The M/V Ganges, London Registry had just gone through a harrowing experience avoiding capture by the Indonesian Navy and having to go through the unchartered waters of the Halmahera Sea in the East Indies ran out of fuel oil on Australia's Queensland Coast, off Cairns, and had to send a message to the port authorities that we needed a Tug to tow us into port.
The very next day our story about evading the Indonesian Navy and just about making it to Cairns was in the news in local newspapers and radio stations.
We then began to take on a cargo sugar for the U.S. And within the next five days was ready to leave port and head for New York. We headed out to the Pacific Ocean and took a course for the Panama. A few days later we reached the Panamanian Port of Cristobal on the Pacific side, we were then piloted through Panama Canal to reach the Caribbean side. We then took a course that would lead us right into the Gulf of Mexico.
Being on the dog watch (Midnight- 0400 hrs), I phoned the 2nd Mate and asked him to keep me informed of when we would be manoeuvring through the Texas coast, and in order to do so, give me at least 30 minutes to change over from heavy calorified oil to Diesel oil. But things were going to change within the next 10 minutes, as I discovered, because someone on the bridge was asleep on watch. There was a heavy bang on the starboard side of the engine-room just below the waterline. One of the plates was pushed in and water was gushing in from the sea, we had just hit an OIL RIG that was lit up like a 4th of July celebration. I then looked around and realized that the crew had fled topside to get into Life-boats, and I was the only one left in the engine-room. I did not have a Life Jacket so, I set to work and got all the pumps working full speed to pump out the water that was gushing in from the sea through the lose plate.
A few minutes later, the Chief Engineer Jimmy Henderson, a Scot from Troon, Scotland, came down the companion way in the Engine room. He asked me why I was still in the engine room when everyone else had run away. I told him in no uncertain terms that I was a British Army Brat, and that I never ran away from anything ever. Because, I would dishonour myself and that was the ultimate insult to my sense of honour. He just smiled and we now went topside to see the destruction to two life boats and their mountings. From that day on Jimmy Henderson began to treat me with a new respect.
We waited a few days at an anchorage, and then had to sail into Beaumont, TX into dry-dock for repairs to the hull and the side plate.
When repairs were being carried out, which took another two days; we sailed out of Beaumont, TX and on our way to the Atlantic Ocean to New York. We reached New York on October 27, 1963, but had to anchor off Staten Island, not far from the Verrazano Bridge which was still under construction then. After two days at anchorage we were put alongside the Sugar Wharf in Brooklyn, NY.
The very next day, I went to see the Master (Captain) Flogger Newell, MBE. Who as a 2nd Mate on a ship that was torpedoed by a U-Boat in the Atlantic during World War II and had made a sextant out of a cigarette container and saved the lives of the people in his life-boat.
I told him a fib that I wanted to see my brother Joe in Baltimore, MD and I requested that he give me permission to do so. I never told him that I had no idea where my brother Joe was, and whether or not he was still in the Baltimore area. Because I last heard that he enlisted in the U.S. Army during the Korean War and was training at Fort Benning, GA in 1950. I got the shipping Agents to get me some maps, directions, and info on how to get to the Port Authority Terminal and Borough Hall, NY. I got on a subway car and reached the Port Authority Terminal, where I bought a ticket on a Greyhound Bus that was headed for Washington, DC via Baltimore, MD.
I got on the Greyhound Bus, and it left the Port Authority Terminal, and I began to think if somehow all my desires and wishes were going to help me meet my brother Joe. I spoke with most of the passengers aboard that Greyhound Bus. They were in the main U.S. Army personnel and I felt quite at home.
At about midnight we reached Baltimore, MD and I get off without a clue as to what would happen next. Here I was alone in a far away place, without a clue of what lay ahead. Near the Bus Station was a Taxi Stand, and there was just one Taxi parked at it. I got into the Taxi and the cabbie asked where I wanted him to take me? I told him that I had just gotten in from New York, and did not have a clue or even an address to where I wanted to go. He told me his name was Israel. And I told him my story about finding my brother Joe in Baltimore. He was really surprised at what I told him, because he said to me, Buddy you sure have a lot of courage. Where do you want me to leave you? I told him in the centre of the city. We got there around 0015 hrs, AM. He wished me all the luck in world, and the last thing he said was: I know that you will succeed, because you have faith.
I walked around a bit till I hit an area where there were houses and apartments. I seemed to know where I was going on streets that I had never seen before. That of course was what puzzled me no end. Walking down a street I heard the noise of work being done by some people who were in a small bar that was closed. I began to knock on the door and I heard one of the men inside, say, do not open the door, because it could be someone who wants to rob us.
I was not at all surprised, because I was in a Latino section of the city. But, I could not give up. So, I yelled from outside: I am not here to rob you, all I want is some information on my brother. The door then opened and I described my bother Joe to them. One of the men remembered someone by that name that was an acquaintance of his. He went back inside and told his co-workers that he was going to take me to a pool hall where he knew Joe hung out. I got in his car and he took me a to a pool hall few streets away and told me to wait outside.
Then out walked a man, from his build, I knew it was my brother Joe. He came towards me and said is this some kind of joke? I know who my bothers are and I am sure you are not one of them. Now I was dressed in a suit and wore a fedora, so Joe really thought that I was an undercover cop. He said you better prove to me that you are my brother before I get mad! I took out my British Passport, he opened it and looked at the photograph inside and then began to cry. We hadn't seen each other for 16 years and here I was facing him in a street in Baltimore, MD. He just could not believe that I had found him without having any information as to his whereabouts.
We spent the next two days getting to know each other again. Joe felt very proud, and was introducing me to all his friends. He left me at the Greyhound Bus Station in Baltimore, MD on November 5, 1963, I felt the sadness in his eyes and my heart felt low. He was crying as he walked away when the bus departed just like the way he did when we met for first time after 16 years.
Kenneth T. Tellis