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First voyage

                                                                     
                      
                                                                      s.s.
Alwaki/PCOD
 
                                                                                                    June 2 - December 25, 1964
                                                                                  First voyage
                                                                                   June 2 - September 6, 1964
 


The former “Chapel Hill Victory”, built by Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyard, Baltimore, launched on December 4, 1944, the sea trial on December 31, 1944. A steam turbine ship of 7650 GRT (10.810 DWT) and a speed of 15-17 knots. Bought by Van Nievelt Goudriaan on April 9, 1947. Sold on January 6, 1965 to China International Union Lines, under Liberian flag and named “Kaohsiung Victory”. Later she sailed under the Taiwanese flag. In Januari 1974 she was scrapped in Kaohsiung.

Most ships of Van Nievelt Goudriaan & co. have the name of a star, with the first two letters “al”. Amongst others there were the Alamak/PCFZ, Albireo/PCGU, Alchiba/PCIN, Aldabi/PCJM, Alderamin/PCKA, Algenib/PCKZ, Alhena/PCLQ, Alioth/PCMD, Alkaid/PCMG, Alkes/PCMK, Alnati/PCNB, Alphacca/PCNJ, Alphard/PCNQ, Alpherat/PCNV, Altair/PCNY, Aludra/PCOA. The Alkaid with 5483 GRT was the smallest and the Alphacca with 7651 GRT the biggest ship.

Company: Van Nievelt Goudriaan & Co., these voyages chartered by V.N.S.

First voyage:      Rotterdam - Marseilles - Beirut - Suez Canal - Port Sudan - Bahrain - Kuwait - Khorramshahr - Karachi -
                         Aden - Suez Canal - 
Genova - Nordenham - Bremen - Rotterdam
Second voyage: Rotterdam - London - Oran - Suez Canal - Bahrain - Bandar Shahpour - Kuwait - Basrah - Khorramshar -
                         Suez Canal - Catania - Copenhagen - Ostsee Canal - Rotterdam

Captain:              Johannes B.A. van Kleeff (1st and 2nd trip)

First mate:           J. Th. Boef (1st and 2nd trip)
Chief engineer:    H............ (1st trip), J.G. Maaskant (2nd trip)

Ass. Engineer:     Huib Gelderblom (1st trip), Jan Burgel

 

Radio equipment:         4U-installation                                                                              Remaining equipment:

Shortwave transmitter:      RCA ET-8023    Mainreceiver:            RCA AR-8506               Depth sounder:  Mackay-106B  

Medium wave transmitter: RCA ET-8024    Emergency receiver:  RCA AR-8610                Radar:              RCA CR-103                   

Emergency transmitter:     RCA ET-8025    Aut. Alarm receiver:  RCA AR-8601

                   

After re-applying with Radio-Holland I was immediately engaged due to severe understaffing. Even my staff number 51 was still free and again allocated to me. However “as punishment” I was placed on this antique tub. Because my old uniform turned out to be too small (or maybe I’d grown a little too much?) and other items of my kit had disappeared, I had to buy a new uniform and some lightweight clothes for in the tropics. At that time a new uniform was 165,00 Dutch guilders, a new tie only 2,95 and a white shirt only 15,90. This looks not expensive, but earnings in those years were nothing to cheer about.
The Alwaki was scheduled to make two voyages to the Persian Gulf; the second voyage as “loading ship of the confederation”, which meant that she would stay alongside in Khorramshar for 14 days to pick up the cargo that other ships could not load or cargo that arrived too late for loading. The “Confederation” is a federation of shipping companies, that devides the cargo in the Persian Gulf as equable as possible. In turn a ship of each company has to pick up the so called “remainder cargo”. Van Nievelt Goudriaan had chosen the Alwaki for this job, so people of Van Nievelt Goudriaan as well as Radio-Holland considered it as a punishment to serve on the ship.

                           Socks were called anklets then !  

