|Issue 62||February 2001||Volume 6 - Number 3|
Welcome to the CANDOER News. Suggestions as to what you would like to see in the CANDOER are welcome. Letters to the editor, articles consisting of general information, feature articles, G-rated jokes, or poems, written/submitted by retirees or OC/IM employees, past or present, will be published, unedited. Material may be submitted on a 3.5" floppy disk (disk will be returned) using WordPerfect Version 6.1 or earlier (if it contains graphics), on a plain sheet of paper (if it has no graphics) or via e-mail. The deadline for submitting material is no later than the 25th of each month. Material received after that date will be published in the next issue of the CANDOER, space allowing. Please, restrict articles/submissions to two single spaced, typed pages. No hand written submissions, please.
The snail-mail address for submissions or letters to the editor is:
Robert J. Catlin, Sr.
Publisher/Editor CANDOER News
2670 Dakota Street
Bryans Road, MD 20616-3062
From time to time, missionaries would visit the island. I recall one such visit when a missionary in a sailboat, with a few natives on board, entered the harbor. In spite of red lights from the control tower, continued to make his approach over a newly laid mine field. It turned out that the draft of the boat was about 1 foot shallower than the minefield and he made it safely. If he had had two or three more natives along and if the tide had been a bit lower he would have blown up. He obviously had the Lord on his side!
The weather on Makin had a constant temp of about 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit and was very humid. However, just about every day we had a rain shower that did not last long and there was a constant breeze. Even though our shoes were suede, we had to rub them with Vaseline frequently to avoid layers of mildew which covered just about every thing, including our weapons which we kept covered at all times.
To pass the time, we frequently played poker and went fishing. On the coral reef side of the Island, where we lived, "African lobsters" (no claws) were plentiful. We caught them with nets, dug a deep hole in the sand and poured aviation gasoline in the sand to start a fire. We put up a framework across the hole. And from this we hung a big pot filled with water. We would have lobster roasts frequently. If we wanted to have fish for dinner, someone would go into the lagoon and toss a hand grenade into the water. After it exploded, many fish came to the surface. So we had frequent fish fries. On one occasion, our Squadron Commander from Kwajalein, sent three bottles of bourbon with an Officer who was coming through on his way to Tarawa. We shared the bottles by each one having two or three shots and putting the rest in a container of beer of which we had plenty. We stirred it up. It was certainly powerful beer!!! The lobsters went down very well after a raucous moonlight night on the beach.
Saturday night dates
While on Makin, we had to drive about 2 miles to the mess hall, which was on another part of the Island from our living quarters. There were several native villages on Makin which were out of bounds to military personnel. However, there were several units of Negro troops on the island, mostly Port Battalion personnel. Some of these troops found the native girls very attractive. On our way to the mess hall, we passed the stockade. It was not unusual to see several of these guys in the stockade on Sunday morning. They were caught in the village having a "Saturday night date" with one of the bare breasted, grass skirted native girls. They were of course released on Monday, after a reprimand and perhaps a fine, so that they could report to work.
The day the telephone system failed
Shortly after the Japanese on Makin Island capitulated, the Signal Corps installed an island-wide underground cable telephone system connecting various units, i.e., camp areas, headquarters, control tower, hospital and other port facilities. As stated above, our mission was to deactivate the military installation on the island and, at the same time, continue to operate the essential facilities. As various units left the island, their last task was to destroy the buildings, tents and other equipment, which they no longer needed. This was done with ax, hammers, and saws. The debris was placed on a pile and set on fire, using gasoline or whatever we had handy.
Our unit was scheduled to be one of the last to leave. We first took down the maintenance shack, then the communications center. The Commcenter equipment was removed and we reduced our operations to two circuits to the other islands to handle transient aircraft, in addition to operating the control tower. Several members of our detachment were reassigned and, as they left, their tents and platforms were destroyed.
Our Detachment Commander was a Lt. I will leave him anonymous. He was a well-meaning guy but not too swift. He drove a taxi in North Carolina. His ambition was to own a fleet of cabs. He received his commission through the Citizens Military Training Program just before the War. For some reason, he was assigned to the Signal Corps. While we were slaving in the hot sun, he was aboard some of the Navy ships in the harbor playing poker. One day, he decided we were not working fast enough so he wanted to "Help". He borrowed a bulldozer from the Navy Port Battalion and drove it to our area and began to dig a hole. When the hole was dug he pushed what was left of the maintenance building into the hole and covered it. He did not know that in the process he destroyed the underground cable and cut the telephone system. For a while we were appreciative. Later that night some M. P s came by surveying the island to check out the phones that were not working to part of the island. They discovered that a hole had been dug right over the cable with shredded parts of the cable sticking above the ground. We spent the rest of the night and the next day uncovering several yards of telephone cable and several more days splicing it together and then got back to burning the buildings. Needless to say, no one spoke to him for about a week. On a lonely place like Makin, this was severe punishment. He learned to let the enlisted men do their job. Just tell them what you want them to do.
As the island was closed, many items became in short supply. Breakfast was powdered milk and powdered eggs. Our cook, who had worked at the Waldorf Astoria before the war, often asked if we wanted our powdered eggs over light. Spam, which was plentiful, was presented as "mock chicken legs" or "breasts" or of course "Boneless T-bone steaks" and lots of fish. We even made our own "beer" from coconut juice. Cutting the tops off some coconuts and putting some raisins in it did this or some yeast, if we could get it to help the fermenting. We hung the coconuts on a wire between the tents and let them ferment. The results was a very potent "Pino Calada" which our natives called "American coconuts."
Items useful to the natives were destroyed at the request of the British Island Commander The British did not want the natives to become spoiled and used to the modem ways because the items would require continued maintenance and complicate their lives. They believed the best thing for them was to maintain their way of living off the island and the water. They were right to some extent but I believe they went overboard. I always wanted to Makin to see what happened and what became of "Butaritari Mary." I left Makin Island after three months by a cargo plane (C47) en route to Kwajalein. Kwajalein was located in the Marshal Islands about 5 degrees above the equator and was somewhat warmer than Makin (about 90 degrees F). However, there were constant trade winds and it was always cool in the shade. The natives were Baptist, although the islands had been Spanish mandated. They were Micronesian, as opposed to the Polynesian of the Gilberts. The women wore long, full-skirted dresses that were called "muumuus". There was considerable illness among these natives as a result of this dress, because they frequently got wet when a sudden rain squall came up, they had many colds and respiratory diseases.
At the beginning of the War, Kwajalein was the Headquarters of the Japanese Central Pacific Command. This atoll, from the main island Kwajalein to the other end of the atoll, Roi, was about 110 miles long. A large U.S. Naval Force, of several battle ships, Aircraft carriers, and escort vessels, attacked Kwajalein. The island was under heavy bombardment for several days. The Marines landed and capitulated the island. After about two or three days of fighting, the Marines left and the army went in for "mop up" operations. The army suffered many casualties because the Japanese were underground in large bunkers of about four to five feet thick made of reinforced concrete. The tops of the bunkers were rounded so that a direct hit just glanced off, having no effect on the interior. The army continued to fight for over one week. When I arrived, the fighting was over and the island was in fair shape with a control tower already installed, along with other buildings. As a result of the fighting, there were very few trees left and it appeared more or less as a sand bar. When I returned from Makin, much had been done. Several Barracks had been constructed along with an Officers Club and, of course, a "First three Graders club."
The following message was received from the Paes family:
Thank you for your prayers and support during Ned's illness. I appreciate those that were at Ned's memorial service.
Thank you and God Bless!
/s/Joyce Paes and family
The following was received from the American Cancer Society:
The kindness expressed by your Memorial Gift in Ned Paes' memory has been received with heartfelt appreciation.
Dolly Markham asked me to pass the following on to you all from the Paes Family:
I just received this from the Paes family. Tracia is Ned and Joyce's 22 year old daughter. Could you please get this message out to the entire CANDOER Organization? You all came through for Ned and Joyce with love and support. That love meant a great deal to the entire family.
From: Tracia Morris
Wednesday, January 10, 2001 11:17 AM
All the CANDOERs
Dear friends, who have done so much for this family.
All your e-mail, visits, and phone calls provided enormous support. You provided us with much needed encouragement and hope.
I remember the first day that the word of Ned's cancer was spread to all of you. The e-mail poured in. For several days, there were so many incoming e-mail messages! We would just finish reading a batch, and we would have more waiting.
I remember how very pleased and touched Ned was by this remarkable show of concern.
Ned had so many fond memories of working with many of you, as well as treasured memories of just being with friends. So, for all the prayers, support, friendship, and love you have shown, both in the past, and recently, thank you!
May God bless you all,
The Ned Z. Paes family
The following was received from the Bevacqua family on January 17:
To the CANDOER Retirement Group,
We would like to thank you very much for your thoughtful gift to the Hospice of Northern Virginia in memory of Susan. It is truly a worthy cause that helped our family get through a very difficult period and we don't know how we would have gotten through this without their support.
Thank you so much,
Carmen, Shelly and Brett
I regret to inform you that another one of our retirees passed away. I was informed by Doris Gravelle that Gene R. Gravelle passed away the morning of December 31, 2000. There will be a memorial service on January 4, 2001 at the Beyer's funeral home at 279 South Central Avenue, Umatilla, FL 32784.
This info was received from Bryon Hallman.
I regret to inform you of the death of a long-time OC retiree, Lucy Mello, in March of 2000.
Mel Maples sent a Christmas card to Lucy and received the following from her sister.
My sister, Lucy Mello, unfortunately passed away in March 2000 of this year after a very long illness. Her passing was very peaceful, thank God."
The following was received from Harry Schneider.
I just spoke to Joe's daughter Denise this morning along with Tom Murray who was Joe's neighbor.
It is with deep regret, I inform you that Joe Maziarz died on Wednesday, January 10, almost a year after his wife Susan passed away. He had a rough go of it after Susan died and his life ended with kidney failure and E.S.L.D.
The following was sent to me by Bill and Dee Parker. On a visit to Marcia Melnick, she gave this article to them. Marcia cut it from the Tuesday, June 6, 2000, issue of the Tampa Tribune. It is being reprinted here with Ms. Allen's and The Tampa Tribune's permission.
The driver parked his car at the entrance of the Naja Ladies Hotel in Seoul Korea. While he carried my suitcases inside, I studied the surrounding area. This was to be my home for the next year.
It was June 1950, and I was replacing the departing chief officer of the U.S. Embassy communications system. I was very excited about my new assignment. The thought of being caught in a war never entered my mind.
I settled into a tiny second-floor room that had an interesting view of a Korean neighborhood. It wasn't the Waldorf Astoria, but I didn't plan to spend much time there.
In addition to my work at the embassy, I volunteered to teach conversational English at the University of Seoul. I also joined an embassy secretary’s baseball team. It was great fun, even when we met with a crushing defeat against the local Boy Scout troop.
One hot evening just at dusk, I climbed the steps leading to the hotel roof. Much to my delight, I discovered a panoramic view of the city. From this vantage point, I could see all that was happening on the street below. I could smell the cabbage and garlic cooking. I could see little children playing and adults in tiny groups gossiping.
One Sunday morning, however, I found a different scene. People were shouting and speeding down the road on their bicycles. Children were clinging to their mothers. Something was very wrong.
I heard the telephone ring, and then my name was called out. On the phone, a man told me a car would arrive to pick me up in 10 minutes, to take me to the embassy. No one was to know I was leaving, especially the Korean hotel help.
I heard the news at the embassy. North Koreans had crossed the 38th parallel in Russian-built tanks. They had crossed before but had always been driven back by South Korean soldiers. This time was different. First reports on that day, June 25, had the South Koreans holding ground. The later reports were grim.
The embassy was a beehive of activity. Papers were being torn up and thrown into a recently built outdoor fire. Men were using axes to destroy office equipment. Nothing was to be left for the enemy.
The switchboard room would be the last to go. U.S. Ambassador John Muccio, South Korean President Syngman Rhee, and General Douglas MacArthur were using our system to stay in constant communications.
As I watched the operators' hands moving quickly among the jungle of cords and bright signal lights, the crack of machine gun fire shattered the air. An enemy plane was strafing the street in front of the embassy.
The dozen operators jumped up from their chairs and ran out to the hall. When the strafing stopped, they returned, ready to take calls that would surely be coming in for fire trucks and ambulances.
Morning faded to afternoon and the faithful Korean employees were told to leave. If captured by the North Koreans, they would be severely punished for working for the Americans.
The secretaries who had been pulling confidential files for burning replaced the missing Korean operators. But after it got dark, a bus pulled up in front of the embassy and all the women were told to go to the hotel and pack a single overnight bag. No large suitcases were allowed.
The driver made his way through the streets without headlights. A bright moon hung over the city. The streets were deserted, and I wondered if people were sitting in their darkened homes, waiting for the enemy. Perhaps, they had fled south.
A solider jumped out from the shadows and in halting English demanded to inspect the bus's interior. Seeing only a group of very frightened American women, he let us move on.
