Category: shipbook

Durban Shipwatch: Anastasis

My handy ship visit book records that we visited on board this classic beauty on 18 May 1996. Rudi and I went down specifically to see her, and I was carrying a large video camera but no stills camera. Rudi was to take some extra images of the ship for me for my collection but he never did and those images and the video are gone forever as Rudi passed away in December 2018 and his collection was lost. All I recall of the ship was that she really was a ship from a different age and really stunning. 

Postcard image obtained on board

My notes read: 

MV Anastasis (IMHO 5379729). Ex Victoria of Lloyd Triestino. Built Cr Adriatico, yard # 1765. 11695 GRT, 158,4 x 20,7. Sold 1978 to “Youth With A Mission” (YWAM) Co, Limassol. Used as a mobile hospital, housing 3 operating rooms, a 40 bed hospital ward, dental clinic, laboratory, x-ray unit and 3 cargo holds. In service for 29 years, she was broken up in 2007. 

Official Mercy Ships postcard

We were fortunate to have a guided tour of the ship by the lady who signed my book. Alas her surname is unrecognisable. 

DRW © 1996- 2019. Created 23/08/2019

Updated: 23/08/2019 — 20:28

S.A.S. Somerset

This post has been written many years after the fact and to be honest prior to today I have never really had much to add to a SAS Somerset post. However, I have recently found the handout I received when I visited the ship in 1993.

SAS Somerset

The one thing I do remember is how clean and well maintained she looked when I was on board, and the men in charge were rightly proud of her. Sadly as at 2019 her future is bleak and it is likely that she will end up being broken up. 

From the original handout that I received on the ship

Potted history of the SAS Somerset.

The ship was built by Blyth Shipbuilding Company and is listed as yard number 280, her machinery was built by Swan Hunter & Wigham Richards Ltd, Tyneside. Her keel was laid on 15 April 1941 and she entered service with the Royal Navy on 08 April 1942 as HMS Barcross.

HMS Barcross (1943) South African Military Museum. This photo was published in 1944 – 66 years ago – In South Africa, copyright prescribes after 50 years! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SAS_Somerset

HMS Barcross and her sister ship HMS Barbrake arrived at Simonstown, in 1942 and was transferred to Saldanha Bay for boom defence operations directly thereafter. In 1943 she was re-designated as HMSAS Barcross and transferred to the South African Naval Forces for the remainder of the war. In 1946 she was was purchased by the South African Government and was used for the dumping of ammunition off Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. On completion of these services, she was transferred to Salisbury Island in Durban and was subsequently laid up at Salisbury Island. In 1951 her name was changed to SAS Somerset.

During 1955 Somerset was brought back into service and during this period she was tasked in salvaging the remains of two Harvard training aircraft following a mid air collision over Table Bay. Six weeks later she recovered a third Harvard which had crashed into the sea off Bok Point. In 1959 during a refit, Somerset had her coal fired boilers converted to oil. 

In 1961 Somerset salvaged the South African Railways tug F. Schermbrucker which had sunk in East London harbour. In 1967 she was fitted out with new boilers and a reconditioned main engine. In 1968 her services were called on again to assist the cable ship John W. Mackay to raise and repair the newly inaugurated overseas telephone cable in the shallow waters off Melkbosstrand. During 1969 Somerset raised the old whale catcher Wagter 11 in Saldanha Bay and subsequently towed her back to Simonstown. During the same year, she salvaged a floating crane which had capsized and sunk at Port Elizabeth. In the early hours of 24 July 1974 Somerset was dispatched to Cape Agulhas to assist with the salvage of the Oriental Pioneer, poor weather conditions and bad luck rendered this effort unsuccessful.