The Alwaki was one of the 543 Victory’s that were launched in the U.S.A. during W.W. II to provide the allied forces with transport. The average building time was only 30 days! Not only Victory  ships but also Liberty-  in the U.S.A. and Empire ships in Great-Brittain were built during the war. The hull of the Liberty’s were welded, by which they had a fairly big chance to break during storms. The Victory’s and Empire’s were rivetted and served for many years in the merchant navy without those problems. After the war they allocated to a number of countries in order to rebuild their merchant fleets. The radioroom was situated on port and under the bridgedeck. The cabin and radioroom were two separate rooms with each a door to the corridor. To be able to step direct from the cabin into the radioroom an opening was made in the steel wall between cabin and radioroom with a curtain as seperation.  The radioroom was equipped with the inevitable RCA 4U equipment, as on all Victory’s. I had at my disposal an ET-8024 as medium wave transmitter, ET-8023 as shortwave transmitter, an AR-8506 as main receiver and the AR-8610 as emergency receiver. The Automatic Alarm Receiver was an AR-8601 and an ET-8025 functioned as emergency transmitter.
With only one porthole in this metal radioroom, receivers, transmitters, the convertor of the transmitters at your feet and the big resistances of the battery loading device built in the equipment it was indescribable warm in the radioroom. On other ships this equipment had been surrounded by modern tables and cupboards, but on the Alwaki the situation still was as it was during the launching, namely everything made of metal. Metal worktables, metal chairs, metal cupboards etc. etc. Practically everything on board was metal, such as banisters, doors, walls, in short everything. Although the Alwaki was an old ship I mainly sailed with pleasure on her. I always prefered steamturbine ships because of the calm and the absence of trembling and shaking that was typical for motorships.

Captain Van Kleeff was not exactly the most symphatic captain I’ve sailed with. Bacause of his attitude the mood on board mostly was depressed, not in the least by his fabulous talent to play people off against each other. Besides that he revealed himself as a potentate whose will was the law. If he didn’t like you, you could count on an unpleasant journey. I indeed wasn’t his best friend, but neither a butt. Butts however were the chief-steward and the second engineer, an ex-navy officer. Backed up by the “opinionless” chief engineer he constantly made them look silly in presence of the other officers and because the second engineer did not always have a witty answer on hand and only gave a forced smile, the two men doubled up with laughter.
The eighteen months or more ashore had not affected my skill as radio-officer. I had to get accustomed to some minor administrative changes of Radio-Holland, but the communication with coast- and shipstations had been unchanged. I was so terribly glad to sail again that I was on air more often than necessary to let get it off my chest. This way I heard coaststation WCC (Chatham Mass. Radio) operate while we were on our way to Marseilles and because at the time I preferred working with WCC when I had messages for the U.S.A., I couldn’t resist calling this station and ask it if there were any messages for the Alwaki. This was sheer nonsense, because we were not headed for the U.S.A., but I just wanted to work nicely with WCC. 
The first port on this voyage was Marseilles, the port I visited before with the Wonosari. Because we had to load much cargo we stayed here for two days (and nights). Some shopping and a visit to the Vieux Port during the daytime alternated with going out in the evening and night. The first evening with the fourth engineer (name unknown) and the second evening with the second mate (name unknown as well). Besides the shopping and sightseeing the daytime was filled with listening out to the unilateral transmission of PCH, doing some administration, receiving the newsbulletin of Scheveningen Radio and preparing it.
In short I didn’t tire myself out.
After I sent our QTO (leaving the port of ….) to Marseilles Radio/FFM I could inform PCH we were on our way to Beirut, the Paris of the Middle East. After some days we moored around 4 p.m. to load just a little bit of cargo. The crew was permitted tot go ashore till 2 a.m., but at 11 p.m. a sailor was sent ashore to inform the men in the nearby pubs that we would sail around midnight. Fortunately it appeared that everyone had been warned in time, so we sailed with a full complement in the direction of the Suez Canal and our next port of call Port Sudan, the Sudanese port halfway the Red Sea.
In Port Saïd the ship was flooded by all kind of merchants in unassorted goods and Saïd came on board to bring the mail and take with him the letters the crew had written for the home front. After the Canal pilot had come on board and had given me instructions concerning the communication it was our turn to weigh anchor and take our place in the southbound convoy. Unfortunately this voyage was the last one during which a ship without airconditioning was allowed to enter the Persian Gulf, so that straight after Port Saïd the lack of such equipment revealed itself. At the time we entered the Red Sea I whished I’d stayed home. The longer I remained in the heat without airconditioning the more I got accustomed to that heat. Whilst moving and standing in the breeze on deck of the ship the heat was somewhat bearable, however laying in port without airco would be almost unbearable.