Once at the hotel, each woman stumbled through the dark hall to her room. Drapes were drawn and packing was done in the dark or by candlelight. All treasures were left behind. There was no room for bolts of silk, paintings, or teak furniture.
For a moment, I wondered what Korean would fall heir to the clothes I was leaving behind. Perhaps, they would be blown to pieces by a bomb. I closed my door and hurried to the bus.
After we got back to the embassy, I fell into a chair and curled up for a nap. I hadn't slept for 24 hours. An embassy official called my name to check my passport and I realized in horror that I had left it behind, hidden in the bottom dresser drawer. How many times had we been told to guard our passports with our very lives?
But I wasn't the only one. A secretary called out that she, too, had left her passport at the hotel. An unhappy official assigned an American driver to take us back.
He wasted no time getting there and warned us that if we didn't the car in 10 minutes, he would leave. We rushed up the walk. A nearby truck backfired and I saw our driver draw his gun. I realized he was just as frightened as we were.
I unlocked the door to my room and realized what a silly precaution that had been. I quickly found my passport and ran, this time not pausing to turn the lock.
When I got back to the car, the secretary had not returned. The driver was getting more nervous by the minute. Ten minutes had long passed. Suddenly we hear footsteps and saw the secretary staggering toward us with the weight of two huge suitcases. While we sat waiting, numb with fear, she had been packing her Oriental treasures.
The driver got out, grabbed the two suitcases and threw them in the road. He would have left her if she had not jumped into the moving car as we pulled away.
In the early morning hours before dawn on June 27, buses delivered us from the embassy to the Kimpo airport. The enemy was 17 miles from Seoul. Evacuation planes were to take embassy personnel to Japan, but they hadn't arrived.
We drank black coffee and waited. Finally, we heard the steady noise of an approaching airplane. Then, suddenly, the rat-tat-tat of enemy guns strafing the runway broke the air. After a few minutes all was quiet, except for our thumping hearts - and the sound of a plane landing.
It kept its motor running as the passengers boarded. After it took off, another plane landed right behind. American fighter pilots had arrived to protect the plans and their human cargo. How proud I was of our American military.
I boarded the fourth plane and climbed into the first bucket seat. Exhausted, I went almost immediately to sleep as the plane carried us to safety. My Korean nightmare was over.
After Miss Allen escaped, the following article appeared in her hometown newspaper.
Youngstown Girl Is Caught In Seoul by Reds Invasion
Miss Ruth Allen, 24-year-old daughter of Police Sgt. and Mrs, Robert G. Allen, is among American embassy employees in Seoul, capital of South Korea which was attacked by North Korean troops at dawn Sunday.
Miss Allen, a former WAVE, arrived in Seoul May 22 as an embassy worker in communications and her mother received only one letter from her since she left the States. There was no mention of any unrest in the letter, she said.
The Youngstown girl, a graduate of Woodrow Wilson High School, joined the WAVEs in 1944 and served until six months after the war's end. Since then, she has been with the War Department and was in Japan one and a half years and in Guam another year.
Miss Allen returned to this country from Guam in December 1949 and after spending two months at home, returned to Washington and was employed by the State Department.
In May, she wrote her mother from Alaska that she still had 18 hours of flying time to her destination and on May 25, Mrs. Allen was notified by the government hat her daughter had landed in Seoul.
Mrs. Allen said her daughter also wrote that besides her work at the embassy she had been teaching a class in English at the University of Seoul.
In attendance at the January luncheon were the following people: Bob Catlin, Lou Correri, Al Debnar, Paul Del Giudice, Will and Doris Naeher, and last, but not least, all the way from Bradenton, Florida, Billy Joe Jennings.
Bill, it was great seeing and talking with you again. Please, keep in touch!
Please, if you change your e-mail address, let me know. A lot of people are using the CANDOER Newsletter and Web site to keep track of your e-mail address. Lately, I average two or three of you a month changing e-mail addresses and not informing me. If you pass the information on to me, I will insure all CANDOERs get the information. Thanks!
December 24, Mike McCaffrey notified me that he is on his way back to the US from Beijing for reassignment to DTSPO. He has a new e-mail address and will furnish a US address, as soon as possible.
December 25, I received an e-mail address change from John Kennedy.
December 26, I received word from Swain and Carolyn Britt that Rob Robinson and Barbara Welden were married in Asheville, N.C., on November 9, 2000. Congratulations Rob and Barbara.
