19 June 2005

Sea Life. 1951. The Modasa. Heading for Suez.

First draft:
We left Marseilles and our next land fall would be Port Said, and the entrance to the Suez Canal some 2000 miles away and a few days steaming. We were still in the month of August and the days were getting warmer now as we approached the North African coast.

I was getting well used to my midnight to 6 a.m. watch now and I used to enjoy the pleasant peacefulness of the warm nights. After my 6 hour watch I used to sleep until late morning, then I would lunch early which gave me the whole of the afternoon free before my 2 hours evening watch.

The warm days became uncomfortable in our dark blue doe-skin uniforms and the captain ordered a change of uniform to tropical kit. During the day it was regulation white shorts and open-neck shirt with shoulder epaulets denoting rank, white knee length stockings and white shoes. Our peaked cap was the same navy blue one but with a white cap cover fitted. Very smart.

In the evening after 6 p.m. at dinner or socialising, it was "number tens". This again was a white uniform comprising of white longs and shoes and a snug fitting white jacket which buttoned up to the neck with epaulets, again attached to the shoulders.

We eventually arrived at Port Said. The pilot came on board and took the ship in to the anchorage to await our turn in the convoy of ships waiting to steam south through the Suez Canal. Unlike a normal port, we stayed on watch in the radio room. Prior to entering Port Said, when we transmitted our TR message giving our time of arrival we received instructions to monitor a certain channel where we were would receive further instructions when we were required to up anchor, our convoy number and the route to follow.

Jock called me in to the radio room during his watch to show me the procedure to follow and who to advise. His explanation must have sunk in as later on my first own ship, I followed the procedure without a hitch.

During the hours we were at anchor whilst the ships arrived to make up our convoy, boats with dusky gentlemen in long white loose robes and round flat hats came alongside touting all manner of goods and souvenirs, calling us to buy. Two or 3 larger boats came from shore in a purposeful manner and headed directly for the lowered gangway. They were the preferred traders by the shipping line and they were allowed on board to display their wares on the open deck for the passengers, and us too of course. I don't remember buying anything, only just looking.

I found this all very exotic; the dark faces, the wafting off key music from the nearby jetty, smells of spices and incense and the chatter of the sellers of ornaments and souvenirs.

But too soon we must move and proceed down the Canal.

No comments: