13 January 2011

Sea Life 1951-1952. Tynebank bound New Orleans USA

First draft:
The morning after we left Middlesbrough and heading southerly down the coast of England I was wakened by the steward at 07.00 am with a cup of chai on his tray. I quickly drank it and then had a wash and a shave in the cabin sink. Getting dressed, I put on my nice warm doeskin uniform, not animal skin, doeskin was a fine, smooth, soft, woollen fabric. By the time I had done all this it was time for an early breakfast at 07.30z and then ready for my first watch of the day starting at 0800z.

During the first watch I again checked the traffic list but there was nothing for us. I then made myself familiar with the rest of the wireless room and signed myself in the log for the day required at 10 minute intervals. Also listening at the specified times of 15minutes and 45 minutes past the hour for the 3minutes silence period for any possible distress call. And so it was, the same day after day as we crossed the Atlantic.

During this time I got to know better the Captain and 3 deck officers or mates as they were known and also the Chief and 3 Engineers. We carried 2 apprentices sometimes known as Cadets. They were about the same age as me. Of them all I cannot remember any of their names now, but I can still see their faces lodged within my memory.

We had left Middlesbrough on a cold December 8 1951 and arrived in New Orleans, Louisiana USA January 14 1952, 36 days later. The Tynebank was a slow old tramp ship making only 6.5 knots.

As we slowly crossed the Atlantic Ocean the days grew slowly warmer and then we reached the coast of Florida. The temperature was now nice and warm, at around 22 degrees Centigrade. Christmas Day found us still in the Atlantic Ocean and New Years Day in the Gulf of Mexico enjoying a pleasant temperature. To celebrate these holidays we had a few extras with our meal, otherwise the day was just the same with watches be kept as we wished each other a Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year.

We made our way down the Florida coast passing Miami, rounding the Florida Keys not far north of Cuba and into the Gulf of Mexico. Then we angled northerly across to the Mississippi Delta sticking out into the Gulf. A couple of days before we reached the Delta I made contact with the nearest coast station and sent our TR message. At the entrance of the Delta we picked up the pilot to guide us up the Mississippi. New Orleans was about 90 miles up river from were we picked up the pilot. Once in the delta and well up the Mississippi I closed down the ship's radio. As we passed up the river there was nothing but swamp to be seen during low tide, as we progressed up above the tidal line low levee's appeared. The first habitation was the small town of Venice, 25 miles up stream. Having a look on Google Earth the sloping levee measured 14 feet high and the buildings behind were at minus – 4 to 5 feet below the river water line. The land surrounding the town seemed to be mainly swamp or water with a road on the levee crest.

Going up the river each side was lined with a levee (same as a dyke or stop bank), there was not much to see except sometimes traffic. Roads were often placed on the crest of the levee.

The levee's of Louisiana averaged 24 feet in height and some were as much as 50 feet in height. There are over 3500 miles of levee's in Louisiana.

We eventually reached New Orleans The levee's here seemed to measure about 18 feet in height above the river, the city streets on the west side of the river between plus 3 feet and minus 3 feet, below or above the normal river level. On the east side of the river the city was much higher in places, reaching a maximum of 40 feet.

We did not stay long here. Probably 2-3 days to unload some of our cargo and pick up more for Australia. I only went ashore once with the 2 apprentices and I think the 4th engineer, more or less just to stretch our legs. Someway from where we were berthed was the famous Bourbon Street, the home of Dixieland jazz. I would have loved to have gone down Bourbon Street and the French Quarter with its many jazz clubs but it was just a little too far to go by foot.

I was a lover of Jazz and Swing music when I was young. Of Swing music today I am still a great fan. Today in New Orleans Dixieland jazz is still played and it is a great hit with tourists. I came across a saying which sums up New Orleans and its music.

“Whether it is a jazz brunch on Sunday, a jazz band in a street parade, or a jazz funeral on Friday, there is always jazz to be heard in New Orleans” .

Nearby is Canal Street and the French Quarter which are still famous today for their Jazz Blues and music clubs . Today many famous stars are often seen mingling with the crowds of music lovers.

New Orleans is also world famous for its Mardi Gras Parade (Fat Tuesday, in English) during late February and early March, everyone who can is on holiday. I see that even after the recent great storm and flooding from the breeched levee‘s the Mardi Gras for 2011 is going ahead.

Tomorrow we sail back down the Mississippi for Galveston and nearby Houston in Texas.

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