m.v."Cyril" Point a Pitre Guadeloupe to Trinidad, Buenaventura and Liverpool 30th J
The "Cyril" had run aground whilst entering Point a Pitre...and become fast on a coral reef...salvage tug had tried to pull her off but nearly took the poop housing away, so in the end she had to have her cargo discharged to lighten her enough to clear the reef, before she docked in Point a Pitre . I flew out with a John Morcom Harneis Chief Officer and Bill Halewood Chief Engineer at the end of January to relieve the Master of command and proceed to dry dock in Trinidad. We were to sail the following morning as I think the people of Point a Pitre were already fed up with the ship being there...when I asked what time the pilot would arrive, I was informed no pilot just go. So first light we singled up, maneuvered her clear of the berth and down the channel to sea, our progress was very slow as the ship bottom was all buckled due to the grounding, and going too fast caused the whole ship to vibrate. It took us over two days to get to Trinidad... we entered the Boca late on the afternoon of the second day and anchored off the Furness Withy floating dock in Chaguaramas Bay. We berthed alongside the floating dry-dock the following day and started the laborious business of cleaning the double bottom tank and getting rid of all ballast and fuel oil inshore storage. The yard assessed that we would need approximately 500 tons of new steel to renew the damage and I a few days later we were docked on the Floating dry-dock and repairs commenced. Most of the officers that were not needed were flown home on leave leaving just a skeleton crew onboard. The plan was to finish the repairs and then proceed directly to the UK where the rumor was that the ship was to be sold.
Work continued apace and the weeks slowly went by, until we had been there a month. It was impossible to have our ports open as across the bay was situated a bauxite berth, and every time a ship loaded which was frequent, the dust just floated across and it was not long before the whole place was covered in the stuff. Think it was about six weeks till we were eventually refloated and the remaining crew joined for the trip back to the UK……..Then out of the blue, I was informed that we were to proceed to Buenaventura, Columbia to load coffee(It was about that time there was a coffee shortage in Europe) So off we sailed for Panama Canal and then on to Buenaventura. I had been to BV as it was known with my cadetship in PSNC and also as Master with CSAV charter on the "Belloc"…and I knew from experience that it was a very unsavoury place. Three days of rain and overcast(no radar?) we eventually picked up the pilot off BV and anchored off the harbour as there was a dock stoke. Our agents boarded two likable chaps and there the first question was "What are you here for" coffee I replied "But there is no coffee‼! So presented them with some cartons of cigarettes to keep them happy and off they went. Next to arrive were the Shippers agents who insisted that as soon as the dock strike was over we would go alongside. Next day we received a telegram from BSSM that John Morcom Harneis was to fly home to join ACT 1….no relief so typical BSSM I was short-handed again. We were keeping 24 hrs deck watches as native canoes and ladies of the night were begging to come onboard…there was a Norwegian ship "Frendo" something anchored close by also come for coffee. they put their guard down and lost all their paint stores. As weeks went by dock strike over nor problem getting coffee down due landslides. Shippers agents were down each day not to worry. I tried going ashore to phone the office but could never get through..even thought of sleeping ashore and phoning in the night. We had been alongside to load water but were back out at anchor again. Ship Chandler would not supply any more beer as he was not getting his bottles back and suggested we go up to Cali to the factory to buy beer which was about 70 miles over the Andes. Off we sent Chief and me, Chandler and his son….reached the first Military checkpoint and soldiers at bayonet point kicked Bill Halewood and I into the back and loaded their girlfriends in the front with instructions were to drop them off. Anyway, the trip from tropical, via Mediterranean and alpine landscapes was not to be missed until we reached to the col and there was Cali stretched out in front of us. WE picked the beer up no problem which meant that Bill and I were sitting in the back with all the beer. Trip back was uneventful but very cold as we went over the pass. A few days later the shipper's agents disappeared…I was in the office and I happened to see one of the secretaries on the telex machine…Inglaterra, I asked si no problema….so that is how I managed to contact the office with my one fingered typing. Seemingly our coffee had been sold and Bills of Lading in my name had been issued on the Continent but we were still being paid our charter fee to the company were not too worried. To cut a long story a chap from Germany arrived to sort things out, I agreed to go off Charter as soon as I cleared the Panama Canal so we were on our way home at last in ballast arrived in Liverpool were the West Indian crew paid off and the ship was eventually sold.