December 28, Earl Newton notified me that he and Thelma were moving to a retirement home that I should delete his snail-mail address, and telephone number. As soon as he gets settled, he will furnish new information. His e-mail address will remain the same.
December 29, I received a web application from Tim and Mary McLaskey. Welcome aboard!
December 29, Bob Rouleau advised me of a new e-mail address.
December 31, I received a new e-mail address for Bill Mills.
January 1, 2001, I received a Web application from Gerald and Bonnie Majewski. Welcome aboard!
January 3, I received a Web application from Michael Pingree. Michael retired to St. Petersburg, Welcome aboard!
January 4, I received a new e-mail address from Cliff Brzozowski.
January 7, I received a Web application from Grell and Noel Bushell. Grell and Noel retired in 1995 and are now living in Herndon, VA. Welcome aboard Grell and Noel. Don't forget our luncheons are held the second Tuesday of every month at TGIF's on King Street (Route 7).
January 8, Cliff Brzozowski furnished a new snail-mail address.
January 8, Larry Limbaugh furnished a new email address for Tom Schuh. Tom is now in Frankfurt.
January 16, I received a Web application from Francis (Frank) Kelley. Frank is living in Sunbury, Welcome aboard!
January 18, I received a new address for Mike McCaffrey. Mike is headed stateside.
Tuesday, February 22
The weather was fine but quite warm at 85F. After all, we were just a bit more than a day away from the equator. The Chief Mate had all hands out on deck with hoses and brushes giving the ship a complete wash down. It really needed it after all the grime of Kaoshiung and Hong Kong settling on it. Water was flying every-where. Actually, it looked as if the deck hands were having fun. We had hoped the swimming pool would be available today, but deck hands were chipping paint in the area and getting ready to give it a new coat.
Once the bow was thoroughly washed, Jim took up his usual post there which today included watching a lot of flying fish in the bright sun. Several sharks were also observed. Of course, many ships were passing in both directions between Hong Kong and Singapore.
The Chief Engineer gave a briefing and tour of the engine room of the ship. He and his staff total seven people! The antiseptic control room is almost the width of the ship, with dials, panels, computers, buttons, levers, switches, blinking lights everywhere. But no one is here! "Bridge control" the Chief Engineer said, pointing to a light on one of the many master control panels. Every loaded refrigerator container's temperature is monitored remotely in this room continually, and twice daily by visual inspection of the container's gauge.
Back up on the bow after lunch, Jim noticed there were a few fishing boats in the vicinity, but several miles away off the port and starboard sides.
Unfortunately for them, they had strung out a long net which reached directly across the path of the ship. He witnessed the comparatively sharp edge of the bow at water level and 24 knots speed cut through the net as if it wasn't there. The fishermen now had a major net mending problem for the remainder of their afternoon.
Mid-afternoon, the captain called a fire drill. Everyone reported to their muster station wearing life jackets and helmets. The passengers were inspected and, as this was a fire drill, we were released and directed to remain in our cabins until the fire drill was completed. The crew was then dispersed to the location of a "suspect" container for dousing it with either high pressure water or other fire retardants. That could get nasty, so it was best to stay out of the way.
The sea was glassy after supper. Sunset on the South China Sea invariably is something special, and tonight was no exception. While we had azure skies above, in the extreme western distance there were a lot of thunder heads built up. Shortly after darkness set in, we were able to see a magnificent lightning display perhaps 100 miles away, but it lasted a long time.
Later, we visited the "monkey deck" on a perfect evening to see stars and the moon eventually rise. What a lovely night this was!
Wednesday, February 23
What a glorious day this was! One could not ask for more perfect weather at sea. The only waves were the ones made by the wake of the Dagmar MAERSK. We saw dozens of ships all day and Singapore was still a long way off.
There were flying fish everywhere. Also, untold numbers of sharks performing feeding rituals just beneath the surface not too far from the ship. We observed dozens of shark fins three different times. There were even a few dolphins later in the morning. Plus one lone eel was lurking on the surface as we glided by.
Monday in Hong Kong we were concerned about potential stowaways. Today the captain briefed us on a far more serious menace coming to us in the Singapore and Malacca Straits tonight and tomorrow - pirates! Yes, pirates in the year 2000!
No one told us about pirates when we signed up for this voyage. This conjured up memories of the "Terry and the Pirates" comic strips of the 1940s. However, there is no sultry Dragon Lady to spice up this predicament.