In 1981 the fishing trawler Aldebaran was successfully raised in Port Elizabeth having laid on the bottom for over two and a half years. Somerset also acted as a standby vessel during submarine shallow water diving operations. In 1983 she assisted in the salvaging of a barge and two whale catchers at Saldanha Bay. In March 1986, Somerset was finally paid off. In 1988 she was donated as a museum ship, moored at the waterfront at Cape Town.  She is the only boom defence vessel remaining in the world.  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SAS_Somerset)

SAS Somerset on the synchro-lift 04/06/1988

SAS Somerset on the synchro-lift 04/06/1988

The following images were taken by Dylan Knott on 17 February and April 2019. Sadly it appears as if the Somerset is to be broken up. Images are used with permission and are copyright to the photographer.

DRW © 2019. Created 01/03/2019. Images of Somerset on the synchro courtesy of Brian Potgieter, images of Somerset in 2019 courtesy of Dylan Knott © 2019

Updated: 16/04/2019 — 18:17

Virgel

Our visit to Virgel is also undated, so I can only hazard a guess. Suffice to say that by the time we undertook this visit her sisters were no longer, and she was the only one of the three left behind. (Vergelegen, Constantia,  Morgenster). She carried the name Virgel from May 1988 till May 1991 which places my visit somewhere during that period 

Virgel

S.A. VERGELEGEN/VERGELEGEN/VIRGEL (1969 – 1991) Affectionately known as the ‘VIRGIE’ within the fleet.

O.N. 350612 / IMO No. 6924375 Call Sign : ZSZV Port of Registry: Cape Town/South Africa Tonnage: 1969 – OSD. : 1969 – CSD 10608g/6182n/13156 S.Dwt : 1975 – OSD 8808g/4435 n/ : 1975 – CSD 12337g/6982n/15072 S.Dwt

Dim: 1969 – 168,2 x 22,8 x 12,8 m / Draught Maximum 9,15 / 9,55 m 1975 – 182,6 x 22,8 x 12,8 m / Draught Maximum 9,15 / 9,55 m

Eng: Two stroke single acting – 6 cylinder 900 x 1550 Sulzer 6RD90, MCR 15 000bhp (11 033 kW).x 122 RPM built by Uraga Heavy Industries Ltd., Tamashima/Japan. Fuel 1800.0 t (hvf), 195.0 (do), 51.0 t p/d at 20 knts (Service Output 12 750 BHP x 116 RPM) Fitted with 2 x 440kW/2 x 240kW generators 440V 60Hz a.c.

10/04/1969 Keel laid by Mitsui Zosen Fujinagata, Osaka/Japan (Yard No. 150) for South African Marine Corp. Ltd., Cape Town/South Africa.

02/07/1969 Launched by Mrs J.F.W. Haak as “S.A. VERGELEGEN” (ZAF). Completed 21/10/1969 by Mitsui Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. Ltd., Osaka/Japan as S.A. VERGELEGEN (ZAF) for South African Marine Corporation Ltd., Cape Town.  

Six hold motor general cargo with refrigeration capacity, fitted with 1 x 250 ton Stülcken derrick (fitted in Hamburg/Germany 1970), 1 x 30 ton Stülcken derrick, 18 x 5 ton derricks, with 18 winches. Accommodation for 4 passengers.

12/1969 arrives in Table Bay on maiden voyage.

Late 01/1970 Arrived in Hamburg to have 250 ton Stülcken derrick fitted. 11/05/1975 Lengthened by 14,38m at the Tamano Dockyard Co. Ltd., Tamano/Japan mainly for cellular cargo, with replacement of two 5 ton derricks with two 30 tonne derricks on the aft end of the Stülcken posts port/starboard. Grain Capacity 23 318m³ / Bale Capacity 21 413m³ / Insulated capacity 425m³.

21/05/1985 Transferred by South African Marine Corp. Ltd/ (Safmarine) Cape Town to Consolidated Operations Ltd. Kingstown / St Vincent and The Grenadines (ownership Capesal Co. Inc., Panama) (Safmarine Cape Town management) renamed VERGELEGEN (VCT) in Durban. Port of registry Kingstown, O.N. 2110 / Call Sign J8FF

16/05/1988 Renamed VIRGEL (VCT) by Capesal Co. Inc., in Cape Town and transferred to Rondeau Holdings A.G. Wollerau/Switzerland (Oriel Bulk Transport A.G) Sounion Management Ltd. St.Vincent (Safmarine Cape Town).

