whales occasionally and other fish swimming around too, it was fun!

It’s the 7th day and our ship is approaching Honolulu Harbor, it is still the dark hours of the morning. The ship has slowed its pace as it enters the waters of Hawaii, the Harbor Master must board, enter the Bridge and take over, bringing the boat into the port.

I am awake and find myself at the railing on deck to bare witness something I never even dreamed of; the lights of the city. Twinkling from the homes along the mountains were thousands of tiny lights; it was like someone tossed millions of diamonds on to hills of black velvet and I remember saying to myself, “Oh God this must be heaven.”

The experience of a different place; it is now twilight and as if lost in a dream yet feeling the state of wakefulness, I watch the sunrise happening over Honolulu. It was something completely new to me.

It wasn’t at all dark like Fiji as in the level of lights there; just as you cannot count the stars in the sky, it’s how the sight of those lights affected me at that moment. I am looking on at Waikiki.

Back to the kitchen for breakfast service with a definite air of excitement!  We’ve stopped here for supplies such as fresh water, fresh foods, mail and laundry exchange as well.  The length of our ship’s stay in port is 12 hours; our shore leave would be about 4-6 hours.

A group of us hailed a cab and asked the driver to take us to a great place where we could shop and check out a little of the local scene, which we could enjoy in a short period of time.  He took us to a big mall complex (which a few years ago I returned to, it was still there) and I ate pineapple of course!  And for another enjoyable treat I had a watermelon shake for the first time in my life, it was delicious!  I bought some Hawaiian shirts too.

Back to the ship and we are heading towards Vancouver, Canada and another 7 days at sea. Our ship is bringing sugar in from the plantations of Fiji for delivery into B.C., Canada. British Columbia was extending a wet welcome – it was soooo cold especially due to the fact I come from a southern tropical climate. I was used to warmer rains!  This rain was freezing and it was my first experience in cold rainy weather.

There was a warming period however – I met and fell in love (or so I thought) with a lovely French – Punjabi girl.  Sonia was 18 and one of many daughters of a sawmill big shot in Canada.  We first met at local nightclub, dancing and having a drink or three.  Hold on, I got just a little ahead of myself, so I’ll detail it out for you just a bit.

A friendly passerby on the street directed my friends and me to this particular club as we walked along the streets of Vancouver one early evening.  He too was an Indian national. We fell into a mutual hello as our eyes met, we all began conversing.

It started off with our ‘what to do around here’ answered with his suggestions of shopping, restaurants and a great club that was a good place where a younger crowd meets.  He told us that he too went there sometimes.

We found it and went in. It was a nice dance club, no hard liquor, only beer and soft drinks; that’s a good thing as younger people were welcome there too.  We grabbed a few seats and about 3 or 4 tables away sat a group of young girls.  I couldn’t see exactly their faces but naturally that assemblage received my attention.   Ah, eighteen and still so innocent.

At first it was difficult to catch a full glance of her face but as the girls began going off to the dance floor, I got a clearer vision.  And I’m so glad I did.  She and I definitely began to notice one another; it was that subtle eye flirtation and shy quickly looking away yet a corner smile would form as the head turned.

And every time I looked her way I noticed she too was looking my way.  All the while I’m going through fifty ways in my head as to my approach and if I did, what should I say?  This went on all evening.  I felt we were surely on to something and I wanted to know what that might be. I felt she may be thinking the same things, I hoped.

Well that night, we didn’t meet, the guys and I just hung out for maybe two and a half hours but not once did this young lady and I verbally communicate.  The guys and I had to return to the ship for an early morning start for breakfast, so we left and that was that.

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Sonia is of course a fictitious name but trust me, the young Canadian gal was very real  🙂

 

7. Diamonds & Lumber – part 1

At this time Honolulu was protected by United States but still independent from America.

This first experience I had on this job was a seven-day journey from Fiji to Hawaii; this was just the first leg.  My shipboard position placed me in the pantry, which is where we prepared the foods that were just cooked in the kitchen for the waiters to serve the passengers in the dinning room.

Even though this was a cargo ship, there would be passengers on board.  These people paid good money to be on a cargo ship instead of a cruise ship mainly because the stops in port were for longer periods of time.  Plus it’s not as crowded.

While on the ship we worked every day but we also had several long breaks in between meal times.  The routine is easy to follow and it works flawlessly.  My new friends, workmates and I would always listen to music, we’d play cards a lot and enjoy a beer or two along with lots of great conversations; life-stories and what have you.

I did my best to take my time off responsibly as call of duty was 6am regardless, there were no excuses and no exceptions; passengers were my duty, that’s it!

I will tell you some thoughts I initially had while out at sea on this very first adventure of mine. I missed my mother terribly, my sister-in-law’s cooking and my close family members and friends.

I was not scared about anything; I loved the ocean so very much.  I felt its beauty as I saw its power and in its calm and rough faces I knew I made the right choice.  I have to admit here, I did experience seasickness at a point for a couple of days, and then it was over and thankfully didn’t occur while I was at my post.

And just so you have a little idea of how the mornings went along, I share this:  after breakfast service was over, we’d clean the dining room and set up for lunch service.

Then we could order from the chef anything we wanted to eat and it was our turn to enjoy a very nice breakfast. I do recall the chef definitely took pride in his meal preparations for anyone that would be eating his food and a bonus; he was a very nice man.

After breakfast it was time for us to get into the passengers’ rooms and tidy them up.  We were multi-taskers as this ship was not staffed the same as a luxury liner would be.

The captain’s boy who had originally set me up for this position on board the SS Lakemba kept me at his side and we’d handle the skipper’s quarters.  Once all the rooms were done, we had to get our own cabins cleaned up.

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Once again I thank you for checking back with us.  I hope everyone has been enjoying the holiday season in one form or another.  The Little Blue Masala has finally set sail, tasting the open sea and different climates too!  Well, at some point we all have to get our feet wet don’t we?