Today the problem of pirates in the approaches to Singapore is a very real and potentially deadly one. They are heavily armed and sophisticated compared to those of lore.
These guys are not the stereotypical bearded, swarthy types with one eye, wearing a bandanna, and griping a knife between their teeth as they climb over waters where the danger lurks.
One maneuver of the pirates with their high speed vessels is to launch a grappling line aboard the side of a selected ship, then climb aboard. Often the pirates know exactly which container they want to rob and go straight for it with all necessary tools to break into it. This usually means they got their information from "insiders" in shipping companies, from customs officials, or manufacturers.
The MAERSK policy is the pirates can have whatever they want out of a container. Protection of ship personnel is more important. Pirates sometimes spray ships with gunfire even if they are unable to get on board, just out of meanness. That's one reason why wise shipping lines never load containers with hazardous materials on the outside of a container ship.
The pirate problem here is an international one that until a few years ago had been pretty well under control through police cooperation by the three countries of Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia. But since Indonesia has had its internal problems with East Timor and other islands, there has been less participation from them with the other countries. The resultant increase in piracy and attendant brazen violence has caused the Singapore and Malaysia authorities to conclude these newly very well armed pirates may actually be Indonesian Navy personnel who are "moonlighting".
Normally a ship prefers to run "dark" during the night for easier night vision, with just the foremast white, and main mast port red and starboard green lights illuminated. Tonight, the bright spot lights from the flying bridge showing sides both fore and aft were on continuously in the event a pirate ship tried to come alongside. They would be noticed.
So you wonder, "What's a flying bridge?" Glad you asked.
From the bridge, both sides of the ship to the waterline must be visible, especially for maneuvers in and out of dockside, canals, as well as observing the pilots arrive and depart.
Today's ships are so large it would be a senseless waste of space to build the bridge to extend from side to side. So the bridge is constructed with the main portion compacted in the center and perhaps only 60 feet wide as on the Dagmar MAERSK, while the ship is 130 feet wide.
On both sides are wings which extend to the outer edge of the ship allowing complete side viewing. They usually contain a duplicate of the ship's compass, along with engine room controls for port maneuvering.
As there is nothing below these extensions but several levels of space, they became known as the "flying bridge." On this ship, it is 111 feet to the water. The next time you see a large ship, look for the flying bridge. It's a lofty (and often very windy) location, just beneath the "monkey deck", previously explained.
Thursday, February 24
At 0900 we docked, a bit later than expected. There were no pirates last night. The day was partially cloudy, hot and humid. But, that is Singapore.
Singapore is the crossroads of the world, whether by air, land or sea. It is THE place for international travelers. No matter how often we visit here, it is always a pleasure and beautiful sight. Our last sojourn was six years ago, but here nothing changes. Not even the weather because it is on the equator with a stable climate the year round.
The port of Singapore is the busiest in the world, whether you measure it by the number of tons handled or ships calling. The approaches through the Straits of Singapore on the east and Malacca on the northwest are incredibly busy thoroughfares. On any given day there have to be about 200 vessels here or passing through.
Only a fraction of vessels can obtain a berth. Others remain anchored off shore to exchange their cargo, refuel and also replenish foodstuffs for the crew's onward journey. Water taxis cris-cross the strait like water bugs.
For shipping companies, this is one of the least expensive fuel locations in the world. While the Dagmar MAERSK was processing containers on one side, two large fuel barges on the opposite side discharged their contents of heavy oil (known as bunker) into our fuel tanks. The Chief Engineer calculated we will have sufficient fuel to reach Algeciras, Spain where more relatively inexpensive fuel can be obtained. With the fuel obtained in Algeciras and Singapore, that is sufficient to carry the vessel on its around the world voyage.
Here the ship also took on a lot more fresh groceries for the galley. We hope there is plenty of fruit to last until the next grocery call. Things were getting a bit thin the last couple days. Not to worry, no one is starving by any means.
Shortly after breakfast, customs and immigration officials had cleared the ship for anyone to go ashore. The Chief Mate advised we would be here all day and sail sometime early in the morning. We three passengers made our way down the gangway, hopped the terminal shuttle bus to the main gate, and from there flagged a taxi for the 30-minute ride to the city center.
We had planned a full day of personal errands, shopping, sightseeing, with meals in a couple of the oriental restaurants for which the city is so famous. We've heard people say they are bored with Singapore's extreme cleanliness and order. To them we reply, "Let's have more boredom!"