16/05/1991 Arrived Alang/India to be scrapped, having been sold to Indian breakers at $ 200/ldt by Oriel Bulk Transport A.G. St Vincent (Rondeau Holding A.G./Safmarine Cape Town).

28/05/1991 Dismantling commenced by Amar Shipbreaking Corp., Alang/India.


The image of Constantia below was taken very close to the end of her life too, while Morgenster was photographed in December 1986. 

Constantia

Constantia

Morgenster

© DRW 2016-2018. Created 18/12/2016. Information on Virgel provided by Cameron Mackenzie. 

Updated: 11/01/2018 — 13:26

Royal Star. A personal glimpse

One of those odd bits of luck that struck me during a visit to Durban, was spotting the Royal Star up at the ship repair area of the harbour. The date I do not recall, but it did lead to a ship visit.

Company postcard

Company postcard

I am not sure how we swung it, but we were shown the vessel by the owner who was there overseeing the work being done. She was stunning inside, small, intimate and very comfortable, with a  beautiful wood lined bridge. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pics, but I do have manage some very poor externals that morning. The light was just in the wrong place and the background was “busy”.

As far as I recall she was based out of Kenya and her cruises were very exclusive and high priced. I believe she made a number of visits to South Africa, but eventually hard times overtook her and she too made that final voyage, possibly in 2012, under the name Ocean Mist.

© DRW 2016 -2018 Created 13/03/2016

Updated: 10/01/2018 — 20:40

QE2. A personal glimpse

One of the many ships that interested me is the QE2, I was in primary school when she entered service and literally grew up and saw her as she matured into the legend she is now. My first physical encounter with her was in March 1986 when I was on holiday in Durban. I had timed this to coincide with her call on her world cruise and it was my first really serious foray into ship photography.

Alongside Ocean Terminal. March 1986

Alongside Ocean Terminal. March 1986

I was not able to see her arrival though, and my first glimpse of her was only when she was already berthed alongside what was then the Ocean terminal on T Jetty.  I have to admit that she took my breath away, and that situation has not changed in all the years. At the time I had a newly bought 35mm SLR with a 50mm lens and I really went crazy photographing her. However, looking back I should have taken more pics!  What I did find interesting was that her funnel casing, which I had always known to be white, had been painted in the red/black striped Cunard colours. This was also her last world cruise as a steamship and that funnel was to be changed to the larger version she still carries to this day. 

 
Later that day I did a harbour cruise on the Sarie Marais and I was able to photograph her from the harbour side, unfortunately these images did not really do her justice, but it did show off her sheer size.  
 
Many years later I was given a slide of this occasion by Trevor Jones. It is one of my favourite QE2 shots ever. 
I watched her sailing the next morning from South Beach, again I regret not making an effort to get to the North Pier for closer images.  
 
My next encounter with her was more of a fluke than anything else; as it happened during the first Gulf War in 1991 when Canberra and her were diverted from their world cruise and ended up coming around South Africa, instead of going through Suez. A group of us from the Transvaal Branch of the World Ship Society went down to see her, we had no fixed visitors permission and were hoping that something could be organised when we got there. We were fortunate to photograph her arrival from the decks of the Avalon (Former RMS St Helena), and it was ironic that two Falklands veterans were in port on the same day.  

Our party of ship enthusiasts standing at the stern of Avalon.

