Remembering the Dorita

Many years ago the Transvaal Branch of the World Ship Society went on one of its periodic trips down to Durban. For some reason I was not with them but when they came back they told me about a small private yacht that they had had a visit to. The ship had supposedly been owned by Elvis and the Richard Burton/Elizabeth Taylor pairing at some point. The next time I went down to Durban I spotted the vessel and took pics of her, but did not really pay too much attention. If only I knew what a historic ship she was back then.

I recently posted her pic on one of my shipping groups and drew a blank so I decided to go see what was available in the outside world. The biggest problem I had was her name. For some odd reason I had labelled the image “Doreeta” but her name was really “Dorita”. Incidentally, the image above shows the former pilot boat R.A. Leigh in the background with the blue and orange funnel.

I discovered that the Dorita was now called “Grey Mist” and looked a bit different to what she looked like back then when we saw her. Her current specs are:  38.71m with a top speed of 13 knots from a pair of 425.0 hp engines. She has accommodation date up to 14 people with a crew of 5. She was designed by Charles E. Nicholson and built by Camper & Nicholsons in Gosport with delivery in 1920 with the name Grey Mist for H.N. Anderson. In 1926 she was purchased by Sir John Archer K.B.E but resold to Harry Vincent in 1934. In 1939 she was bought by Lady Maud Burton and her husband Ronald Rothbury Burton. When war broke out she was requisitioned by the Royal Navy and participated in the Dunkirk Evacuation which makes her one of the few survivors from that episode in history. She later served as a “signal ship” throughout the war. She was returned to her owners after the war.  

She was then bought by Walter Mears in 1951 who restored and operated her as a charter yacht around the Greek Islands. She was resold to Albert Bachelor who took her out of the British Registry, and later re-named her Marina II in 1966. She then drops out of sight until she was discovered rotting away in Durban in 1993 under the name Dorita. She was purchased by Fort Worth businessman Holt Hickman and crossed the Atlantic to America in 1998.   (https://www.berwickcameraclub.co.uk/news/tuesday-24th-september)

She was berthed at Galveston in 1998 and her new owner began a complete refit of the yacht in 2003, which was completed in 2011. (https://www.coastmonthly.com/2015/01/grey-mist/)

I could not find any reference to Elvis or Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton although part of her history is missing. At some point she must have been re-engined although it appears as if she was originally diesel powered which was quite rare in period when she was built. Fortunately she still retains her counter stern. 

There is a complete description of her at (https://www.superyachttimes.com/yachts/grey-mist) as well as an image.  There are two images of her at Shipspotting.com. Use the thumbnails to access the pages. 

© dirk septer
© stuurmann

The Dorita is remembered but it is such a pity that she has become so divorced from her history and her past but she has existed for a century and is a unique glimpse into the lifestyle of the rich and famous. 

DRW 2020. Created 27/04/2020. Special thanks to the owners of the weblinks that I have used in this bit of history.  

OTD: The Sinking of the Titanic

On this day in 1912 the world experienced a shipping disaster that would reverberate though history and leave us with a legacy that continues over 100 years after it occurred.  The sinking of the Titanic is not just about a ship sinking on it’s maiden voyage, but also about the arrogance of man, the structures of class and influence of money, the unwritten rules governing trans-Atlantic travel, the heroism of those who stayed at their posts and the folly of man. Strangely enough at this point in our history some of those structures are still visible as we face a global pandemic. 

The story of the disaster is well known and I won’t repeat it, suffice to say there is a lot written about the sinking, and a lot of hot air written about it too. The concept of fake news has been with us a long time, and a quick glimpse of those early newspaper headlines will quickly reveal that sucking a story out of your thumb is one way to get your foot in the door and get yourself published. 

Unfortunately the sinking did not only affect those on board but also their families. The families of the luckless crew being particularly hard hit, the many graves in Southampton are testament to how the sinking affected the city and it’s people. 

Since the Titanic went down in 1912 mankind has become an expert at killing members of its race, 1500 people lost in one disaster may have seemed like a lot, but it was just a portent to what would happen in 1914 – 1918, and while there were lessons to be learnt about that conflict we promptly did it again in 1939 – 1945. Whenever I gave a talk about the Titanic I would count how many people were present at the function and use that to illustrate how many were in a lifeboat on the Atlantic in the morning of 15 April. 1500 seems like a lot, but in reality it is only a lot when you are amongst those who have lost a family member or a father/mother/son/daughter. 

The Titanic is not only about a ship, it is about people and how they reacted under those unique circumstances, we can look at them and agree that so many met their deaths with courage and fortitude. “Women and children first” may no longer apply in our modern world; we would probably be afraid to even think about something like that because we may offend the PC mob. Yet when the water is lapping at your feet we are theoretically all equal.

