Not the Reef Knot (2). Durban Trip, May 1988

And once again I present for your enjoyment: The Report on the Durban Trip of April/May 1988 by the Transvaal Branch of the World Ship Society.  This post appeared in two parts in the newsletter and was written by Howard.  Regretfully I do not remember some of the happenings that are mentioned, but have a number of images that tie into the trip. Special thanks to Glyn for scanning this inspite of the endless “load shedding” in South Africa. 

DURBAN  TOUR 29/04 – 02/05 By Howard B

Leaving at 06h00 and with a very tight schedule ahead, our party of four members namely Bryan, Derek, Tom and yours truly had planned to reach Durban by 12h30 at the latest as our first ship visit of the tour had been arranged for 14h15. This would just leave us enough time after arrival to check into our hotel, drive up Smith street to collect our photo permits and arrive at Unicorn’s offices at 14h00.

As usual of course we had underestimated the power of that ever present little fellow called “Murphy” who conspired first to delay our travelling time with a thick bank of fog, and once clear of that to land us behind no fewer than nine large trucks in a row on the only section of the road where it is impossible to overtake, that section between Colenso and the highway just before Escourt where we sat behind them at a sedate 30km per hour for close on 55 kilometres.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, we arrived a half an hour late at the Unicorn offices. We were met there by one of their charming P.R.O. ladies Lisa Hagen who accompanied us down to G berth where we were to be shown over their vessel Tugela.

Unicorn’s “Tugela”. A very poor slide that did not scan well either.

We were met at the gangway by the ships R.O. another charming young lady called Alex. This young lady proceeded to give us a very informative tour of the ship and when this was over entertained us all to a few drinks in the wardroom. Our sincere thanks must go to Margaret Rowe, Lisa Hagen and the Master and Radio Officer of the Tugela for their kindness in allowing us this visit. 

As we had no further appointments for the day, it was back to the hotel to sort ourselves out after that great start to our week-end.

Our second ship visit of the tour was arranged for 10h00 on Saturday, and this time we were not late. We were met at the gangway of M.S.C’s Alexa by her Master Captain Casimo Cannalire who took us up to the lounge.

MCS’s “Alexa” taken on a later Durban trip

There we were asked by one of the stewardesses what we would like to drink and after giving our requirements the Master proceeded to take us on a wonderful, thorough and comprehensive tour of his ship.

Looking aft to the superstructure of Alexa from midships

Whilst standing on the fo’cstle, a strange looking vessel arrived off port limits. A quick glance through the binoculars confirmed that it was in fact a car carrier belonging to “K” Lines called Diamond Highway calling for bunkers on her way back to Japan. What ugly ships they are with their high sides and shapeless form. Anyway after looking at this vessel, we were then treated to a vast array of snacks and refreshments laid on by the Master which needless to say went down very well. Once again our thanks to Don Strachan, Alan Cooke and Captain Cannelire for a superb visit.

We then proceeded across to the Port Control Tower for a visit, where we were able to chat with the two friendly gentlemen on duty for about an hour.

Our next appointment was a visit to Safbank’s new Multi-purpose vessel Infanta. Here we were met by the ships Chief officer, a very nice friendly chap called Thys who gave us another great tour of his ship That night was the party we had all been waiting for. Seventy eight guests from all spheres of harbour life turned up and a very enjoyable evening was spent talking about nautical matters to these wonderful friendly guests.

Safmarine’s “Infanta”

Sunday morning saw us all at the tug jetty at 05h45 as a trip had been arranged for us aboard the Dirk Coetzee.

Dirk Coetzee? or Coenie de Villiers?

This turned out to be a real highlight of the tour as we undocked one ship and docked no less than three ships including Lykes Lines classic vessel James Lykes.

James Lykes

James Lykes

We were on board the tug for just over four hours and our thanks must go to the Port Natal branch and Les Ord the tug’s Chief Engineer for arranging this. Some of the ships we had viewed so far were: Barbara D, Awasuwa, San Luis, Hikadi, Infanta, Tugela, Gold Stream, James Lykes, Vaal, ALS Dedication plus many more. 

MSC’s Barbara D. Early morning sailing

Classic twin island superstructure tanker Awasua

Safmarines’s “Vaal”

Gold Stream photographed on a later trip

On stepping off the tug some four hours after we had joined her a group of very hungry people set off to find some much needed breakfast. This next few hours was to be the first “free” time that we had on the tour so far and a short rest was enjoyed by all. Two major events were still lined up for us that afternoon and evening. The first was to be a visit to Canadian Christensen African Lines vessel Thor I. 

Thor 1 at the Ocean Terminal

At precisely 14h00 we presented ourselves at the gangway along with members of the Port Natal branch. Whilst David went up to the Master, some of us started taking the regulatory photographs, Bryan of course wishing to have his by now “Traditional” gangway shot. This done we were welcomed aboard by the Norwegian Master and taken up to the bridge, where a lot of time was spent in explaining to us the various functions of the controls. The ship was at the time busy unloading a bulk cargo and it was very interesting being able to view this operation from high up on the bridge wings. Our tour then took us down through the accommodation structure where the second officer showed us around some of the recreation and living rooms. Soon it was time to depart. but just before this I had noticed that the officer concerned had a large wad of postcards in his hands. This was too good to be true and for the last few minutes or so I followed that gentleman around like a hawk. On our disembarkation we were all given postcards of the ship which was a very kind gesture indeed.

Sunday night it was off to Trevor Jones’ residence for one of hi, fantastic slide shows. Many callers to Durban were depicted and judging by the “OOHS and AHS” emanating from the Transvaal branch members the show was a great success. Thanks Trevor.

During, the party on the Saturday night I had asked the Port Captain if it would be possible for us to take an early morning trip out on the Pilot launch, and this request was kindly granted, so once again there we were at the Pilot jetty at 05h45 on Monday morning where we were invited aboard the John Cox by Chris the Skipper. Soon the Pilot arrived and it was a long way out we went to put a Pilot aboard a bulker. This mission accomplished it was off to a Japanese fishing trawler with the other Pilot.

“We want pilot chop-chop!”

This is where the problems arose, as when we arrived at the trawler it was quite obvious that it was not them who required the pilot. Just then we spotted another Japanese trawler approaching port limits so about we went and sure enough, this was the correct fellow. After depositing our pilot on board, we headed back to the harbour, only to find on our arrival that the first guy we went to had woken up to the fact that someone else had got a pilot before him, so with another pilot aboard, it was off to the first trawler again. About two hours in all were spent aboard the pilot launch before we returned to our hotel for a welcome breakfast and to pack our belongings. It was then off to Adams bookshop and some hobby shops for our usual “buying day”.

Adams Bookshop (Nov 2017. Image by Google Maps)

We unfortunately were shocked to see the prices displayed on the books there and although a large selection was available, very little was purchased, the books being priced between R80 and R100.  We then made our way through the traffic towards the highway and our drive home. Although hectic, this was undoubtedly one of the best Durban trips we have had to date.


It is probable that we stayed in the Lonsdale Hotel.

The Thor 1 visit was interesting because the Infanta was berthed astern of her which is why I have a “famous bow shot” of Infanta. My Thor 1 postcard is in a box back in South Africa.  Both of these ships were amazing. 

Safmarine’s “Infanta” photographed from “Thor 1”

This article was in jpg format and I used to convert it to text. It converted very accurately too and saved me a lot of typing. 

DRW © 2022. Created 03/02/2022.  Orginally written by Howard B and posted in The Reef Knot of May and June 1988

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