Unfortunately security was tight and no matter how hard we tried we were just not able to swing a visit to her. However I was able to take a photograph from roughly the same point as my 1986 image. 
 And the day just did not get better when one of our party was able to wangle a visit on board. He nearly ended up having to walk back to Johannesburg! We spent the rest of the day desultorily hanging around the Ocean Terminal until it was time for her to leave, and we headed across to Avalon once again for our final photographs.
And, while her sailing was beautiful the weather had turned ugly and photography was not great. We then christened her “the Other Ship” and turned our attention to trying to get on board Canberra who was due the next weekend. (We had no luck there either, but that’s another story for another day) 
QE2 was scheduled to return in March of 1994, and this time around we were better prepared. Once  again there was a voyage offering from Durban to Walvis Bay but it was beyond my price range. Financially I could not afford it, but the fact that one of my friends was sailing on this voyage meant we were now assured of visitors permits. We headed down to Durban for her early arrival and we were able to swing  a trip out to her on the pilot boat, which was always a lot of fun. The pilot boat skipper obliged us by approaching her on her port side and going around the back to drop the pilot off on the starboard side.
 
QE2 in the distance taken from the pilot boat

QE2 in the distance taken from the pilot boat

The weather was glorious, with the sun gleaming on her familiar shape. QE2 was always very recognisable, and as on all other occasions she brought Durban to a standstill when she entered the port. We were dropped off at T Jetty and were able to watch her berth at “N” shed.
 

preparing to berth at “N” Shed

 
We had no accommodation organised for this trip, instead we had planned on returning back to Johannesburg that same night, and having been awake the whole night we were really bushed.  When the time came for our visit we trouped on board and the previous non-visit to the ship in 1991 was forgotten.  We walked the ship flat, although frustrated by the shops that were all closed we took comfort in the fact that one of our party would be on board to buy us some goodies. It was also one of the rare occasions where I had a photograph taken of myself on board ship, and for once I am sad that it was such a lousy photo.
 
 
When the time came to disembark we did so with sadness  because we still had the 5 hour trip back home to make and it was starting to get dark. It was a really dangerous trip back home and it did not help to think about our companion sitting down on board QE2 and enjoying his voyage.
 
She called in South Africa many times after this, but never again did they offer the Durban/Walvis segment and so I was never able to sail on her.
The news of her withdrawal from service was terrible news, coming as it did so shortly after the withdrawal of Canberra.
 
 
Her world cruise of 2008 was her last, and I happened to be in Hong Kong at the time when she was there. Unfortunately she was berthed up in the container berths and I could not get to see her, even though we did catch a train out to that area in an effort to find her. As we headed to the airport for our flight I spotted her, and have 8 seconds of her on video, sadly interspersed by the voice of one of the our party which ruined that last glimpse of one of the worlds truly great ships.  
It is one of the many regrets I have when I think about the QE2.
 
The QE2 ended up being sold and languishing in Dubai, with grandiose schemes in place to transform her into a centre piece of the hedonistic culture prevalent in that city. However, the global economic crisis scuppered those plans, and there was even talk of her coming to Cape Town to become a hotel ship. Nothing happened, and at the time of writing this there are once again rumours of her imminent scrapping. Realistically she needs to be preserved, but whether the interest or money exists to do this is doubtful.  Ships do not make successful transitions to shore based establishments. The future of QE2 is grim.
 

Many years ago there was documentary called “Superliners, End of an Era” and it was partly shot on board QE2, it painted a grim picture of a ship that was struggling to find her niche, in fact at that point she was seemingly in trouble already. Her early years were very difficult with engine problems and with the demise of the transatlantic liner. In my opinion QE2 became a legend when she found her niche. Her Falklands service just made her even more of a legend.

Cunard issue postcard

Cunard issue postcard

I hope that she can once again finds a new life. To see this ship getting broken up would be tragic. It is much more than she deserves. Long may she grace us with her presence.
 
 © DRW 2015-2018. Recreated 13/03/2016 
 
Updated: 10/01/2018 — 20:41

Marco Polo. A personal glimpse

One of the many ships I was fortunate enough to visit was MV Marco Polo. when she called at Durban. She was originally one of five identical sisters of the Ivan Franko class and built by VEB Mathias-Thesen Werft, East Germany,  for Baltic Shipping Company (BLASCO) and was completed in June of 1965. She was in service until 1990 when she was laid up. 