The Titanic is a crumbling heap of rust in the darkness of the North Atlantic, let us leave her in peace and let us remember the ship and it’s people on this day. 

DRW © 2020 Created 15/04/2020

Don’t Forget the Mauritius

This past week I was going through my vast horde of ship images to find some material to post on facebook, and came across an old favourite of mine that dates back to when I went to Mauritius on board the Achille Lauro at the end of 1986. I do have a blog post about that voyage at a@s, but almost none of the images associated with Mauritius are on that post. I was really more interested in the ships than the destination, and I was limited by how much film I had with me and the small fortune that it cost to process when I got home. I seem to recall that I had some sort of voucher for Kodak slide film and did not buy any more. Kodak pulled out of South Africa shortly afterwards so I was lucky to even get my slides back. The images here are mostly scanned from slides so quality can be iffy.

Getting back to the subject; we arrived in Mauritius reasonably early in the morning and I managed this image which I am quite proud of.

I had booked for a short tour that would take in the Pamplemousse Botanical Gardensa short stop at the aquarium, a local hotel and a shop that sold ship models. The coach ride was quite interesting but I was not very impressed by what I saw of Port Louis (which was almost nothing). 

Along the way we passed a cemetery, and I managed to snag a pic, little knowing that so many years down the line I would be visiting these cities of the dead regularly.

From there it was onto the aquarium and the ship models (which were way out of my bank balance) before finally hitting the beach at the local hotel for a quick coke and a paddle. I am not really a beach person, and laying around getting skin cancer is not my idea of fun. But, it was pretty and the sea was warm and the suave tourists in their tans were seemingly undisturbed by our coachload of rubber neckers. My excellent memory has just reminded me that we visited the Trou Aux Biches Hotel  but whether the images below are of it I do not recall. The images may also be back to front; I have no way to tell. 

And then we packed our goodies and headed back to the harbour and the relative coolness of our big blue ship. There is something about returning to the vessel after being on land the whole day that is very satisfying, When the QE2 was alongside they used to hang a sign above her one gangway with “Welcome Home” written on it but the Achille Lauro did not quite do it the same way. I went down to the cabin and probably changed my sweat drenched shirt and disembarked again, intent on finding a small boat to take me around the harbour. A suitable boat was found and haggled over and we set off for a quick look around. I call this image a “FBS” (Famous Bow Shot).

Unfortunately the sky was starting to cloud up and I had to curtail my look around as a result but this brings me to the ship that this post is about. 

Alongside one of the piers was a small centre island cargo ship, and she was a real classic. I managed to snag one great pic of her and it is one of my favourite ship images. The other image of her did not come out very well but I have included it here anyway. The ship is appropriately enough called Mauritius (IMO 5229833.), and she was completed in 1955  by J.L.Meyer, Papenburg  for Colonial Steamships Co. Ltd., Rogers + Co, Port Louis. She was 2.092 GRT, 2.300 dw, 1.650bhp 4SA 8Cy. Deutz engines, and could reach 11.5kn and could carry 142 passengers, and was built to operate between Ceylon, Mauritius, Madagascar and South Africa. The vented kingposts aft seem to point to her carrying livestock or possibly fresh fruit or perishables.    

She has long passed into history, and there is not a lot of information out there about her so I am hoping that one day somebody who wants to know more about her will see this image and do the “Aaah….. that’s the one” thing and help keep her memory alive. The rest of the harbour was not very interesting, lots of those long line fishing vessels that were regular callers in Durban. 

In the image above you can see the twin blue funnels of my temporary home from home sticking out. The image below is of a naval vessel although it is difficult to really make it out, the building behind it was interesting, I heard that it used to be a prison at one point but that could just be a myth. 

And then we turned around and headed back to the quayside where the Achille was taking on bunkers or water.

Then it was time for me to be back on board and I bade my skipper farewell and paid him my rupees and climbed the Achille’s gangplank and we started to make ready for departure. The two images below show the tug “Winnie” as well as a bunkering boat.

Because of a strong wind they struggled to get the Achille “off the wall” and even had the small pilot launch pushing and providing moral support. Then we were free and our bows cleared the harbour and we headed back to South Africa.  I sailed on the Achille Lauro over 30 years ago, and while she was not the greatest ship afloat, she was my first ship and she was unique; just like the MV Mauritius was unique.  I never really felt like returning to Mauritius, and much preferred Seychelles and I visited it in 1989 but that is really a different story altogether.  

DRW © 2020. Created 11/04/2020.