I received a Telegram from the Hain-Nourse Shipping Co. in London had requested had requested me to fly to Haneda International Airport (Tokyo) Japan, and continue on to Osaka, Japan, because the 3rd Engineer Officer aboard the M/V "Nurmahal" had asked to be relieved immediately, as he was having family problems.
So, on June 6, 1966, I left my home in South Norwood in the noon and headed for Heathrow Airport (London), and there I got aboard a Lufthansa flight bound for Schiphol International Airport (Amsterdam), Holland. From there I was to get aboard another KLM flight that was to take me all the way to Haneda (Tokyo), Japan, but on arrival in Schiphol I found that the Lufthansa flight that I was to take had been cancelled and that I was now to go aboard a KLM flight to continue on my journey on to Japan.
When I got aboard the KLM flight to Tokyo, I found that this huge plane was only going to carry 8 passengers. I was rather surprised at this, when I considered the size of the plane. So, I asked the reasons for this? I was told that since this flight was taking KLM Polar Route to Japan, and some people were leery and did not want to go on it. We left Schiphol International Airport at noon on June 7th and while this flight was going to be a long one, I did not mind one bit.
There were three Japanese girls and four men, and of course myself the eight member on the flight. We flew over the Arctic and continued on to Anchorage, Alaska. Some time before reaching Anchorage we passed over Mount McKinley since renamed DENALI. One of the other passengers a Japanese girl called me over to see the top of the Mountain.
As we were nearing Anchorage, Alaska, one a stewardess asked me if I wanted to become a Member of the Top of the World Order. I duly filled in form with personal data and that was it. But on arrival at Haneda International Airport (Tokyo) I was handed a scroll with my name in it, stating that I had now become a Member of the Top of the World Order as of June 8, 1966.
The only thing about the flight that I really regretted was that the plane was flying towards the Sun, which meant that it was daytime all night long (in the land of the midnight Sun). Under such conditions one cannot get good nights sleep and their whole system was thrown completely out of kilter.
On arrival Haneda International Airport (Tokyo), I was met by our local Japanese shipping agent, who took me by cab to Yokohama. At Yokohama, I was taken to the Flying Angel Mission to Seamen where I was to stay for the next few days.
I had a good sleep that night at my room in the Flying Angel Mission to Seamen and got up refreshed next morning, eager to get out and see a few sites in Yokohama proper. I did a lot of walking and by afternoon was informed that I would be there for another few days. Apparently the M/V "Nurmahal" had not arrived in Osaka and would not arrive there for at least another two days.
I took off for Tokyo to visit the Ginza district, where there were upscale shops and high fashion boutiques to buy high quality merchandise. Walked into a posh restaurant and ate sumptuous Japanese meal at a hefty price, but it was well worth the money. With time on my hands, I now began to enjoy my stay in Yokohama. Even had time to attend a huge sale that a Japanese company was having at the port terminus, and enjoyed every bit of it.
On June 11th, a representative of the shipping agent came top the Flying Angel Mission to Seamen and took me to Tokyo, where I was to catch a train to Kobe from, and when we got to the ticket counter at the railway station, he bought me a ticket, but then he changed his mind and paid another Y9, 000 to get me on the Tokaido Express (The bullet train), which was the fastest train in the world at that time. I got on the train and I could not believe at the speed that it was travelling at, because we were doing 120 MPH, and we seemed to be flying. Thus every thing we passed was badly blurred. So having a camera was of no advantage as you could not take a clear snapshot of anything.
When I reached Osaka, I was met by the shipping company's agent, who accompanied me all the way to the port of Osaka. I was welcomed aboard and he then wished me sayonara and left.
The next morning the ship sailed out of Osaka, Japan, and took a heading for Portland, Oregon. The Scot my junior on my watch got to know each other. He hailed from Glasgow and we got in like a house on fire. When reached Portland, Oregon, we went ashore and Jock (Willie Lockhart) went ashore. While passing through the main drag of Portland, we though we saw what looked like a bar to us. We entered and saw a bar counter top with two pumps, like that have in the states for Beer. Quite naturally be went in and asked for two beers. The young girl behind the counter name Janet Nance was visibly shocked. She told us that this not a bar, but a club for fundamentalist Christians and did not indulge in alcohol. All that they served was Coca Cola and naught else.
So we ordered two Cokes and started a conversation with Janet. Finally Jock told her that his Uncle was a Minister in the Presbyterian Church. Now I did not want to be out done, so I told her that my father was a Catholic Priest, and that really blew both Jock and Janet. Then we left, and Jock asked me why I told Janet that my father was a Catholic Priest? I told him that I did that not wanting to be left out of the conversation, and laughed like hell.
The ship had unloaded all the cargo for Portland by the very next morning, so we now headed for Fort Vancouver (The real Vancouver built by the British) in Oregon. We arrived in Fort Vancouver and most of us cleared the U.S. Immigration Service, but a Welsh shipmate Garry Hopkins from South Wales. He did not like the idea of being kept on board till the next morning to be cleared by the U.S. Immigration, and managed to get ashore without any clearance papers. We all thumbed a lift into town on a small truck, little knowing that the U.S. Immigration Service had a man watching us. When we returned some hours later after buying some magazines and Cokes we were detained by them. They slapped a US$3,000 fine on poor Gary and kept him locked up. We were then released because we had the documents that they had given us earlier.
We did not stay very long in Seattle, Washington. On arrival in Seattle we went ashore and visited the Space Needle, the City Center and visited a Marine Park and Amusement Center there. Our stay there was not long either, so we left within a day. We then headed for Fort Vancouver, Oregon, where we stopped for a day. We left Fort Vancouver a headed back by sailing down the Columbia River bound for Townsville, Queensland, Australia to pick up some cargo for Hardangar, in the Norwegian Fjords.
We were now at sea heading for Townsville, Queensland, Australia. But events were to change our plans, when the propeller shaft bushing stated to leak and there was no way of stopping it and we were then directed to head for Hiroshima, Japan to have it repaired.
But that is part of yet another story of: "Fate has a purpose that we cannot always comprehend."
Kenneth T. Tellis