Atlantic City (4)

Comments from the forum - 1

I sailed as Mate on the Atlantic City from the beginning of February to mid September in 1969. The Master was Captain Joe Thornhill and the Chief Engineer Sukkienick. Initially, the ship was on a long charter to the Indian millionaire Chowdry brothers,(spelling uncertain). When I joined with Joe we flew out to Bombay with Air India and transferred to an internal flight to Marmagoa. Landing at Marmagoa nearly saw the end of us as the plane veered sharply to port on its final approach to the landing strip and as the pilot tried to correct the swing the port wing dipped and appeared to be only a few feet above the ground before the pilot levelled off. (A hasty change of underwear was indicated !)
The ship was anchored in the outer harbour waiting to go alongside the bulk loading berth. It was the fair monsoon time and the Atlantic City was engaged loading iron ore in Marmagoa for Kobe. After the onset of the SW monsoon in June/July, loading in Marmagoa became impossible due to sea and swell conditions and the Atlantic was switched to Port Hedland NW Australia again for iron ore. She should have gone to the east coast of Malaysia (Port Rompin), but there was a shortage of cargo there so the wily Chowdry bros did a deal with the Jap receivers,(Kobe Iron & Steel),to take a different grade of iron ore from Aussie.
In Marmagoa, the usual loading procedure was for the big ships to go alongside the bulk loading berth and load about 24,000 tons of iron ore to bring the ship down to a limiting draft, then proceed back to anchor in the stream and to load the balance of cargo (about 22,000 tons), ex barge, using ship's gear.
I had been to Marmagoa back in 1960 as 2nd Mate on the old Eastern City, with Albert Justen in command. Goa was then still a Portuguese enclave on the Indian west coast and everyting ran like a well oiled clock.
But by the time I came back in Goa on the Atlantic City in 1969, Goa had been "liberated" by Nehru and everything had gone to pot!
We finally got our orders to go alongside to load about 20,000 tons, that was all the cargo that was in the plant for us that is.
Loading was real slow with many delays due to cargo shortages. It did mean that we were in port long enough for Joe and myself to be invited to a big party at the Chowdry brothers holiday residence in Vasco. Sukky was also invited but had declined as usual. It was some spread - no shortages of grub and liquid refreshments there. I found an interesting item in the palatial gardens of their villa while having a wander around. A fully fuelled and warmed up helicopter with pilot and crew standing by. I was told by the pilot (a Scandinavian type), that the helo was there in case the brothers Chowdry had to make a quick vamos if the locals turned nasty!
After four days we had 19,500 tons loaded and we received orders from the Harbour Master to leave the berth immediately so that an Indian Govt ship could come in. Joe sent for me and gave me the SP and off I trott towards the foc'sle head, only to meet the Serang, Chippy and the rest of the forward gang coming back aft. "Serang" I says, "we have to stand by to let go." "Oh no, Sahib " says he "too many bees there!" On further investigation I saw a large black ball of Indian bees sitting right up on the foc'sle pulpit with hundreds more joing every second.
By now, old Joe is bellowing from the bridge why weren't be standing by, so I go up to the bridge and tell him that the crew and me cannot work up there with a million bees in a swarm already in situ. Well, anyone who has sailed with Joe will no doubt know how he would take such news. Of course it is the Mate's fault. But when I took the agent back up to the foc'sl and showed him the situation. he agreed that we could not work there. Joe,by the way, remained in splendid isolation on the bridge wing.
Sailing was postponed for 24 hours (because we had missed the tide by now) and the agent promised to send a bee expert down to the ship to sort out our insect neighbours.
Sure enough, the next day, I was sent for and in Joe's dayroom was introduced to a Mr. Battercharjee a spindly shanked dhoti clad elderly Indian bee wallah complete with young assistant.
Joe orders me to take the expert forward and to do everything he wanted.
I gathered up a sullen and definitely windy Serang with Chippy and the Cassab and we all approached the foc'sle with great care. The swarm which the day before had been the size of a large football had now grown to Medicine ball size and many bee scouts were buzzing around as we made our approach. Mr, Battercharjee asked for a bucket some kerosene (paraffin) and a bundle of jute (cotton waste). Ah, I thought he is going to smoke the bees. I had heard that this procedure is used by bee keepers to make the bees peaceful. I now know different. Smoking the bees in a hive makes them think the hive is on fire so they gorge themselves on honey ready to make an escape flight and become lethargic due to the large amount of honey they eaten in a short time.
The Cassab brought up the required items. the bee wallah puts the cotton waste in the bucket, pours the paraffin over it and then before we could savvy what he intended, out comes an old American Zippo lighter from the folds of his dhoti and he sets the paraffin soaked waste alight. The cotton waste flares up and the bee wallah chucks the whole flaming mass right at the big black ball of attentive bees.
They explode into a cloud of revenge intent insects. I am legging it down the foredeck - the Serang and his squad are already leading me by a head when suddenly beside us we see Mr. Battercharjee and assistant zip past us like we were standing still and disappear aft in a cloud of dust and small pebbles. Me and the crew members gain the sanctuary of the accommodation and run around inside screaming for everyone to shut doors and windows. (The A/C has been turned off by Suky of course, who didn't like A/C), so everyone had their windows and ports open. I go to the bridge to find Joe inside the shut wheelhouse, going apes---t and of course, who gets the blame, The Mate of course.
Well the bees laid siege to the after accommodation for another 24 hours and no matter what the Harbour Master said in the many messages he sent down to the ship, we stayed there until the bees got fed up and moved on. I will never forget the spindly shanked Indian bee wallah creaming past me at a great rate of knots as we evacuated the foc'sle head. That's how they do it in India!
Charlie Boyer. Posted on forum 24 June 2010.

Disclaimer: The statements on this page are the views of the person who posted them on the forum. The events took place many years ago and in most cases rely on those people's memories, and so we cannot guarantee the accuracy although every effort is made to check it.

Atlantic City. Page No.[1] [2] [3] [4] [5]
Memories from RSL staff. Page No. [1] [2] [3]

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