234th Meeting – Tuesday, May 13th 2003
A Passage to
A talk by Brian Hubbard
Present: Klaus Bettenhausen, Robert M. Boer, John Cadet, Jim Campion, Guy Cardinal, Etienne Daniels, Richard Hudson, Reinhard Hohler, Marissa Hutchinson, Mike Long, Richard Nelson-Jones, Ricky Ward. An audience of 12.
In 1990, I traveled through 13 countries and
seas, plus many other assorted stretches of water, to get from
The following are extracts from the seven-volume diary that I wrote as I was traveling.
17th March 1990: Left
19th March -
44 FF to pass through
I went to the opera: “Cosi Fan Tutti” at the Teatro La Venice. Seat in a box about £20.
Booked a ticket for
23rd March -
29th March -
Limassol – Hotel £4.50 per night.
From Limassol by bus to
Cypriot hospitality!! Went into a bar in the red light district and the customers wouldn’t let me pay for a drink.
5th April -
Went to shipping agents in
Took the bus into
Excursion by train to
Quote from Brian the manager at the BCA in
24th April - Egypt to Aqaba,
Ferry to Aqaba. Later by bus to
3rd May - Aqaba – Joseph
Gharios owner of National
Shipping Services: He said he had a German container ship coming in
was on its way to
4th May – Went back to
to see if there was a reply. Joseph kept a straight face as he handed
telex. The captain said ‘Yes’. 15 days to
Joseph did not charge me anything.
7th May – Depart Aqaba: I was ‘officially’ Supernumerary or Superintendent of Cargo. I had my own air-con cabin and three huge meals a day.
Lots of dolphins playing in the bow wave at 14-16 knots.
9th & 10th May - Lifeboat drill. First day it didn’t happen, problem with the hydraulic release. Captain not amused. Saw him talking to the Engineering Officer. No one was smiling. Second day it happened. Strapped in and then dropped off of the stern from a great height. Instant seasickness. Like sitting in a hot floating coffin, bobbing on top of the water. Back on board ship via a rope ladder up the ship’s side.
Spent a lot of time on the bridge talking to the 1st
and 2nd officers. Told the Suez Canal is nicknamed the
Straits of Hormuz – Iranian patrol boat at 3 a.m. no lights.
14th May - Jebel Ali: Completely
automated, hardly a soul on the dock. Stayed for one night. I got a
Hitched a ride on a lorry with the Radio Operator into
17th May –
Got a shore pass to go into
Stopped and searched by a policeman in a Honda 850 minivan. He had his gun on the seat.
20th May - Arrived
Camera and all electronic equipment I’m carrying; flash guns, Walkman, calculator, etc written into my passport. If I didn’t have them when I left the country I would have to pay a sales tax based on what Indian Customs thought they were worth.
Seashore Hotel - 130 rupees about £4 per night.
Quote from Canadian man in
11th September – Madras: Went
Volk shipping agents and they told me that a passenger service –
Kelang, Penang, Madras, was starting in October. The ship, ‘The
was due to sail from
I got my Indian visa extended, went to
Mahabalipuram for a
few days, came back to
20th Sept. Train from
21st Sept. – Arrive
24th / 25th Sept:
24th 20.00: In Howra Station,
25th Sept. Enroute to
25th 20.00 Arrived
At Birganj the rickshaw drivers wouldn’t take us to the hotels we wanted. Said it was too far and the roads flooded. Forced to stay overnight in a derelict, damp hotel. In the morning we stood on the balcony of our squalid hostelry and saw the hotel we had asked the rickshaw driver to take us to on the other side of the square, less than 50m away. Luckily for the rickshaw driver he was nowhere to be seen.
In Kathmandu – Friday 12th Oct:
to shipping agents in
Monday 15th – visa for
Tuesday 16th - phoned Capt. Natrajen at the shipping agents, he told me the ship would sail on 22nd October.
Wednesday 17th - got my passport back.
Thursday 18th – 08.00 -
On a bus out of
No train ticket waiting for me in Sunauli. Told it would be at Gorakpur.
‘Fast-tracked’ across the border, through Nepali and Indian Customs and Immigration, by a rickshaw driver for 100 rupees. Indian Customs/Immigration didn’t write my camera or anything else into my passport.
Bus to Gorakpur. Given 17 rupees for bus fare. 19.00 to 22.00 - 3 hours to Gorakpur.
In Gorakpur told my train ticket is on its way to Sunauli. Travel agent eventually produced a duplicate ‘at his own expense.’
Booked into a ‘flea pit’ hotel for a couple of hours.
Friday 19th – train left Gorakpur at 03.20.
Sunday 21st – arrive
Total journey Kathmandu to
Sunday 21st - Official at Port Office said ship would sail at 17.00 tomorrow.
