Saturday, 22 of June of 2024

2008 Farewell World Cruise – Part 4

Thursday, 6 March:

We are traveling on course 270˚ presently passing a group of islands (122 small ones) called the Houtman Abrolhos, and coral reefs thirty miles away to the East.  The town on Australia’s west coast here is Geraldton.  Little motion.

Having decided to skip breakfast, I first tried to go on line, but nothing happened on the one unoccupied computer so I left and headed aft, stopping to chat with Marilyn Peters, then Glen along the way.  When I finally made contact with Margaret and Eric in Grand Lounge, I showed her the sailor doll and vest back, on which she will embroider the word “farewell” using yellow thread.  She also suggested I make a “curl-down jumper collar to match the black shirt.  Yes!

I signed up for duty at the Country Fayre and requested my nautical dolls be included in the nautical auction.  I wandered briefly by the boring shops and observed the water and flying fish from the deck till time for Peter Crimes’ lecture on Singapore.  Anne and Tony joined me, telling of their visit to the Maritime Museum.  I should have gone.

I had lunch with Janet and Roger, to show them the video of yesterday’s departure, but for some reason, the picture had grey lines horizontally across the screen, much to my dismay.  However, after sending emails on my way down to the cabin, I tried using the head cleaner – presto – the playback is clear again.  Whew!

I spent an hour or more on deck reading in the warm humid air – the likes of which, I haven’t felt since Tonga.  Around 4:30 I walked down and through Queen’s Room while everyone was enjoying afternoon tea and the piano music of Campbell Simpson.  I simply continued on by the chart area and down to my cabin.  I did quite a bit of detail work on sailor number one.  At Margaret’s suggestion I made a curl-over turtle neck to look more like a jumper as she calls it.  She will embroider “farewell” in yellow on the two backs of the vests.

At dinner John told us of an incident way aft as we were leaving Fremantle yesterday.  A fire tug was playing its hoses and mistakenly let one shaft of water pour over the stern of QE2, wetting observers and knocking an elderly lady over flat on her back.  A security man got to her first and helped her up.  An officer also took over, and fortunately she was all right.  I sent another email about the bus schedule in May, then spent the rest of the evening working on the dolls and watching television lectures.

Friday, 7 March:

QE2 is now veering away from Australia on a 336˚ course.  Due East of us is Broome way, way off our stern quarter.  The navigation information has us cruising across the Wharton Basin where depths can reach almost 6,000 meters.  Shortly we’ll be in the southeast trade winds.  Seas are calm and smooth as usual.  I got 50% back on my Albany tour.  The morning sun is beaming through my porthole.

I emerged after nine and went to locate the Lees to no avail.  However, on the way at One Deck D Stairway, Doug and Rosemary Jackson stopped me and right there we had a happy reunion.  (We had shared a table on the QE2 2004 Tandem crossing.)  We will get together later.

I attended the lecture on microwaves and refrigerators, wondering why I bothered, but I was happy to hear the Starkey talk on the Dutch explorations and especially the part about Krakatoa near Java and Sumatra.  We will be going between the two islands through the Sunder Strait.  Hope to see the young Anak Krakatoa.

Noon Report:  16˚58’ S x 109˚15.1’ E:  Rhumb line 337˚,  Speed: 25.5 K  Temp: 28˚C – 82˚ F.   Wind: SW at F3 or 20 k, 18 K over decks.  Slight seas, short, low south, southwest swell.

At lunch with the Socketts I shared my video of Fremantle departure.  On the way down to 4 Deck I recorded all on A stairwell down.  Movie:  “License to Wed” with Robin Williams.  I then searched for the Jacksons in vain, but spent a pleasant time with the Boultons sharing flying fish “fleets” and Eric Lomax’s  “The Railway Man,” which I know they will appreciate.  I did another round of Lido and Queens Room before heading down.  TV movie,  Amazing Grace,” about Wilberforce’s efforts to end the slave trade.

Dinner with my mates.  We took photos of John and he of us, because he will leave us in Singapore.  I had lobster tail.  After a brief visit with the usual Lee entourage I chatted with the Noonans, Shirley W. and Marguerite.  When they left for the show, I went down to the cabin.  At 10:30 I joined the stargazers on Yacht Club deck.  The Southern Cross was looking quite dim, but I could make it out lying pretty much on its side; more so than I remembered it.