One of the five sisters, possibly Mikhail Lermontov

One of the five sisters, possibly Mikhail Lermontov

A year later she was bought to form the nucleus of what was to become Orient Lines.  Being extensively rebuilt for service around the world and to the Antarctica.  She called in Durban on 2 December 1993 on her maiden call, and we were fortunate enough to be able to go on board for a ship visit. 

Coming alongside to drop off the pilot

 

A lot of work was being completed on board when we visited her, but we literally had the run of the vessel, including the engine room.  The crew were very friendly, and went out of their way to provide us with any information (or goodies) that we wanted.

As at 2001 she measured in at 22080 GRT, with a capacity of 848, principal dimensions: 578x77x27. Ivan Franko Class: Ivan Franko, Aleksandr Pushkin, Mikhail Lermontov, Shota Rustavelli, Taras Schevchenko.

 
 

Deck plans from 2001 brochure

In 1998 Orient Lines was acquired by NCL, who retained the brand and name and added in Crown Odyssey as a running mate. This was a short lived partnership, and Orient Lines was closed in 2008 and she was put on charter to Transocean Tours until they went bankrupt in 2009. She then passed to Cruise and Maritime Voyages who still operate her. She is a proper ship with a loyal following, but it is probable that her days are numbered.  Crown Odyssey now operates for Fred Olsen as Balmoral.

1/1250 Resin cast model of Marco Polo from 2008

1/1250 Resin cast model of Marco Polo from 2008

Postcard issues on board

© DRW 2015-2018. Recreated 13/03/2016
Updated: 10/01/2018 — 20:42

Island Princess. A personal glimpse

Another ship that I was fortunate enough to visit was Island Princess. She called in Durban on 25 March 1996, and was the first of 3 ships that we visited in a week. I had always taken a fancy to her and her sister, they were very attractive vessels, and of course they were famous for their role in the TV comedy “The Love Boat.”
 
Originally built as Island Venture (sister was Sea Venture/Pacific Princess) in 1971, she spent most of her early life sailing for Princess Cruises as Island Princess. They were both products of Rheinstahl Nordseewerke, West Germany and had a gross tonnage of 19907 GRT. Principal dimension were 551x79x25, with a capacity of 644 passengers.
 
Because we were going on a cruise we actually arrived a day early, and managed to wangle a trip out to her with the pilot boat. The weather was grey and gloomy out at sea and sadly the photography was not great. 
 
 
 
We followed her into the harbour, and she was one of those ships that really does look like her images.  She berthed at “N” Shed and then the long wait began to get on board her.
 
 

Once on board we set about our mission of exploration. The ship was doing an “Around Africa” voyage and this must have been the first time we had seen a Princess ship in our waters in years. We just hoped that this would become a regular occurrence, I would really have liked to have sailed on her.

The decks were starting to come alive and the buffet on deck was gradually being more frequented. Interior wise the ship was smaller than I expected, although I had heard this from other sources. She also had a very different feel to other ships I had been on, and this had to do with the American passenger market.
A friendly steward noticed us and introduced us to breakfast at the buffet. And, I don’t think I have ever tasted such strong coffee in my life! It kept me awake for the rest of that day and most of the night!
 
 
Then it was almost time to leave. We had a visit to the Bluff organised and had to be there to meet our contact. We bid the ship a fond farewell and promised to see her off later that afternoon.  I was particularly looking forward to her sailing as I was less than pleased with the photography that morning. 
 
 
Once we arrived at the Bluff and gone through the security we were in an area that had been unavailable to us before. We climbed up into the signal station and the view was incredible. The operator on duty did warn us to avoid photographing too much while we were there as the area was still restricted, but we could photograph the harbour side, and we decided we would wait out Island Princess from there.
 
