As our Captain believed in giving apprentices every opportunity to go ashore in almost every port, we two apprentices took time out to stroll along the waterfront of this picturesque little town, passing the small ferry landing about a quarter of a mile from the ship. We had a cup of coffee overlooking the bay and the cone shaped mount which the port was named after.
The sea was an unbelievable blue, with trees and bright green vegetation covering the mountain – green being a favourite colour after weeks spent at sea. The beach stretched the whole length of the bay and we watched as bikini-clad girls cavorted in the sand and the sea.
Back to the ship we heard that the 3rd Officer had gone into Tauranga and later we were called to the jetty office for a phone call.
‘I’m in town,’ he said, ‘and have been invited to a party tonight. Do the pair of you fancy coming? What is the sailing time?’
‘The sailing board says 0900 tomorrow but the jetty foreman reckons it will be nearer to midday!’ we told him.
Usually the jetty foremen were more correct than our sailing board so we were ‘coerced’ into joining the 3rd Officer. We retraced our footsteps to the ferry landing and soon found ourselves sailing to Tauranga, where he met us with a few girls and some New Zealand ‘lads.’
We partied until we had missed the last ferry back to the port, then slept on the floor of our host’s house with the firm intention of getting the first ferry in the morning. Bleary eyed, we boarded the ferry at 6:30am and were soon on our way towards the ship.
As we got closer we saw that the ship was flying two flags from the halyards above the bridge. One was the ‘B’ flag meaning ‘I am carrying, loading or discharging explosives’, which all tankers flew when in port but the other was the ‘H’ flag, meaning ‘I have a pilot on board’!
Horrified, we watched as one of the bow ropes fell into the water as they were casting off the moorings.
We asked the ferry Captain if he could land us near to the ship and, obligingly, he nudged the ferry’s bow to the shore, almost under the bow of our ship, where we jumped ashore shouting our profuse thanks to the helpful Captain, who waved cheerily and backed away to continue on the voyage with his other passengers.
The crew were just about to haul in the gangway when we ran up it and went to our stations. It would have been an expensive night out if we had had to fly back to Kwinana in Western Australia to rejoin the ship!
by Terry Took © 2016
Terry Took was born in Yorkshire but has lived in Tynemouth for over 50 years. He spent 45 years in the Merchant Navy which included 27 years as North Sea Pilot. He then spent five years as a lecturer at the Marine Department of South Tyneside College.
He is now an Elder Brother in Trinity House.
If you have any comments or would like to contact Terry then please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.