Went to Mercantile Marine Agency and booked a
2,310 rupees, about £72, which included 3 nights accommodation on
board ship in
Monday 22nd Oct. – Went back to Mercantile, they said go to Time Travel Agency to pay for my ticket. 2,530 rupees, about £73. I was told at the shipping agents, Mercantile, that the ship would not now sail until 29th because of a technical fault. They didn’t elaborate. This was confirmed at Time Travel agency, but they said it was a problem with Immigration. At the travel agents it took 3 men and the boss to make the ticket out correctly.
Sun. 28th Oct. - Arrived back in
Mon. 29th Oct. - In the morning,
sold SLR camera,
two lens, flashgun and other bits and pieces $405. That’s about
the same as I
had paid for it, second hand, in
15.00 - Went to the passenger terminal at the dock. I was the only person there. Rear loading ramp on the dockside, lots of welding going on.
16.00 – other passengers started to arrive. About 30 in total.
We were told that the ship will not sail today because it doesn’t have Seaworthiness Certificate.
Taken aside by shipping agent and told they will have certificate within ½ an hour, by 17.00 at the latest. Customs officials went home at 16.00, won’t be back ‘til tomorrow.
Travel agents promise complimentary hotel accommodation.
18.30 – Arrived at a Youth Hostel 20
The car did not arrive until 21.30. It was late
22.00 – Mr. Nanu,
an Indian man from
Tues. 30th Oct. – Stayed in the hotel all day. Made two phone calls to the shipping and travel agents, confirmed by both that the ship will definitely sail tomorrow - probably, perhaps, maybe. Greenseas rep called later to say he would pick us up tomorrow morning between 09.00 – 10.00.
Mr. Nanu works for his brother-in-law in
Wed. 31st Oct. – Mr. Nanu phones for a car to take him to the Youth Hostel, to check on his luggage and find out about the ship. The car eventually arrived at 09.00, two hours later.
11.30 a.m. – Mr. Nanu returns with
reps. They are going for a meeting with the ship’s owners to find
out what is
happening. Mr. Nanu is asking for a refund on his ticket so he can fly
Mr. Nanu and the Greenseas reps return at 13.30. The ship is definitely sailing tomorrow because they now have the certificate of clearance. Mr. Nanu got half his money back as a refund on his ticket.
Thurs. 1st Nov. – Got a phone call after lunch to say they would pick me up within one hour. 1 ½ hours later they arrive and it is now monsooning. We have to meet the bus at the end of the road and we can’t wait until the rain tops because Immigration officials are waiting for us.
16.00 – Arrived at the passenger terminal, very wet. No Customs or Immigration officials to be seen.
19.00 – The Greenseas rep from Singapore, Mr. Morgan, assures us that the ship is ready to sail, even though we could see men still working on it, and that the reason we couldn’t leave now was because Immigration hadn’t turned up. They only work office hours, 08.00 – 16.00. Hard to believe.
Bus back to the Youth Hostel. It was 22.00 by then. I was starting to develop a headache, tired and in no mood to start fighting for a hotel room. I agreed to stay at the Y.H. for one night with the promise that the ship would definitely sail tomorrow.
Fri. 2nd Nov. – A man called Arif has emerged as a sort of spokesperson for the passengers.
At 16.00 Arif and I went to find the Greenseas rep to find out what is happening. We were told by the rep that the delay is now caused by the weather depression. The work which had to be done on the ship is now almost finished, but not quite.
I request to be put back into a hotel. The rep says I have to go to the travel agents because that is their responsibility, and it is now 17.00 and they are closed. Lies! Greenseas picked up the tab for the hotel I stayed in before. Another night in the Y.H. When we got back to the Y.H. we were told by the other passengers that an Indian woman, who was having a very close relationship with the ship’s Electrical Engineering Officer, had been taken to stay in a hotel. Surprise, surprise.
Sat. 3rd Nov. – The Greenseas rep arrived in the morning and I got taken back to the hotel, to wait.
Sun. 4th Nov. – Arif called at 09.00 to say they were all going to Mahabalipuram for the day, would I like to join them. 60 km fare 90 piasas. In conversation with Arif on the bus, quote “The French are an arrogant and immoral people because they refuse to speak English when they can, and because the men have mistresses.” I had a good day with the passengers in Mahabalipuram.
Mon. 5th Nov. – 12.15 the Greenseas rep arrives to say he will be back to collect me in one hour. Got to the passenger terminal by 14.00. They are now loading bags of onions and felspar, but not passengers.