It is quite easy to picture the photographer that took so many images of the harbour and vessels like SA Vaal in the channel. It was a spectacular place to photograph from, but being the days of film we could not go crazy the way we do today with our digital cameras.
 
 
Then we saw tugs heading to “N” Shed, Island Princess was on the move. It was time to put that long lens to use. 
 
 
There was something satisfying seeing her clearing the harbour mouth from this viewpoint. The next day would see us standing on board Rhapsody doing the same thing. I would have really preferred to be on Island Princess though. 

 

Island Princess was eventually sold by Princess and had a somewhat odd career until she ended up in service as Discovery. Sadly, her sister fell on hard times while operating for Quail Cruises, structurally she was not in a great condition and there was talk of her being sent for breaking up. At the time of writing she was in layup, her future uncertain.

August 2013

Sadly Pacific Princess made the trip to Aliaga for breaking up under the name Afic. On the way to the breakers she started to take in water, and by the time she arrived was listing badly. Attempts were made to pump the water out, and two workers lost their lives in the process. The ship has since been stabilised, but is still listing and this may slow down the demolition process until she is stable enough.

November 2014
 And, regretfully Discovery did not outlive her sister by much, and her life ended at the breakers in November 2014. 
 
 
© DRW 2015-2018. Recreated 13/03/2016. Images of Discovery courtesy of Hugh Knapton 
Updated: 10/01/2018 — 20:02

Royal Viking Sun. A personal glimpse

Royal Viking Sun was scheduled to call on 22 November 1996, and we headed down to Durban to see her.  Originally built in 1988 for Royal Viking Line, she was currently carrying the same name, but with Cunard branding. It was a confusing period in her history, but it is better explained on her website

Company Postcard

Company Postcard

As usual she was an early arrival, and I can see we went out on the pilot boat to drop off a pilot.

She was not a pretty ship, almost a bit top heavy and bulky, I think stretching may have improved her looks. She did however have a well deserved reputation as being a top ship in the world, and the prices for voyages on her reflected that reputation. Royal_viking_sun02

She had been in South Africa before, although on that occasion Royal Viking Line was still in operation.
 
Once we had completed our pilot boating for the morning we dashed across to Ocean Terminal to do some photography. It can be quite a race to be there before the ship, fortunately they often swung the vessel before bringing her alongside while we would be navigating our way over speedbumps, security guards, railway lines and potholes, all the while trying to see where the ship was.  Sometimes we got dropped off at the quayside by the pilot boat, although that usually meant we would have to hoof it back to where the car was parked. 
I seem to recall there was somewhat of a ruction on board the pilot boat because the ship was not flying the courtesy flag, and of course people were muttering about getting hold of the APC and chasing her out of the harbour. The situation was remedied though, so no harm was done.
 
By now I think we were in the “lets change clothes quickly” mode for when we went ship visiting, and naturally would have used the dirtiest toilets in Durban for the purpose (the smell had to be seen to be believed, it was the sort of smell that had a life of its own, and that held down a steady job and had kids and attended church on a Sunday).
 
Once on board we headed our own way, I know we had seen pics of her forward lounge and there had been a lot of pre-publicity about the ship in the local rag. The one thing I do recall about her was that she had a huge dining room, big enough to seat all the passengers in a single seating. That dining room was one whole deck! 
 
I have to admit she was beautiful on board, really tastefully decorated and overall well maintained. The promenade deck was an attraction for me because I am a sucker for a prom deck. 

Whereas the pool area did not really do much for me, but then I am not the type who finds lounging by the pool a lot of fun (that’s why we have promenade decks). 

 
The visit was not particularly memorable, but that’s because you spend so little time on board and it is a rush to see everything as quick as possible, added to that the almost 6 hour road trip ahead of us in the middle of the night. I know, we must have been crazy, but looking back so many years later I can say that I am glad I did saw some of these ships because the amount of classics still afloat is small, at the time of writing she is now almost considered a classic ship.
 