 

                     
 
Upon arrival in Port Sudan we moored immediately and the “big suffering” began. The dockers that came on board had long dirty hair and smelled terrible. All in all it was no fun to work among those people as the mates and sailers had to do. The loading was done by means of the ship’s cranes and in the hold the sacks were stowed by hand due the lack of forklifts. Fortunately we sailed before sunset.
After we passed the island of Perim in the Bab al-Mandab we sailed from the Red Sea into the Gulf of Aden. Here was more wind and the temperature was more pleasant. After we crossed the Gulf of Aden we arrived in the Arabic Sea and by rounding Ras al-Hadd we reached the Gulf of Oman, after which we sailed via Strait of Hormuz into the Persian Gulf.
The communication with Scheveningen Radio had been perfect all the time and also in the Persian Gulf I never experienced any bad communication.The Alwaki was equipped with telegraphy only, so that meant some work less. The bridge was equipped with
  an echo-sounder and an old RCA-103 radar. The Alwaki was not equipped with VHF. The first port in the Persian Gulf was Bahrain, where I made a terrible blunder in a bar by asking a group of American sailors whether they were British. Fortunately they were under the impression it was a joke. 
After the cargo was unloaded in Bahrain the voyage continued to Kuwait. In my ignorance I went ashore in the afternoon. First of all it was bloody hot and secondly (as a result of first) nobody was outside, everybody was at home in their airconditioned rooms. At sunset people came out of their caves and the busy life in this modern town began. In the evening the weather was delightful with a somewhat humid warmth of about 28º C., in other words thirsty weather. Unfortunately there was no beer obtainable in Kuwait, because alcohol is strictly forbidden. Icecold orange juice or a coke with a lot of ice were the alternatives. After some time I was fed up to the back teeth with it. In the field of electronics, watches, golden jewellery etc. Kuwait was an El Dorado as far as prices and diversity are concerned. In Kuwait harbour ships were loaded and unloadeded by the most modern cranes, unlike some European ports (Antwerp f.i.). Also the transport on the quay and in the sheds was done with the most modern thinkable equipment. Due to the oil production a dinar more or less was no issue.                           
                          
                                                              The parts of a 10ft radar scanner unit   

While moored in Kuwait one afternoon I decided to check the carbon brushes of the radar aerial motor, for they had been replaced a long time ago. The motor that rotates the radar aerial is located on a special radar mast which is placed on the bridge deck; this in contrast with a lot of other ships where generally the aerial is on top on the foremast. A metal ladder, without a protective cage around it, against the mast led from the deck to the scanner. The mast was about 10 meters high (from the bridge deck), so about 30 meters above waterlevel. Halfway up the mast I broke out
in cold sweat and I didn’t dare to go up or down. For minutes I hung with white knuckles about 25 meters above waterlevel, where small boats with dwarfs in it sailed along. Lucky for me there was nobody on deck in this heat, because in first instance one feels embarrassed by this “weakness”. After a very slow and long retreat I sat foot on deck and stumbled with trembling knees to my cabin. Later the carbon brushes were replaced by the third engineer, who functioned as electrician. Since that time I always contracted out the inspection of radar scanners on masts or radar masts without a cage to electricians.    
                                                     View from a radar mast
 

The chief engineer (retired, alcoholic) had the custom to come and visit “sociably” the younger officers with the aim to empty the jenever bottle that may be there. He did that as soon as he had swallowed his own supply. At that time I used to drink “old jenever” and that’s what the old boozer drank as well. After he emptied in this way two or three of my bottles I made a brilliant counter-move. From old jenever I switched to “young jenever”, because the old boozer did not like that. Within five minutes he left the radioroom in search for another victim. Since that day I never drank “an old one”.

From Kuwait we proceeded to Khorramshahr, the Persian port on the Shatt al-Arab river, that has his source in both the river Euphratis and the river Tigris. Rumours go around that paradise existed between those two rivers. I’ve been close to paradise, although I didn’t realize it at that time. Wharf space was not available that day, so out of necessity we had to drop anchor in the Shatt al-Arab.
That did suit us very well, because now the chief engineer’s birthday could be celebrated on the big deck behind  midships. This party ran terribly out of hand again, but that could not stop me from taking my beauty nap around 2 p.m. While I dozed I heard how the chief engineer completely loaded was carried to his cabin. The man was retired, but made a relief voyage every now and then. At the end of our voyage I knew why, because then he invited his wife to come on board in Germany. Later it turned out, he better shouldn't have done this.
 
          A Shatt al-Arab bank            
 
Because on this voyage our ship was not equipped with airconditioning we, fortunately, could not be assigned as “loading ship of the confederation”. Should we have been assigned as such, then we would have stayed in Khorramshahr for about 14 days; now it lasted just a couple of days. Owing to the terrible heat – in the afternoon it was generally 54° C. on board – one could just doze a bit during daytime. At night one normally did not fall asleep before 2 a.m. and at 5 a.m. one was awakened again by the heat, because then the temperature rose above 30° C.  With only three hours of sleep per night, having less and less appetite for food but more and more for liquid (non-alcoholic and alcohol) you were soon worn out. Not that I had to complain that much compared to what the engineers in the engine-room and the mates on deck and in the holds had to endure!
The evening hours brought some relief and it was a blessing that on the harbour site was a bar with three Persian waitresses. In the Persia of the Shah and in Iraq at that time – in contrast with the rest of the Persian Gulf - the use of alcohol was allowed. That joint on the harbour site was brimming with sailors every evening, because the service was done by women and they sold beer and wodka. That is to say  Persian wodka; perfectly drinkable for that matter. In the course of the evening several Norwegians and Danes slipped under the tables and had to be carried on board by their also not so very sober comrades. 

After having loaded our cargo in Khorramshar we finally sailed to Karachi for the last bit of cargo for Europe. When we arrived on Karachi roads the captain summoned me to the bridge, for due to lack of a VHF equipment  Karachi Naval Station was signaling with the Aldis lamp. With this equipment beams of light can be sent to a point on which the lamp is directed. By means of a trigger as on a revolver a small cover, surrounding the lighted bulb, is pulled backwards, so that the light hits the reflector of the Aldis lamp. If the trigger is moved in the rhythm of the morse alphabet, dots and dashes will fly as beams of light to the target. Karachi Naval Station wanted to know who we were, came from etc. Those Pakistani had been trained by the British, so their signalling was far too fast for our mates. That’s why I was asked to do the job, but that’s not the way it goes. Signals of sound and light are two different things and the speed of my receiving the light signals was by far not the same as that of sound signals. I had to ask them to slow down a bit and instantly they adjusted their speed to my transmitting speed with the lamp. After having myself reported by radio to Karachi Radio/ASK we could enter the harbour rather quickly. Karachi was dirty and hot; fortunately we would stay in for a short time and after some walking around close to the harbour I returned quickly on board again. In this port hardly anybody had asked for Pakistani currency, so most crewmembers stayed on board. On the dock area I saw the result of development aid. Large numbers of agricultural implements and vehicles were sunk to their axles into the ground, totally rusted and useless. Sacks with grain lied on the ground for weeks, so that was a paradise for rats, of which some had the size of cats. Since that day I have a total different look on development aid. 

