Monday, 12 November 2007

MY STORY - Chapter 7 - Life on the Ocean Pt 3.

Nova Scotia to the Gulf

On leaving Nova Scotia we did a round trip each month stopping every time in either New Orleans or Lake Charles, Louisiana. From there we would sail to Coatzacolcoz or Minatitlan on the Veracruz River in Southern Mexico and back up to New York, berthing at Linden New Jersey. We visited other ports such as Philadelphia and Hopewell, Virginia on a less regular basis on each direction of the journey.

One of my first impressions of sailing down the American coast was of hearing Billy Graham on the radio. Knowing he had been to England and reading and hearing so much about his ministry, it was amazing to me at the time to be able to listen to him preaching every day on the radio while I was on the ship. I would also listen to Oral Roberts. I actually worked for Oral Roberts Ministries in England when I was 16.

Having this spiritual contact meant so much to me as I began to reconnect with the faith that had been such a sustaining influence in my life. My own relationship with God took on a new dimension as a result and I was becoming spiritually active again. I longed for fellowship with other believers but this wasn’t going to happen for quite some time. It was just me and God which is all any of us really have in the end. I didn’t have the spiritual maturity that would make a noticeable difference in my life, but I was on my way and trusting God.

We also could keep up with the election debates between Kennedy and Nixon.

As the ship plodded through the waves, there was always a heavy swell down the East coast which caused the ship to roll heavily, I settled again into the routine of a less traumatic life on the ocean than had been my experience crossing the Atlantic. Sea life certainly had its ups and downs and I don’t want to give the impression that it was all excitement and activity. Not so, some days were totally boring and repetitive when time hung heavy and dragged.

Interspersed with the monotony, moments of interest and excitement arose. Apart from visiting ports which I will tell you about later, at this point I am trying to project a picture of my daily life at sea. As mentioned in the last chapter there was always my daily visit to the bridge, meals in the salon, afternoon siestas, sunbathing, reading, knitting, embroidery and Scrabble, but now that the weather was mostly good I would spend quite a lot of time on deck.

I enjoyed leaning over the front bow, not quite as dramatically as Kate Winslet in the film Titanic, watching the dolphins jump and play as they followed the ship. A school of dolphins can stay with a ship for days. It was also quite something to see flying fish landing on deck. We had an Indian 4th engineer and he used to cook them.

Then there was the day when the great liner of the time, the Queen Mary passed us. Not to be forgotten were the times when we needed to dodge hurricanes. Nor the time when we were actually directly in the path of a hurricane and had to shelter behind Cuba until it passed over. Being in the eye of a hurricane was spectacular, absolute calm and quiet with nothing but birds and insects flying around, but with a great sense of foreboding for what was to come. There was also the time we saw the beginning of a storm in the form of a large waterspout in the Mexican gulf.

A rather unpleasant and recurring non-natural event was the presence on the ship of an alcoholic seaman. When his supply of alcohol ran out and further supplies were prohibited by the Captain, he would sneak into guy’s cabins and steal their shave lotion to drink. This was a serious problem and it ended up with cabins and cupboards having to be locked. The resulting cold turkey that this guy suffered was not pleasant for those around him. His first trip ashore after that ended with him being so drunk that he lay on the deck all night and by morning was a very sorry sight when he was found absolutely covered in mosquito bites. I guess there would have been more than a few tipsy mosquitoes that night.

Another serious and unpleasant episode was when the second mate put his fingers into the gears of the steering cogs, something he never should have done. When Alan was called to investigate why the steering had jammed up, he found the second mate on the floor and the steering cogs jammed up with bits of bone and flesh. We were passing Florida at the time and had to sail towards to Key West where a pilot boat came out to take the casualty to hospital. It was very hard for us to understand why the pilot insisted on knowing who was paying before he would take the injured man on board his boat. This would never have happened in England.