Saturday, 8 March:

Early this morning we passed 30 nautical miles East of Christmas Island, which is part of Australia located 2600 kilometers from Perth and near Java.  By evening we will pass between Sumatra and Java by way of Selat Sunda, which is the space between the two.  I am looking forward to seeing land 4 nautical miles away as we pass.  At present, 9:10 a.m. we are at 08˚ S going 24.3 knots on course 338˚.  The chart shows the Christmas Island to our stern and Sumatra’s south shoreline to our north.

Most of my morning was spent in the Theatre from ten o’clock while I attended the lecture on Aboriginal Dream stories, off at 11-12, then 12:15 back for the lecture on the 1627 “Mutiny, Mayhem and Murder” on and about the Dutch East India ship, “Batavia.”  I then found Anne and Tony in the Lido for lunch.

I chatted with John Hardie at D stairway in front of the huge model of the “Mauretania.”  He said that the slim ships of that era were thought to be the best shape for speed, but when model tests were introduced, it was found even with 4 props – excess coal and fuel was wasted overcoming the drag!

I ordered the DVD of the Australia segment of the journey, then saw most of “Harry Potter” but left it at 4:20 to observe our passage through the Sunda Strait.  John Hardie was on the observation deck looking forward and to each side, and we eventually stayed to Port while the ship entered and passed 14 miles away from volcanoes, including Krakatoa and Anak Krakatoa, which is growing rapidly.  I took lots of photos hoping to get a few good ones in the humid distance.

Oh yes, on the way to my cabin I found Martin Stringer who is willing to play for me tomorrow, and he followed me so I could give him the music to “Old Mother Hubbard.”

At nine o’clock we are finished with our transit through the Sunda Strait and in the distance can be seen several lights on various small islands.  At dinner with Rosina, Eddy and John for the baked Alaska parade, I had Beef Wellington.  John told me about his numerous travels from New Zealand where he was born, Australia, England and several returns.  As usual, I went to the Lido to chat with Marguerite and Shirley (Brit).  Tonight will see the Lido decorated and flagged for the Gala Midnight Buffet.  I’ll not be there.

We now are clear of the little islands and have temporarily headed east.  I noticed the Security people have set up the big round disks amid ships on Boat Deck.  I said I assume they also have firearms and he simply smiled!  I remember a quiet smile off affirmation!

Java Sea:  During the night it was obvious we are in shipping lanes, because I could see bright lights seemingly bearing down on us.  Each time the light would veer to starboard to pass us to port.  I suspect QE2 also had a bright light pointing forward.  The chart shows countless small dots around lesser islands here in Malaysia and Java Sea and consequently we have been navigating to the east of the clusters.

Sunday, 9 March:  Last QE2 Equatorial Crossing ever

This morning we are traveling almost due North as we wend between Borneo and countless islands.  We are at 02˚53.7’ S and will very likely cross the Equator some time today.  The sun is shining brightly through my porthole and we are going 22.9 knots.

I spent most of the morning under boat 12 avoiding the occasional drops of rain, reading the paperback book I bought in Fremantle, “The Well” by Elizabeth Jolley.  After the noon report and farewell words of Captain McNaught, who will leave us tomorrow, stating that David Perkins will take over, I walked aft to observe, but mostly “hear” the speeches by Captain, Engineer and John Duffy, preliminary to the crossing the line ceremony.  The last one ever for “Queen Elizabeth 2.”

I then registered and rehearsed “Old Mother Hubbard” with Martin.  Not being able to find John Hardie in the mobbed Lido, I went to Mauretania to sit with the Socketts, who were almost done.  They left me with a John somebody from the Chilterns.  I had salad and pasta.

I again sat on deck to read my GPS, then again searched for John Hardie in the Lido to no avail.  I did sit with Doug and Rosemary and shared the “Queen Victoria” review with them.  We are in agreement in our unfavorable opinions on QV.

Martin accompanied me masterfully as I sang the “Old Mother Hubbard” to a very receptive audience.  We actually had three pretty good voices, Marie’s signing and a Japanese magician lady and – a totally hopeless magician who got lots of laughs (Aussie).  Of course, Mary did her thing first!

Now, back in my cabin we are at 00˚ 48.1 South, and on the count down to the Equator.  I won’t leave till I see the change over to North Latitude.  Took a picture as best I could, but the delay in the channel 4 slide switch, caused me to miss the actual zeros, but I got one shot 00˚ .1’ S and 00˚ .1 N.