                                … what a heap of tools do you need! …

After Karachi we would bunker in Aden for the last stage to Europe. In the Arabic Sea before the coast of Oman we ended up in a fierce storm, so that there was a change that the deck cargo would start moving. In Karachi we had received an enormous size electric motor as deck cargo, that was underpinned on starboard before amidship. 

In this season there normally is here in the north of the Indian Ocean a fierce northeastern monsoon. That means wind behind when sailing for the Persian Gulf towards the Gulf of Aden. This time however the wind is more easterly and more behind than transverse on port side. Due to this wind behind the ship rolls terribly and with our heavy deckload that could become dangerous. When off the Kuria Muria Isles the rolling becomes too much the captain decides to turn the ship’s bow into the direction of the wind in order to wait, while steaming slow ahead, for the wind to decrease in force. The rolling is now replaced by pitching. For me that’s bad news, because rolling isn’t troubling me, but on a pitching ship my stomach often starts protesting.  
With the latest weather forecast in my hand I stumble toward the captain’s cabin, but he is on the bridge. I try to reach te bridge via one of the outside stairs, but  that is madness due to the rolling and pitching of the ship and the spray flying over the ship. Fortunately I can reach the bridge via built-in stairs, although this also takes some doing using both my hands.


The calmness on the bridge forms a contrast to the violence on deck. The second mate and the helmsman try somehow or other to keep the ship on course. When they see the weather bulletin in my hand they give me a hopeful look. However I have to disappoint them, because the next twelve hours the weather will not improve, rather getting worse. Taking a proper look outside is in fact only possible via the revolving window; the remaining windows of the bridge are constantly flooded by heavy seas and therefore covered with salt. The ship’s bow dives into the trough of an approaching wave and disappears in the water mass. The moment you think the bow never will surface, it slowly rises and all the water which went across it now hits midships and then runs away via the railing and through the scuppers. The 20 year old Victory cracks and groans in all her seams by the continuous attacks of the endless amounts of waves. During the diving of the bow the poop of course comes up, so that sometimes the propeller comes out of the water. As now air is displaced instead of water, the number of revolutions shoot up and that is noticed by a remarkable vibration of the ship. As soon as the bow rises, the propeller again gets grip on the water and the vibration is over. 

I go back to the radio room because it’s time to go on duty. The chair in the radio room is placed in such a way that I look to port side. With each dive of the bow my chair has the tendency to shove to the right and at diving of the poop to the left. Is the ship rolling, then respectively I’m pressed against the worktable and pulled from it. To prevent being hurled through the room the chair is fastened in two ways. The armrests are fixed with two hooks to the worktable and the bottom of the chair is fastened to the floor by means of a chain. Despite this it’s all very tiring; you have to brace yourself continuously and it’s difficult especially during working with the morse key.  
Every storm draws to an end, so after some hours we could resume our voyage and we arrived unharmed in Aden. Again the inevitable merchants came on board. The mail was brought on board, so that it could be answered in Suez. The trip through the Red Sea was again very hot, in the Suez Canal more pleasant and the Mediterranean Sea came as an enormous relief.

Communication wise the Suez Canal had not changed much and communication again went via Ismaïlia Radio/SUQ. This station belongs to the Suez Canal Authority and transmits on  420 kHz. In the meantime the service had been improved with a telephony transmitter on 1650 kHz, so that the pilots on vessels with bridge telephony equipment could communicate with SUQ. The Alwaki however was not equipped with such a device, so the communication between the Authority and the pilot was again only possible by way of the radio-officer.

The extremely high temperatures and lack of airconditoning caused red pimples to appear on the bodies of some of us as a result of excessive sweating. We called that “rode hond” (red dog) for the sake of simplicity, but actually this has nothing to do with the rubella from our youth. The right name of course is prickley heat. For most of us it did disappear after one day on the Mediterranean Sea. Immagine you would still have it in the next port; then you could better stay on board.