Looking back, the trip couldn’t have been easy for Alan. He was the only one on board with a wife to take care of and there were so many extra things he needed to do to make life at sea, on such a small ship, more comfortable for me. Away from the galley which was at the other end of the ship, the only drinking water available was from a tap some distance away. As this water came from a storage tank I was not at ease just drinking it so he would go to the galley and have it boiled for me. It was not so easy for me to do this as it entailed negotiating a ladder between decks which might be rolling and pitching with the seas coming right over the side. I was only 21 and at times quite nervous of being left alone and I sometimes got fearful and weepy when I realised how long I was going to be on the ship. During Alan’s previous years at sea he had been used to the companionship of the other guys and with nowhere to go and nothing to do; leisure time at sea was usually spent drinking. After one episode early on in the trip when I had to put Alan to bed fully clothed as he was so drunk, he began to realise that he was now married and even more that his new bride was on the ship with him. From that time on he made every effort to be with me and limit his drinking, so it must have been somewhat lonely for him too at times. We were still getting to know each other having only met about five months before we embarked on this voyage, not an easy start to any marriage in many people’s eyes but it became normal to us and by God’s Grace we did survive it. At the time of writing we have clocked up 48 years in a few weeks.

I guess overall for me it was a roller coaster of romance, trauma, fun, excitement, fear and panic and learning. Also an experience I would never want to have missed and probably would never wanted to have repeated. In the next chapter we will be revisiting the various ports as we continue on the voyage.

Alan - The Chief
Sunbathing in a lifeboat


The Queen Mary

Taking a sight of the sun

Mississippi River boat

Mexican Beach

Where are we going

Bahamas in the background


Paula said...

What a fantastic voyage. Love the pictures.

Sara at Come Away With Me said...

I was glued to every word, and you gave us a good sense of what your life on board the ship was about. Loved the photos too.

I'm sure you know the Queen Mary is now located in Long Beach, where she has been a hotel and tourist attraction since sometime in the late 1960's. I looked at her across the little bay every day for 22 years from the office where I worked! It's a small world.

Linds said...

The photos are brilliant! My trips at sea with Geoff were mostly on huge modern container ships with swimming pools etc, and the lap of luxury in comparison to your trips! I used to lie on the deck with the children at the bow, watchign the dolphins play through the big holes for the ropes. They still remember those times.

Betty said...

Barbara, I read every word with wonder at your simply amaze led such an exciting life as I'm quite certain you still do.....

Keep writing, can hardly wait for the next chapter.....thanks for the visit...Betty

Anonymous said...

I have really enjoyed your life story installments. The pictures are charming. Thank you for sharing this with us - some of us a long, long way away.

A Texas Mom

Aqeela said...

Thanks for writing down more of your story, it was a facinating read and the photos are great.
I always love a good real life story, hence the reason why im writing my own.
I look forward to reading more x

Willow said...

It's amazing what we in our naivete will do. And what God in His grace will use to grow us. You have had an amazing life. And your photos are great memories. Sunbathing in the lifeboard was my fav!

Vee said...

There's so much information here that I must go back to read it again. You really did lead a life of adventure.

I love how you toss in a bit of history, too, so that we easily know that time frame. Terrific!

And I love that you are real and tell the bad with the good.

Susie said...

Great photos Barbara and I'm truly enjoying the story. You've really had some exciting adventures!

Susan Skitt said...

Wow again Barbara! From dolphins, to hurricanes, to drunken sailors tipping shaving lotion bottles, to how God continued to draw you to Himself, what a story!

I loved your pictures too! You are one beautiful lady! I'm so happy you have had so many years married to your dear Alan. What a blessing from God!

And like the others said, I will go back and read it again to take in all the little details.

Your friend in Christ,

Cape Cod Washashore said...

So fascinating! And what a memory for all these details! This really needs to be put into book form along with your dear photographs!

Susan said...

Playing catch up on my reading. What an adventure. I don't know if I would have been up for it!!!

Teresa said...

his trip is one I will never take in real time. How great it is that I get to go on your journey. I was so delighted by all of it that it was good you reminded us that it was not all an exciting adventure. There were moments of fear, panic and loneliness. That made the journey so real. Speaking of which, I could not help but wonder if the things you saw involving the alcoholic seaman and the time you had to tuck Alan, up to bed, brought back frightful memories from your father. I don't really expect you to answer that. I just wanted you to know that I wondered how that must have felt for you.

Billy Graham was a household name where my mother and grand mother were concerned. I have seen him in, Chicago. What a dear man. I did a short blog on his wife Ruth, when she passed away. I am enjoy and believe in his son Franklin Graham's, ministry, Samaritian's Purse. I have a link on my sidebar to his ministry if you would like to visit it. In 2006 we stopped at Oral Robert's, ministry in Tulsa, Oklahoma, when coming home from my daughter's house where we spent, Thanksgiving. Do you know of Kenneth Copeland Ministries?