Royal Viking Line is but a memory, and they had a wonderful reputation for efficiency and service. Their ships were always immaculate, and oddly enough during those dry days when we had almost no callers in our waters there was a Royal Viking Ship calling. I don’t know where they went wrong, it is possible that catering for the market that they did meant that they did not have mass appeal. However, the legacy that they left behind is surprisingly big with all of their ships still afloat and in service somewhere. How many other cruise lines can boast of that accomplishment?
 
Then it was time for us to get off as the ship started to embark passengers and those who had gone on tours around Durban.  The weather was still quite good so it did hold out for a semi decent sailing. 
Unfortunately though, the light was going fast as she swung from the quayside, and by the time she came into the channel it was becoming very difficult to photograph her with the low light. 
And then she was gone. And there was no more reasons left for us to remain behind. So we headed off home.
 
Since 2002 Royal Viking Sun has been operated by Holland America Line as Prinsendam.  She does look better with the darker hull and the bulk is less noticeable. She is still a top rated ship, although no longer the top rated one.
 
© DRW 2015- 2018 originally created 19/02/2015, moved and images recreated 11/03/2016.  
Updated: 10/01/2018 — 20:02

Sagafjord, a personal glimpse

Having seen Vistafjord before, I was not all that keen to see Sagafjord,  I found Vistafjord very disappointing, and didn’t really expect too much from Sagafjord,  Her arrival in Durban was slated for 14 February 1994 and a ship visit was not confirmed. However, we never really let that stand in our way and we headed off for Durban on the evening of the 13th.
 
We did not go out on the pilot boat to the ship, instead waited her out at North Pier, and looking at my images it seems as if she arrived in the late morning. 
Entering the channel

Entering the channel

She was much better looking in real life than she is in pictures, and she wasn’t exactly small either.  The one issue that worried us was an upcoming march/riot in Durban which was sure to interfere with passengers plans, but we held our breath anyway. Our biggest concern was actually getting on board! 
 
She was berthed up at “N” shed, and immediately we were on the lookout for our contact. So far the chances of a ship visit were small, but we hung around the ship, trying our best to look inconspicuous.  There was a lot of movement at the gangway and eventually our contact came, he had not been able to organise anything for us, but we were to stick around and he would try his best.
 
 
As time passed it became increasingly evident that we would have no joy, however our contact re-appeared and said that he was only able to organise for one person to go on board. Rudi, the person who organised the trip to see her was the obvious choice and we all sat down to wait his return. In fact he returned much quicker than we expected and said that he had asked that his “assistant” be allowed on board too, and I was the nominated assistant. And so it was up the gangplank I went.
 
On board she was truly magnificent, she had a beautiful dining room and  I will always remember the Caronia model she had on board. It was easy to see how she was always able to rate so highly in the cruising guides. As we roamed the passages we encountered some Scandinavian Stewardesses who asked if it was safe to go ashore. I was not sure how to answer them, the situation in Durban was tense with the march and associated violence, and I couldn’t help but wonder what impression that would leave on the passengers on board this ship. We did try to persuade them to come back to Johannesburg with us, but alas they declined.
 
 
We walked the ship flat, I had a video camera with me and was filming as much as I could, but it turned out later that the camera was an NTSC device and not compatible with our TV system in South Africa, so I never did see that video.  Then it was time to go ashore.
 
I seem to recall that she stayed overnight, and I know we watched her sail because I still have images of that sailing. 

Swinging her to face the harbour entrance

Ready to drop the pilot

As usual we tore through the harbour to get to the North Pier before she entered the channel and then we settled won to watch her sail past us. A beautiful lady, and one that was to lead a long life as Sagafjord, and later as as Saga Rose. Sadly, her ending was not as wonderful and I believe she paused in South Africa for bunkers on her way to the breakers.
 