Via the Strait of Messina we reached the next port Genova with her Porto Vecchio, where we moored not far from the lighthouse at the Ponte S. Giorgio. Amongst sailors Genova was well-known by, as we Dutch say, Straatje van Alles (Street of Everything), a small street in the old town near the harbour “where it all happened”. Bars, brothels, café’s, dancings, hotels, jazz clubs, restaurants (in alphabetical order)  lied higgledy-piggledy and formed an enjoyable small street. It leads from the Santa Giovanni church via the Santa Sista church to the Santa Siro church. Churches and brothels side by side, more Italian is not possible. In Genova as well as in each port in the Mediterranean one never went ashore too early. About 11 p.m. was early enough to relieve around midnight  the American sailors of some navy squadron who had left behind such a load of money that a fairly sly “Johnny Dutchman” could cash in on it for a cheap or sometimes totally free shoreleave. So it was very important to look around upon arrival whether there was an American navy squadron at anchor.
That night in August I went ashore with the second engineer. This pleasant old navy officer underwent a  metemorphosus when he went on shoreleave. He saw to it to be dressed like a gentleman, to paint the town red like a real bon-vivant. This time we ended up in a small bar not far from the harbour on the Via Antonio Gramsci, where we met two (female) Italians. One of them quickly lost interest and left; the one who fancied me remained. After some beers and throwing lires into the jukebox I made no progress whatsoever, so we decided to leave.
Upon leaving the bar I could not find my wallet with money and passport which I always kept in the inside pocket of my jacket. Because of the heat I had draped the jacket over the arm rest of a chair. Of course suspicion concentrated on the quickly disappeared woman, so we created quite an uproar before threatening to go to the police. Outside, on our way to the police station, I decided to put on my jacket to look somewhat more presentable. It turned out that the wallet was hidden in a sleeve! Of course I had, without looking, put the wallet back into my inside pocket after I had payed something, but it had landed in one of the sleeves instead. When that happened my eyes must have looked in a totally different direction!  Relieved we returned to the bar and I explained the situation in 20% Italian and 80% English. A round of drink for everybody at my expense cleared the atmosphere. Moreover my Italian beauty was still present, so the rest of that night I spent admiring here beautiful interior among other things.  The sun had risen already when she accompanied me by taxi to the lighthouse, where I promised her to be back in Genova in a couple of weeks. However I already knew then that that would be Catania on the second voyage. Ah, one has to tell a little lie so every now and then to keep the hope alive.
From Genova we sailed right away to Nordenham on the river Weser opposite Bremerhaven to unload the main cargo (ore). One night after having left the Meditterranean Sea the chief engineer, pissed as a newt, asked me to send a telegram for him. In that telegram he asked his wife to come on board in Bremen to make the trip to Rotterdam. The next morning he limped panic-stricken into the radioroom (one leg was somewhat shorter than the other one) and asked desperately: “Oh dear, no, you did not yet send that telegram to my wife, did you?”. “Yesterday night already, chief”, I said and moaning he stumbled back to his cabin, probably to take a drop (or more than one).
In Nordenham the ore was unloaded very quick, after which we floated down the river Weser to unload in Bremen some remaining cargo and to load some for the next voyage. When we arrived in Bremen I understood the dispair of the chief of all engineers. His 1.65 m. small wife wore the trousers in a terrible way. From Nordenham to Rotterdam “the chief” only drank softdrinks, because his wife did not allow him to drink alcohol at all. Furthermore she didn’t tolerate any contradiction whatsoever, so the bossy chief engineer had changed into a “yes nodding” 7-up drinker. On September 6 we moored in Rotterdam, where I swiflty took my administration papers to the Inspectorate Rotterdam and then hurried home to enjoy a well-deserved leave of fourteen days. By then I had been told that I had to do the next voyage on the Alwaki as well.
 


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