The best and easiest way to move about here is in a taxi. They are readily available, surprisingly reliable and inexpensive. We were in them several times throughout the day. It's the only way to move about on your own during a brief stay.
It rained slightly in the afternoon, but that did not deter Mary, who with single-minded purposefulness charged full speed into her long-planned shopping list. Fellow passenger Sheldon and Jim usually hung out nearby in an open air cafe and stayed out of her way. We thought she would have given up exhausted after an hour or two of this, but her rugged determination won out.
For lunch we went to an Indonesian restaurant and had a memorable meal just ordering the menu of the day.
We did most of our sightseeing in the fascinating districts of "Little India", "Chinatown", plus the Sandwich Mall in the city center.
Along about 5 o'clock all of us were really ready for some liquid replenishment. Hopping a taxi, we went down to the famous Clarke Quay on the river. There we located a lovely pub, sat outside on the river walk and consumed a couple large Tiger beers apiece (except Mary, of course). Watching the world pass by either on the walk or the river boats was an eye-filling experience, and it was Mary who pointed out the tight, short skirts!
Adjacent to the pub, we ate at a Chinese seafood restaurant also on the river. It was quite a unique place, for it was "all you can eat" buffet style, where you cooked your food at the table. Sheldon really liked that idea! Watching the sunset with a lovely breeze blowing, it was a delightful dining experience.
We then caught a taxi back to the ship. You never saw three more exhausted tourists with parcels climb the gangway up the side of the ship (about fifty feet high). We went directly to our respective cabins and collapsed in bed for the night.
A few words are overdue about the gangway. Notwithstanding this being a giant freighter, there are no elevators, ramps, escalators, etc. to help one get on and off the ship. The traditional gangway is lowered from the main deck along side the vessel to the quay a long way down at quite an angle. A safety net is always fixed beneath the gangway to prevent anyone from falling into the water between the ship and the quay. If Mary with two artificial knees can handle a gangway, just about anyone can.
Getting on and off the gangway at the bottom can be quite a challenge. Remember, as the ship loads and unloads, the tides rise and fall, the bottom step of the gangway also rises and falls. It should be periodically adjusted by a seaman, but in real life often is not. Sometimes there is a four-foot space from the step to the quay. Jim jumps off first then Mary falls on his back and slides down. We haven't been dunked yet!
The real danger is once you are on the ground, for invariably you are on or near the track of the adjacent gantry crane wheels, which are as large as a human. From there, with extreme caution, you must work your way through semi-trucks whizzing about, and 30-ton container boxes being processed overhead, just to get to a safe spot to obtain transportation out of the container terminal.
I met my wife in Madrid. She was sent there six months after I was which was in 1971. A little less than a year later, we married up. One of the things we enjoyed so much while in Spain, before kids or that Samson, our dog, began to complicate life, was to travel around Spain and Portugal taking delight in that wonderful land.
I had the duty every third week which means I had to stay in town and work weekends and was subject to call-in throughout the week but, during the other two weeks we hit the road right after work on Friday. Spain truly is a wonderful country for reasons of geographical beauty and variety and especially for anyone who enjoys food. The friendly people are justly proud of what they have done with God's gift of a beautiful land.
One of the trips we made, which I'll never forget, was to the principality of Andorra. Andorra lies between Spain and France and I believe is governed by a Bishop somewhere in France. I can't remember details so will skip over that but the important thing here is that we went there to explore that area and to roam the duty-free shops which line both sides of the main and only street that runs through the city of, I think, Andorra. It is a shoppers delight, having everything worth buying from electronics, photographic items, jewelry, booze and you name it. And no tax.
We shopped Saturday morning and headed back to Madrid just after lunch. Though our BMW was ready for 140 mph, the winding mountain roads and slower traffic prevented high speed for distances over half a kilometer, so it took us until well into the afternoon before we connected with the main highway that links Madrid to Barcelona. From that junction, we turned west in the direction of Madrid but it was late afternoon; the day had been very hot and we were exhausted from driving around mountains spending hours behind trucks.
At around 5 p.m. we spotted a pleasant-looking restaurant/hotel whose location would put us within four hours of driving time to Madrid on the following day. We thus pulled off the road and checked in. I remember we both only wanted to get into the shower and clean clothes and then head for the bar. We took our drinks out to the front patio. The view was nice --- mountains about ten miles to the west and rolling countryside everywhere else. It was peaceful, the heat of the day had been broken and we were thoroughly relaxed. All was great though the tummy was starting to send signals that food in about an hour would make it all perfect.
