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Saturday, 22 December 2012
Liability Cruise Part Two PDF Print E-mail

It was pretty tough going at first, We had to do all the Joburgs. I remember having to do one on Jerry MacDonald, who had just come on board. Jerry was a larger than life customer, a smuggler, hard case and general crook. 

I started his Joburg "questions like "Have you ever stolen anything?" answers were "Oh yes blah blah blah", needle moving freely, absolutely no response at all. So I decided to run a reverse Joburg. 

"Have you failed to steal something?" BANG CRASH the meter ment. Boy, was there ever some charge on it. Times he had the chance to steal and failed to do so. 

It took HOURS to run it, there was SO much stuff. All sorts of things came up, many that would have seen him serving life sentences. Anyway, I did the job. We were good friends after that. 

All the while we had to learn and train the crew on the basics of seamanship. We needed to practice docking the ship. Remember, this boat was about 100 yards long and weighed about 4,000 tons.

We also had to repair any nonworking parts. The foghorn did not work properly. Gerry was sent up the mast with a spanner to loosen off the bolts and clear it out. I saw him up there and pulled the horn cable. A stream of filthy water spewed out over him, followed by the horn working at full blast - just a few feet from him. 

He came down the rung ladder, soaked in dirty water with a determined stride in his step and a very reproachful look on his face! 

We could not cal linto ports and practice, so we would sail out of sight of the coast, lay a poly line attached to floats on the sea surface and practice docking, using that as the dock.

all of the time we were being spied on by the Spanish Navy.

Bill Robertson was there to try and teach us about celestial navigation, a subject VERY few mastered. I remember one day sitting on the Aft deck, Mary Sue beside me and Bill droning on and on. Mary Sue was nodding off and Bill suddenly asked her "What is that?" pointing up in the sky. Mary Sue looked startled nudged me and looked at me for help. "Venus" I whispered. She loudly proclaimed it was Venus. Bill looked up and said "No, that is a plane". She bashed me on the arm as the whole group fell about in laughter.

Our visits to Segunto and Bizerte were great boredom breaks. We could not leave the ship. Only a couple of nominated people were permitted to go and purchase food supplies.

One day Bill decided we would undertake some short missions. Four boat crews were selected and we set off to row lifeboats to the rocky shoreline and using lead weights loaded with wax, find out what the sea bottom was. The trouble was that we only had a few people in each boat rowing and the boats were riding high in the water. This made them act like a sail and we were being blown toward the rocks. We all decdided to head for a small sandy cove nearby and beach the boats until we could row back.I was in charge of one boat, Baron Berez another, Otto Roos and I cannot remember the last one. We had a couple of kids with us, Janis Gillam was one of them.

All the time Bill was sending morse flashes to us ordering us to return immediately, something we could not do.

Within a short while armed members of the Guarda Civil arrived and accused us of illegally entering Spain. There were about forty of us, all under armed guard. We tried explaining what had happened but they were not interested. 

As the afternoon wore on it began to get colder. Nothing had changed. We had no money on us (except for Otto and he was not going to put that into a pool). An old metal sided truck arrived and we were herded into it and driven to a local beach cafe that had been closed for the season. We spent the night there under guard until the next morning. Once again we were herded up and taken back to our boats. by this time a tug hag been hired and the four lifeboats towed back to the ship.

Bill was livid. Why had we disobeyed his orders? Why had we not returned immediately? A quick look at our faces told him he was heading for a good thumping, so he changed tack. Mary Sue had been worried sick for us and was overjoyed at our safe return. We had had nothing to eat or drink for almost a day.

Certain parts of the ship were off limits. The B deck cabins included. I had a pass key and one Sunday afternoon I retired with Frannie for a "siesta". After an hour or so there was a tannoy announcement "All hands Docking Stations".

Mary Sue had decided to call an unscheduled drill. I was the Condition One Helmsman and my place way up on the bridge. 

I grabbed my shirt, trousers and shoes and dashed out of my cabin - only to find LOTS of other people dashing out of other cabins!! I thought I had the only key and was the only one there!!    

Bert Rossouw, our engine Room Machinist had a side business in making pass keys!!   

A few of us raced up the stairs, past Hubbard's office, out onto the A Deck and up onto the Sun Deck where we got dresses, snuck along beside the funnel and onto the Bridge.

I took the helm. MarySue was there smiling quietly
(She MUST have known what was going on), She walked aroung to the front of the helm turned and looked directly at me "What have you been doing?" she asked. "Why, nothing" I replied. Sio she went over to the Starboard lookout (who was peering intently outwards) "What have you been doing?" she asked. Again, a denial. She went to everybody on the Bridge crew and pointedly asked them the same question. By this time she was really enjoying herself. "Well, an awful lot of something has been going on" she announced. We all focused fully on our tasks and squirmed inside.

People ask if there were drugs on board. Well it turns out there was some. We did not appreciate it at the time but it became obvious later on.

Joke Reder was engaged to John O'Keefe and she came on board late into the cruise to get married. The ceremony was held in the A Deck Lounge and Bill performed the ceremony. A select group formed a semi-circle in front of Bill and John and Joke came in. They were clearly "stoned". Bill was trying to add levity to the occasion (he could do 'pompous' better than anyone I know). John and Joke were sort of 'grooving', Mary Sue had a fit of giggles and was holding on to my arm, Berez was sort of looking vacant, the looks on some of the other faces showed they just wanted to get it over. It was bizairre.  

On our return to Valencia we were dogged by one particular ship that insisted on sailing very close to our stern. As the Royal Scotsman had been designed to travel either fore and aft, she had a bow rudder and a secondary helm aft for when she returned down a river. This meant we also had two sets of running lights, one for each direction. I was getting fed up with the following ship so as ot got dark, I threw the swit]ch. All of a sudden, the ship behind us was facing directly into the lights of a ship coming directly at them. You have never seen panic like it in all your life! They violently altered course, blaring their horn at us, sailing close to us, swearing at us, our guys smiled back and gave them the finger.. 

Our cruise ended. All the crew had completed our tasks. The ship was upgraded and I had the job of steering her into the drydock in Valencia.

Bill and I left to go to a beach hotel and prepare to take the AO to the UK.

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