We are on a Rhumb Line course of 286˚ and traveling at 22.5 knots. 24.3 average.  Wind: northwest at Force 4 or 15 knots, 35 knots over the decks.  Slight seas, negligible swell.  At 8:10 (seven ten Singapore time) we crossed the Equator.  I had to go to dinner for John’s last night.  Rosina congratulated me on my “song” as did John.  Anne and Tony missed it so I gave them a taste of the performance!

I now consider the two QE2 farewell dolls complete and I took pictures of them.  My salty twins!   [Clocks back one hour.]

Monday, 10 March:  Singapore: 01˚ 16.3 North.

I awoke very early, and not being able to get back to sleep, I watched the lights ahead of us as we approached the cargo area.  At 5:30 the Pilot boat, with searchlight came to our port side, presumable to embark the Pilot.  Having fallen back to sleep, I was awakened by the telephone just as we were being pushed parallel to the quay.  I emerged to search for John again in the Lido, but instead I sat with the Jacksons and met their friend Joan.  Breakfast in the Mauretania sounded better to me, so I went there.

By 9:30 I was ready to head into town via Shuttle Bus, so went through passport inspection at the gangway and spent the journey with a young Singapore “guide” in the back seat.  Once at the Hyatt Hotel, I alighted and went directly to Tangs department store for my Sheseido purchase, and browsing in the vast handbag department.  I did all three upper floors, then wandered in the adjacent Mall.   On the way back I discovered the basement floor of Tang’s where were mostly household goods, oriental specialties, Maytags of diminutive size and special foods.  Eventually I returned to the ship, through the stacked containers, arriving as the embarking passengers were clogging the gangway.

I had lunch with Chiltern John – had two crème caramels and went to the cabin for the afternoon knitting, napping and watching Maggie Smith in “Keeping Mum.”  A huge fuel ship named “Armada” has been tied to us outside my porthole.  It was quite long with grey-green boot top and black topsides.

Boat drill for the newcomers took place at 5:15 and the alarm sounded in the cabin, but I knitted on, finishing the new doll body.

We have a new lady from England, Lancashire, and her name is Audrey.  She will be on till Southampton.  I tried collecting my DVD but they had sold it, so I have to return tomorrow for it.  I also failed to collect my music.

Several people have expressed appreciation for my song on Sunday.  The Priest especially was enthusiastic and said he would have voted for me!  Also, after the movie late, a Brit lady mentioned actually knowing of the song!  I watched “Ratatouille,” which is quite clever and funny.

Captain David Perkins is now in charge.  We left the dock during dinner, and we could hear the faint whistle sound.  Our passage from the harbor took us past numerous oil islands.  I chatted with my usual friends and stayed for the American comic.  He was okay but had too many off color jokes (but I chuckled anyway!)

Tuesday, 11 March:

When looking for a place in the busy Lido after nine o’clock, the Boultons signaled me to join them aft on portside.  We talked about Parson Woodforde and their local parish where they ring the bells and I told them of my bike trip to Bristol from Norwich in 1985.  I then went on deck armed with cushion and towel to sit under boat 14 for the rest of the morning.  A little sun caught me, but fortunately clouds covered it most of the time.  We are traveling only about 18 knots as we pass cargo ships to Port.  At noon we were going: 05˚12.9’ N by 106˚48.8 E, going 19.3 knots, and average of 21 knots:  Course: Rhumb line 043˚  with a Northeast wind at 12 knots.  Temp: 79˚ Fahrenheit.  Slight seas, short low north northeast swell.

I then attended the Crimes lecture on Vung Tau; sat with Shirley and Anne, then went with Tony and Anne for lunch on Port in the Mauretania and more fun conversation.

I then picked up my DVD and two great photos taken from the air, of the two ships in Sydney Harbour.

On my way to the RADA performance of “Private Lives,” with a side trip to the Pavilion for ice cream, I cut through the Lido and came across Valerie Hüjlich and almost immediately, lo and behold I met Jannie Haynes at G stairway.  What a great reunion!  Jannie and I sat together at the play, then had tea in Lido talking a blue streak to catch up on everything.  We reminisced on past cruises and plans for more after QE2.  She gave me a lovely Welsh bookmark.

After dinner Jannie and I sat together at the show, while enjoying the songs of Paul Emmanuel from Nottingham.  The different perspective of seeing Martin on keyboard and the trombone, saxophone and trumpet was refreshing.  I went to the cabin by 9:30.  Clocks back one hour.  The last time says Warren Smith.

Wednesday, 12 March: Vung Tau, Vietnam: 10˚23.4’N x 107˚25’E

The anchor went down at 6:35 after a long, stately sail along Vung Tau coastline, past the coastal hills to calmer waters of an inlet.  I would call it the backside of a hilly peninsula!