16.45 – 3 men arrive in an official car. There was a brief conversation and the men then said that they were leaving at 17.00 if Immigration hadn’t arrived. I managed to question them before they left and was told that the ship had still not received its safety certificate and that Immigration, Customs and the shipping agents couldn’t get there act together to be on the dock, in the Passenger Station, at the same time.
Then 12 names were read out and we were told to take our bags upstairs to the Passenger Station. Apparently we were now going to be processed on to the ship in groups of 12.
Waited until 20.00 during which time we had been given a cup of tea.
At 20.00 we were taken on to the ship for
Arif and I were taken out of the group and sent along to the 1st
class restaurant, probably because we were seen as agent provocateurs.
Catering Officer took exception to Arif being there because he was
class, so was I, but it seems they had had a disagreement on the way
Tues. 6th Nov. – We were roused before 06.00 to be off the ship before Customs arrived, some joke. These people have a wicked sense of humour. We joined the rest of the passengers from the Y.H. in the Passenger Station. Waited in the Passenger Station ‘til 07.30, still no sign of Customs. I went back on to the ship and got breakfast in the 1st class restaurant, it was included in the price of the ticket. After breakfast, back to the Passenger Station to continue waiting. No one seems to know, or wants to say, what is going on. We are told eventually that the ship now has its clearance certificate and that all we are waiting for now is Customs and Immigration to appear, at the same time.
Lunch on the ship. After lunch, more waiting.
By late afternoon there is a rumour going around
ship will only be able to sail with 12 passengers. There is much
amongst the passengers and talk of either going to the Collectors
they are empowered to deal with all official complaints, or to the
I spoke to the Greenseas rep who confirmed that the rumour was true. He
that the only passengers who would be leaving on the ship would be
were on the return leg of the journey to
At 19.00 a Greenseas executive came to the
Station and offered the remaining passengers 50 rupees each for
At 19.30 our luggage came on board and the remaining passengers left. We are all to be accommodated in Economy bunks again until we clear Customs and Immigration, when we will all be given cabins. Talking to some of the crew, the latest story of the day is that the owner and two or three others were on their way to the home of the Assistant Chief Commissioner to try to get 2 last pieces of paper signed. If this could be done then Immigration would come on board and give us clearance to sail. It didn’t come to pass.
Wed. 7th Nov. – At 10.00
the purser came
and sat with me to talk and ask a favour. 9 out of the 12 passengers on
are only going as far as
The rest of the morning was spent going back and forth between the ship and the Passenger Station, waiting for officials to arrive. They didn’t. Just before lunch we were told to take a bag, any bag, and go across to the Passenger Station, because Customs was there waiting for us. They weren’t. The Passenger Station was locked.
By 12.30 it was decided, by the passengers, to go back on board and have lunch. During lunch the Customs officials arrived, but not Immigration.
After lunch we went back to the Passenger Station again. This time it was open, but we still had to wait. Our passports were collected and taken on board for Immigration to see. Eventually both Customs and Immigration officials were in the Passenger Station at the same time. Immigration needed one form filled in. A Customs official stuck his hand into by bag then asked how much money I had, but didn’t want to see it. Having been duly processed, we all went back on board and the Customs officials came on board for their free lunch, this was on top of all of the free cokes, orange juices and beer they had consumed during the processing.
At 16.00, to the sound of breaking
Indian tradition for good luck, we cast off from
1st class cabin was a joke – four bunk beds and all shared bathrooms. Later, the captain told me he was also sharing a cabin and bathroom with other officers.
Once out at sea the sea picked up to what was described as moderate, which means about wind force 3 or 4 and a 2-metre swell. This ship was lighter than the Olandia and, unlike the Olandia, didn’t have stabilizers. The whole voyage was pitch and roll. Every now and again the ship would judder/shudder as we hit a wave.
9th Nov. – during lunch,
met Mr. And Mr.
Kalusingham. They are from
Over dinner with the captain this evening he told
the ship was a Japanese car ferry, not designed to spend more than 24
sea on one voyage. The owner had bought it and spent some money
to a passenger ship. But he hadn’t spent enough. They had bluffed
their way out
10th Nov. – Asked the
purser about the
train fare to
11th Nov. – Arrived in
Woman Customs official on the dock –
“Anything to declare?”
“Does your bag just contain personal items?” No and Yes.
She didn’t ask to look
inside just smiled and said “Welcome to
On the jetty, followed the agent to the office to see about the train fare. Met the captain’s wife. She told me that he was resigning his commission with the company. He hasn’t been paid in three months, and the owner had wanted him to make a false declaration; to say that it was a passenger ship when it was only registered as a cargo ship. He had refused.
In the office discussion ensued over the payment
train fare for myself and another passenger. First the agent said he
know anything about this payment and he would have to check with
Unlike my arrival in
The rest of my journey was