Monday, July 9, 2012

Singapore December 2001

The year has flown by and it is time again to let my English speaking friends that I’m still alive and kicking (just like Johnny Walker still going strong).

From march till july attended 6 vessels loading plywood in Serawak and Indonesia.
A very rewarding and satisfying job to say the least.

Unfortunately met with a small accident ,fastening a barge alongside in rough weather fell into the anchor hawse hole and busted my right foot and was out of roulation and thus out of work for 3 months.

Went to Bali for R and R where I had a great time as I could practice my malay,eat my favourite food and visited Buleleng and Benoa port where I used to sail as a young second mate on the cattle ships of KPM (WAI- vessels).

Bali is the island of the Gods ,very relaxed, Hindoe religion and very cheap.

In October I visited Holland my home country for a family reunion.

Amazingly my old mother is still living all by herself –cooking –cleaning-washing and doing voluntary work at a community centre in Amsterdam.

In November I was off-shore in MIRI (serawak) supervising vessels loading plywood for Japanese inland ports.

Flew to Japan and joined a vessel that I loaded to supervise the discharge and to observe why and how so many pallets plywood were damaged.

It was due to the rough work of the Japanese waterside workers.

Upon my reporting this in Tokyo to MOSK the Japanese were very upset,
So called “loosy face” and I shot myself in the foot as no new assignment was ever given to me by them (funny people).

However it was a very interesting voyage along the many inland ports as with Royal Interocean Lines (now Nedd Lloyd) we only called the main ports.

I was very pleasantly surprised with MIRI. (all my seafaring colleaques know the socalled miri connection on the stern of tankers)

It used to be a smallfishing village with 20 local houses and one “ all in” store.

In august 1910 Shell discovered oil-and the rest is history as the saying goes.

On Canada hill stands a replica of the “grand old lady” the rig that drilled the first oil well –very impressive.
Now Miri is a modern town with good infrastructure-an international airport-big name hotels-shopping malls-bowling alley-restaurants –bars and nightclubs.

The charm of the town lies in the potpourri of races-cultures and languages giving it an unique cosmopolitian yet distinct Malay flavour.

The population of 180000 is maimly native dajaks-malays-chinese and expats.
A very friendly mixture –no fanatic moslims.
The big open wet marketsells mouthwatering local delicacies-excotic batiks-local handicrafts-pay special attention to the pottery.

Chinese new year is elaborately celebrated with huge fireworks,lion dances etc.

Ramadan =fasting and big party at Hari Raya Puasa with an open house for everybody and I mean every body with all the malay food delicacies-no booze.

The Dajaks celebrate Gawai and Kaul which marks the end of the rice harvesting .
The highlight of this fiesta is the partaking ofTUAK,a fragrant rice wine and a week long of drinking and dancing ( what a headache oeh).

For a tourist Serawak in combination with Brunei is very worthwhile.
Plenty of interesting things to do and to see s.a. national parks-caves =the Mulu caves are worldfamous= scuba diving-jungle tracking- a boat trip up the Rejang river staying at a dajak longhouse ( in Radjah Brookes days the village chief offered their guest one of his daughters to spend the night with-alas no more today.

Hotel prices are very reasonable even in the 5****** hotels.
MAS =Malaysian airlines offers complete all in packages-including tours –hotels-
Inland transportation at very competitive prices (recommendebel ).

Supervised vessels loading plywood in Borneo-Pontianak-bandjermasin and Samarinda –all well known to me from my days as mate on various KPM steamers.
In 1967 as captain of the Sabang we were ordered to load 400 tons of rubber in Kuala Kapuas,about 90 miles upstream from Bandjermasin.(Kalimantan)

No vessel this size had ever been here and no proper chart or pilot available.
Commodore Koesno (chief security) was the first commander on an Indonesian submarine-trained in Holland-spoke fluent dutch-great personality-decided he wanted to join the ship to KK together with his 16 men band. No problem.

Departed with the band playing on hatch 2 with half of the towns population on the Soekarno wharf wishing us farewell. (looked like the ORANJE leaving Tg Priok)

After a hazardous 9 hour voyage ( ship running many times into thick jungle-getting tree branches –flocks of birds and screaming monkeys on the foscle deck ) a small wooden jetty appeared out of nowhere- this must be KK.

Blowing the ships horn brought the whole village to the jetty who watched in amazement our carefull manoevring alongside-with the band playing full blast.

The people had never seen or heard such a spectacle and will never forget the faces.
Some people even thought the dutch had returned seeing the dutch flag on the stern.
It was also the biggist vessel most people had ever seen (only 2500 tons).

Organised a big party on board for all dignatairies and their spouses –plenty food and soft drinks-and the band playing popular music- we all had a great time.

During the night loaded the 400 tons of rubber-40 hour workweek?? What is that?

Next morning departed –vessels length was more than width of the river=so turning the vessel took some fancy manoevring-but finally managed although it cost some of the floating wooden shithouses common on these rivers.

Upon passing the jetty- so many people wanted a close look that half the jetty collapsed-could not turn but surely everybody survived and had great fun.

Arrived safely back in Bandjermasin-the company made money-gained respect of the shippers and authorities and I got a note for a job well done.

Now when I write this I still get the shiffers when thinking what all could have gone wrong- but we were young-daring-or was it plain stupidity??-who knows.

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