30 May 2005

Sea Life. 1951. The Modasa. We Journey Onward.

First draft:
Leaving the English Channel we cross the Bay of Biscay to Cape Finisterre in northern Spain, Finisterre a famous name to those who sail deep sea. The Bay of Biscay for a good part of the year was rough from the big Atlantic rollers. But, for our journey in summer across Biscay and in August it was calm.Then we steamed down the coast of Portugal and across the Gulf of Cadiz to the Straight of Gibraltar, the Rock visible in the far distance. We are now steaming across the Mediterranean for Marseilles in southern France, our first port of call, to deliver cargo, then loading fresh cargo for delivery in East Africa.

The distribution of goods from Britain in 1951 was much different to what it is now, in the beginning of the 21st century. The Channel Tunnel was only a dream then, ferries from Britain to France in the main were passenger orientated and some were for light traffic. Distribution of goods from Great Britain was by sea to final destinations, or for central Europe it was by sea to a suitable nearby port and then by rail or road.

I remember little of the trip down other than the first day or two now. Daily working life soon became repetitive; on watch, off watch, sleep, eat and socialise. Life became a blur to some extent. I did make a few friends among the younger officers, the 4Th and 5Th engineer officers being in their early 20s. Also the ship had 2 deck officer cadets on board, both older than I. At the age of barely 18, I was mostly a tagger-on to any group.

Life socialising was a different matter for me and it was a life, which I was mostly enjoying. There seemed to be something new each day. I even dropped into the ships bar now and then and had a beer and then put it on my tab. No one asked me if I was 18, I think they just took it for granted that I was.
Soon we were off the port of Marseilles and we waited in the early morning to take the pilot aboard who would take us into port. When we entered port the radio room was closed down for the duration of our stay and Jock and I were free. Time was now ours.

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