Within a few weeks, I was told that I would be acting third mate. Shock, horror! There was I still working out my ass from my elbow at 16, and I was catapulted up to the bridge deck to keep the 8 to 12 watch. In the event of course, all went reasonably well, especially as there were sympathetic fellow officers to lend a helping hand. The second mate at that time was a rare bird, who managed the Herculean task of sitting his tickets effortlessly without recourse to school. He was later to rise up to become the company superintendent for South African ports. To set the mood of life in 1952, there is nothing better than the pop tunes of the day, and I recall that Johny Ray was all the rage, singing about ‘ Just crying in the rain ‘ and ‘ The little white cloud that cried’. Other hits were Jim Reeves with ‘ I love you because’ and Guy Mitchell with his ‘ Red Feathers’ !
Life on board the Inchanga for me fell into a pattern. The stint as third mate lasted only briefly, when I reverted thankfully back to apprentice duties. However, on the bridge watch there was one memorable night sailing through the Maldives Islands at night which is burned in my memory. Down below a party was in full swing, and I could hear the muted music and laughter from the saloon. The Captain had a reputation as a lady’s man so it all fitted. On the bridge we were swooshing silently through the tropical night, phosphorescence in the bow wave, and a balmy breeze out on the bridge wing. At this time, the Inchanga had yet to be fitted with radar, so we were sailing blind through a quite narrow passage and relying on the last star sight position, which meant that I was hanging over the bridge wing straining my eyes to see any sign of the islands or surrounding reefs. I was apprehensive in the extreme. Events in the Bank Line fleet over the next few years more than justified my terror, as it happened. There seemed to be a fatal attraction to the many islands we visited, lit and unlit, with consequential casualties.
Back as apprentice, a twice daily routine was the unlocking………….