The July 1992 Reef Knot featured a trip that we made down to Durban in May of 1992. At the time I commented “The good old Achille Lauro called in Durban last weekend, straight from her season “Down Under”. I revisited her, after an absence of 5 years and was very curious to see how much she had changed. Externally she still looks good, however she is showing her age. I found her very tatty inside, those beautiful decks did not shine like they used to when I walked on them and the area behind the lifeboats was in desperate need of paint. On board the ship the biggest change seemed to have been in the stair towers and aft lounges, maybe it was just because she had finished a busy season? I am glad to say that we were very well received by Starlight Cruises on board the ship and we had permission to wander around at will after the Port Natal Branch had finished their visit. We also bumped into Allan Foggitt and were able to thank him in person for the visit. I would like to wish Allan much success with the Achille. ”
aka: I do like to be beside the seaside…..
As mentioned before, Neville, Tom, Rudi and I decided that a visit to the Achille Lauro was in order, so we departed for Durban, well fortified with chicken pies, Russians and beer. Just to make life more complicated we left on a Sunday morning. The road was long, even longer than when you travel at night, not to worry, we had an able pilot and an excellent crew.
We arrived at around 14H00 and headed for the closest heads, harbour and hotel, although not necessarily in that order. Tom had not seen the Maritime Museum before, so we dropped him off while I went to photograph a few reefers at the fruit sheds.
On the way I noticed that ex CSIR ship Meiring Naude was having an extra deck added on her stern so I went to have a look.
While observing the happenings at Maiden Wharf, I spotted the small cruise ship Royal Star alongside the repair jetty. She was the former Ocean Islander that belonged to Ocean Cruise Lines, and was now based in Mombasa under the StarLine Cruises banner. It was obvious that potential ship visit number 2 was staring us right in the binoculars. We gathered up our goodies and headed over to the Dorbyl yards via Maiden Wharf. The Paul was in, as was a huge Gearbulk vessel and Unicorn’s bitumen tanker Rampart.
All I can say is that Rampart was the ugliest ship afloat in Durban! When she was converted, they placed her superstructure on the forecastle and as a result she ended up looking like a demented Great Lakes steamer instead of a tanker. It looked like half of MSC was in port too, the Barbara D was in the graving dock, and up at the repair sheds the Royal Star was dwarfed by MSC’s Alexandra which was having work done on her hatches.
We put on our famous “puppy dog” faces and Rudi went on board to try organise us a visit. The ship was overrun with workmen and was still on shore power. However we were given a name to contact and enough hope to try for a visit the next day. By now we were pooped and headed for town and bed.
Being perpetually low on funds, we looked for the cheapest and least grottiest accommodation around. We found it at the PH Maharaj apartments in West Street, (only R120 between the 4 of us). I must admit the staff were extremely helpful and we were pleasantly surprised with the whole place. After a restful night and a rapid breakfast of Coke, we set off for the harbour to see the Achille arrive. She was on the horizon as we got to the North pier and while we waited for her to get closer I bumped into Moss Hills, hero of the Oceanos and entertainer on the Aegean Dolphin. We all watched her come in before flying around to the corner of the Ocean Terminal to watch them moor her. It was a windy day and there were white horses inside the harbour! (you can take a white horse anywhere!).
We took a closer look before finding Geraldine to go on board. Of course no ship visit is complete without the Port Natal Branch, and they were present in strength. Our own visit had been arranged separately so we were not intruding at all. Once on board the ship, we were conducted around by Geraldine and I saw all of my old haunts again. It was really nostalgic. After Port Natal had left we were free to carry on with our tour, visiting the engine control room (complete with bullet holes), main deck (with boats) and my old cabin on board. It was all good stuff and we also bumped into Robin Boltman , another Oceanos hero and Aegean Dolphin entertainer. It was like meeting old friends. Both Moss and Robin may be on the Achille for the season and they will really help you to enjoy your voyage.
We finally disembarked and navigated a course for the town where we quickly popped in at Adams Bookshop, Track and Trestle hobby shop, King Travel and the local post card shop. After that it was off to the pilot station. Tom, being our newest member, had not been on the pilot boat, and naturally our spokesman Rudi, did the talking and off we sailed into the blue. Tom was chuffed! It was an excellent trip and I know Rudi especially enjoyed that trip back into the harbour! By the time we got back, it was almost Achille sailing time.
She was originally due to sail at 20H00, however the time had been put forward to 17H00. Unfortunately somebody had parked a dredger in our usual ship watching spot, so we sent Rudi on board to get permission to watch from her decks, this he duly organised, and with hamburgers under our arms we ensconced ourselves on the bridge wing to await the sailing. The night before we had traced our missing StarLine General Manager and he had agreed to let us see over the Royal Star, we were due to go on board at 18H00 and by 17H35 the Achille had decided that she did not want to sail after all. After taking our last night shots we headed for Dorbyl.
After checking ourselves on board, we were met by Mr Ivor Brearley of StarLine. He took us around the ship, as proud a man as could be. The vessel was beautiful and she was small, compact and elegant. In spite of the dust sheets it was obvious that she was well looked after and had she come down to South Africa to do a cruise I would definitely think about sailing on her. The mere fact that she was down here having engine work done was a clear indication that things were looking up.
Sadly our visit ended, the Royal Star was due to leave the day for Mombasa and we still had to get back to Johannesburg. However we first headed for the Ocean Terminal, only to see the Achille heading for the harbour entrance. Our expert pilot took the shortcut and we beat her to the harbour mouth (and every other car which was trying to beat us). Slowly she turned into the channel, her lights were blazing and she had that purposeful look that a ship has once it gets underway. At the end of the breakwater, the pilot boat turned away, blowing three blasts on her whistle. The Achille answered, I had that vacant feeling again, she was sailing without me.
We sailed for home shortly thereafter, arriving in the early hours of Tuesday morning. It had been a very short trip, we had scored two ship visits and got out on the pilot boat. That made it all worthwhile. Thanks to Rudi for doing all the talking and bringing us home safely. Thanks to Allan Foggit, Geraldine and Ivor Brearley for all their help and patience. Special thanks to Neville, Tom and Rudi for a great weekend.
I was the author of this rough and ready voyage report. Tom mentioned in the report we had met on board the Aegean Dolphin and this was not our stalwart Tom W. According to my ship visit book this trip took place between 22nd and 24th of May 1992
Unfortunately the apartment where we stayed had declined considerably next time we stayed there and we had to look for new accommodation elsewhere.
Robin Boltman passed away in early 2021 while Rudi passed away in late 2018.
DRW © 2022. Originally created June 1992, recreated 05/03/2022.