The open sea awaits

 © DRW 2011-2018. Moved and recreated images 11/03/2016  
Updated: 10/01/2018 — 20:02

Rotterdam, a personal glimpse

The week of 26-29 March 1996 was a busy one for our group of ship watchers. We had three ships lined up for that week, starting with Island Princess and ending with Holland America’s Rotterdam. In between these 2 visit was a cruise on board Rhapsody, but that isn’t covered in this blog entry. Of the three ships we experienced that week Rotterdam was easily the biggest and most impressive.  Sadly though, she was on borrowed time, this being her last world cruise before she was sold out of the HAL fleet. There was talk of her being bought by Premier Cruises and being renamed “Big Red Boat Somethingorother” but she ended up operating as Rembrandt instead before ending up in layup where her future became increasingly more uncertain.
 
My notes for her read as follows: “Built for Holland America Line. Launched 13/09/1958. Last in service with Premier Cruises lines as Big Red Boat IV, (apparently she never formally carried the name Big Red Boat IV) was to be re-enter service for Cruiseshares. However, citing forthcoming SOLAS regulations, CruiseShares indicated that they would not be putting her into service and she remained laid up at Freeport until May 2003 when it was announced that she had been bought by the Port of Rotterdam and her original builders who intend refitting her back to 1960’s style and using her as a static museum ship. In mid July 2004 she arrived at Cammel Laird in Gibraltar for further refurbishment before returning to Holland. Since moved to Poland for refurbishment and removal of hazardous material, then to Germany for more refurbishment. Due to enter service as a static hotel/museum in May 2008. This was delayed until 2010 and the ship has finally been opened to the public. ”   Even today her future is still uncertain as rumours abound that she is up for sale.  
 

On the day we arrived back from our cruise Rotterdam was waiting for us, having arrived the previous night to bunker. Our visit had been pre-arranged so it was just a matter of going on board. Like so many ships you only get to appreciate her size once you see her up close and personal, and Rotterdam was big. She has had a number of different liveries in her career, this time around she was in a dark blue with buff lifeboats, and nary a spot of dirt to be seen. The ship, both inside and out was immaculate.

 In her early years she operated as a two class ship, but clever design ensured that it was not an obvious split. Her interiors seemed to originate from the 50’s and 60’s but it was not a jarring thing, if anything it lent her a lot of charm. This was not some mass market block of flats, but a very tastefully decorated, grand dame from the old days of passenger ship travel.
 
Promenade Deck

Promenade Deck

She has magnificent promenade decks, and was very well maintained. Our guide was on of the deck officers who was very proud of the ship and its heritage. The bridge was large and functional with a  good view over her foredeck and bows.

Bridge interior

Builders Plate

Builders Plate

 
Foredeck from the bridge wing

Foredeck from the bridge wing

Aft deck and pool looking forward

Aft deck and pool looking forward

Part of our visit included a trip to the engine room with its shining turbine installation and boilers. At the time of our visit most of the engine room was shut down with only 1 boiler fired to maintain electrical plant. From there we headed off for lunch at the buffet situated aft. The food was stunning compared to the mediocre meals on board Rhapsody.

Aft decks and pool looking aft

Aft decks and pool looking aft

Looking aft from the bridge wing

Enclosed Prom deck

Enclosed Prom deck

Sadly though, it was soon time to leave this beautiful ship as she prepared to sail.  We were promised 3 blasts on her whistles when she sailed past the North Pier, and we watched them single her up and prepared to take our last pics.
 

 
 

The light was perfect and made her superstructure glow as it faded. She looked majestic as she made her final turn into the channel,

And as she came abaft of us, her whistle blasted her farewell, we answered with our puny car hooter, and from the bridge wing a solitary officer waved his farewell.

She would never again grace our shores, and if ever I get to Holland she is on my list. Ironically one of my friends who was on this visit was able to see her in Rotterdam and he said that she was still magnificent.
 
 
Official postcard

Official postcard

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