After a while we took note of an atmospheric commotion in the mountains off to the west. It was a thunder and lightening storm that was furiously flushing the dust out of that mountain range. Soon the wind picked up and we realized that the storm was coming our way. The breeze felt wonderful. We watched the approaching storm with another drink and wondered how anything could be nicer.
Rain drops started falling and the wind picked up, blowing raindrops under the roof of the patio just about when the restaurant opened. So we went in, ordered the usual spectacular meal and waited for the liter bottle of ordinary red wine with the customary liter bottle of gaseosa. Gaseosa is ordinary water that is carbonated. It is drunk by many people, including youngsters because it's refreshing, contains nothing but gas and water and, with "red" wine that is really heavy, it "lifts the weight of the wine". What that means is that, while the wine is classified as red, it is actually black. It is also very heavy stuff and two glasses would put you to sleep but if you mix half wine and half gaseosa, the wine, though still black, is only half wine and contains carbonation from the gaseosa. It's great! This wine makes no pretension to be world-class but neither is it flawed in any way. It simply ignores enophilic ritual. And is wonderful stuff.
So we got the wine and gaseosa just as the center of the storm hit us and knocked out the electricity. That didn't seem to be much of a problem though because the staff lit candles that were already on the tables and they carried on, obviously cooking with gas. There were many other diners so the place was busy; the rain and wind lashed the restaurant but we were warm and cozy inside. Our food came; we ate and thoroughly enjoyed it then, an hour later, when the storm had moved on to the east, we returned to the patio for coffee and brandy. After an hour we were ready for the sack so we put the wraps on another wonderful, romantic day in Spain. It's still there folks. Go see for yourself.
The breeze across the Potomac River was refreshing and welcome. It added to the enjoyment of exploring the area sites and activity. Another typical workday in the State Department? No, this was a new experience for me --- cycling the Mount Vernon Trail.*
It was an adventure filled Home Leave (summer 2000) with visiting family, friends, and exploring much of the mid-west and eastern United States. Everywhere we went (5,000 miles total) the family bicycles accompanied, safely strapped to a receiver-hitch rack on the back of our van. This permitted some unusual recreation opportunities during our travels. We road our bicycles through National and State Parks, small towns, bike trails, and many interesting neighborhoods. An occasional race with my teenage kids had reassured my mortality. They learned that old Dad can actually move out on distance runs. Of course, I will never admit the aching bones resulting from such invigorating challenges.
Washington Wheels? With a scheduled one week Consultation in the Department and three weeks of training at the Foreign Service Institute, I wondered what type of dimension a bicycle would be to temporary living in Rosslyn, Virginia. With an unexpectedly mild August weather, my frequent evening and weekend rides along the Mount Vernon Trail were truly awesome and healthy. As a tourist, seeing the great Washington D.C. monuments, concerts, and shows were even more enjoyable with private and quick transportation to and from the venue. I never once had a parking problem.
The camaraderie between other cyclists added a sense of belonging to a select group of folks enjoying life. Yes, riding a bicycle for fun around Washington D.C. and surrounding metropolitan area was a wonderful experience. The Arlington County trail system is superb. However, it was always chilling to ride past the Arlington National Cemetery at night, particularly with no nearby lights!
Cycling often provided an opportunity to enjoy another hobby. I strapped a portable Amateur (Ham) Radio to the handlebars and sometimes talked with colleagues via VHF/UHF repeaters. Bicycle Mobile always generated some interesting dialog.
The concrete walls of Tokyo do not permit safe and efficient bicycle riding. However, it is not preventing me from thinking about next summer's vacation journeys. Our bicycles are already a part of the planning process. Care for a July bicycle cruise around the Upper Peninsula of Michigan? Happy cycling!
* In 1973 the National Park Service constructed the Mount Vernon Trail along the Potomac River, paralleling the George Washington Memorial Parkway. With the river as your companion, you can ride your bike, jog, or walk the 18.5-mile trail from Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington, to Theodore Roosevelt Island in the Potomac River near the Lincoln Memorial." There are plenty of scenic rest stops and activities along the trail. I strongly recommend a stroll or a ride on the Trail the next time you are visiting Washington D.C., for work or pleasure.