Having decided to skip breakfast, I duly appeared for my tour at 7:15.  I missed the call of bus 15 in cream; I went down with the crowd, took the tender for the two mile trip around a mountain to a Vung Tau landing area amongst huge oil rig type barges.  When on land I and the few remaining people who also missed their number cream calling (Thomas was saying cream but it came out “green.” We agreed).  Anyway, we ix climbed aboard a Mercedes van and headed toward the Mekong Delta amid thousands of motor bikers of all ages and family arrangements – a four hour trip through cities, suburbs, rice patties, salt pans, across water plant laden rivers, in and out of weaving cars, truck, buses and those fascinating and ubiquitous motor bikes with all sorts of burdens, large and small.  Finally we arrived at the riverboats by 12:30.  We boarded our river cruise and across to Unicorn Island, which is a mangrove island with countless people living among the trees, gardens, fisheries and quite nice “farm” houses amongst paths, irrigation canals and tidal waters.  We had lunch of various ethnic egg rolls, fish, rice paper rollups etc.  Afterward, we walked around to various buildings and shelters till we were ushered, four at a time, – individually to sit quietly in a 15- foot wooden canoe of a sort, and we were paddled quietly along a little canal in mangroves.  When done, we re-boarded the little “sampan” to cross the river to our vans.  We then drove another four hours, eventually in rush hour among the heavily concentrated motorbikers!  Dart, scoot, stop, weave – all over again.  Families up to four were tucked on those things!

We returned to the landing stage near seven o’clock, an hour late.  However, most of the bus tours arrived at the same time so the lines were long to get on the tenders.  Once aboard, I freshened up at the cabin and ate dinner in the Lido with the Boultons.  I went to the cabin right after and with the anchor up by 9:15, we proceeded to turn and head back to the South China Sea.  The Vietnamese call it the East Sea.  Clocks ahead one hour.

Thursday, 13 March:

As Sam Pepys said often in his diary, “I awoke betimes” to the new time of seven o’clock, which now is only 11 hours ahead of my Cape Cod time!

I took my 2 sailor dolls to the Board Room for display, and Lisa made a nice sign explaining their purpose.  I then attended my two lectures,  history of China,” then the Crimes slide show of Hong Kong.  Those being over, I joined Tony and Anne for coffee at noon in the Board Room, then I went below to freshen up and head upward for lunch.  Janet and Roger joined me and they told me they had purchased a Compaq computer and wanted me to see if it works, which I did.  They left it with me and I must admit I couldn’t make much headway.

I saw the movie about the search for Daniel Pearl, a real tragedy!  I then tried to locate Jannie to no avail so eventually sat with Audrey and a dance host for tea in the Queen’s Room.  This gent is active with a steamship restorer in Southampton, so I told him about the Trans-Atlantic with the SSHA and said I would introduce him to the sponsors, namely Tom Cassidy.  A nice, Brit couple joined us as well.  I left them for my cabin and to tackle the computer again, with frustrating results.

I have been invited to the Captain’s party in his quarters this evening and have received a red carnation to wear.  Captain Perkins announced to all on the Tannoy that because we were so late leaving Vung Tau, we have been speeding at 29.1 knots all day, but will be late arriving around ten o’clock.  Consequently he has arranged for us to remain till ten o’clock with the shuttle to end at 8:30.

Noon report:  13˚31.2’ N x 111˚ 12 E:  Course: 033˚ @ 29.5 knots.  Temp: 27˚ C and 80.5˚ F.  Wind: NNE Force 3 – 10 knots; 30 k over decks.  Slight seas, north northeast light swells.   At 10:45 we have gone to 18˚10.3 N at 28.5 knots.

I attended the Captain’s cocktail party in his quarters.  Three of us ladies talked together mostly and Captain Perkins came to mix with us.  I got cramps in my toes, hid behind a sofa with shoes off, then asked Michelle to convey my apologies as I slipped out – shoes off way back to the Lido.  I ate fruit and a lemon meringue pie while chatting with Marguerite, Bill Noonan and Valerie, then set out again to find Jannie again to no avail.  However, Margaret Lee told me Jannie had been searching for me.  I chatted with the Boultons and their nautical friends about boats and square- riggers, the Horn etc.  Finally I was able to contact Jannie by phone and we will meet at nine o’clock tomorrow on Boat Deck aft.   To bed around eleven.  Somewhere along here we passed through the Formosa Strait.