24 January 2011

Sea Life 1952. Tynebank bound Houston Texas

First draft:
Leaving Galveston Island with a pilot on board we moved up to the Galveston harbour to the entrance. Here we turned to port (left) to pick up the Houston Ship Channel Entrance Lighted Buoy 18 in Galveston Bay and headed in a straight north westerly direction following the Houston Ship Channel until we reached Ship Channel Light 54 as we slowly pass up past the buoys we reach Morgan’s Point and we enter the Houston River. From here by river Houston is 28miles away and the Houston Ship Channel runs for roughly 22miles from the river entrance.

As the river winds its way along, the Houston River is very wide in places. For much of the 22miles it is heavily populated with industry of all kinds, both sides of the river. Many areas are oil tank farms, refining facilities, petrochemical plants, general cargo outlets plus mid-west grain outlets, shipping berths are many along the full length of the Ship Channel from the river mouth. Housing and public facilities is for the most part well back from the river. A few parks and sports could be seen here and there. Trees and greenery could also be seen along the river edges in places on waste ground, probably just waiting for industry development.

In the lower reaches the river it was noted that quite a few US navy ships were berthed.I’m not sure where we berthed along the river, I would guess about 2 thirds of the way along, this seemed to be where most of the general cargo ships were berthed. We seemed to be here for 3-4 days unloading our USA cargo and loading fresh cargo for Australia. .

During our stay I didn’t go into busy Houston, I decided to have a look around locally and to possibly pick up some souvenirs. Although it was 1952 and WW2 had been over almost 7 years, luxury items were scarce in the UK with even a few things still rationed, I think. I made some enquires of the US officials coming and going on board and most pointed me in the direction of a shopping complex not too far away as my best choose locally if I didn’t want to go up into Houston city centre.

The road I was pointed to was sealed and dusty with a footpath on one side with a few buildings dotted here and there, and overhead power lines hanging on bent poles. The land seemed to have been cleared, I remember thinking that it was not a very inviting area. I seemed to be the only person walking, with a few cars going to and from the docks. I think I must have walked a mile to the shopping area and during that time at least 2 cars stopped and asked me if I wanted a lift. This seemed somewhat strange to me, this did not often happed in the UK. I was suspicious and refused politely with at least a smile, I think. I remember mentioning the fact when I got back to the Tynebank during dinner that evening. The consensus of opinion was that this was not unusual in the USA. Americans tended to be friendly people and drive everywhere, a lonely figure, tidily dressed on the road was probably from a ship at the docks going up town and maybe would like a lift.

Reaching the shopping area I had a good look around, I remember looking into a window display of radio and electrical items and within seconds a salesman came hurrying out of the shop doorway wanting to know what I was interested in and I told him I was just, window shopping. Not satisfied with that he tried to sell me a TV… “Just got some new stock in” he said as he tried to shepherd me inside. TVs were all the rage in USA then. When I laughed and said no he tried to sell me something else. I then explained I was off a ship in port, that deflated him and he wandered back inside and didn’t want to talk any longer. So that was my first encounter with a fast talking, pushy American salesman. Further down the road I had similar encounter of a salesman trying to edge me into his shop, I don’t remember what that was now. I found the encounters quite humorous, thinking we were lucky not to have that kind of thing in the UK, at least not in 1952.

I wandered down the street until the shops began to peter out and I walked back up the other side of the street. I remember buying something in one of the shops. But for the life of me I can’t remember what it was now. There was not a lot people in the street I do remember, I enjoyed the walk even though I still had a mile or so to walk back to the ship. My legs were used to walking and biking and climbing fells in the English Lake District. Later on I found it was pleasant to get away from the ship like this, just for a walk when in port, not only just to stretch my legs but to see something different also, even if though it might be a bit scruffy or dirty.Next day we were due to sail, as before we discharged cargo and picked up more for Australia. I suppose this is why the name of this type of ship came from; “tramp ship”, tramping from port to port.

We sailed with our pilot again down the river section of the Houston Ship Channel, out of the river entrance and into Galveston Bay. Here in the Bay the channel was still called the Houston Ship Channel, and so it was, right down the Bay until it and we reached the Bay entrance into the Gulf of Mexico. Someway out of the Bay entrance we slowed to drop off the pilot. We watched the pilot climb quickly down the rope ladder thrown over the ships’ side and as he jumped nimbly into the boat, with a smile and a quick wave he was gone. At the Captains’ order to the officer of the watch who then in turn “rang full steam ahead”, the Tynebanks’ engines, after a few moments slowly changed their note. We were on our way to The Panama Canal.


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