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.  

Scanning the Slides

When I was still photographing ships in the pre-digital days I was shooting with slide film. There were many advantages to it at the time. The large images displayed on a screen were amazing to see and much better than the standard small prints that were the result of shooting with film. Pricewise it was slightly cheaper to shoot and process 36 slides than it was to develop and print 36 prints. And of course the prints were only as good as the operator of the printing machine. When the digital era arrived I really wanted to convert my slides into a digital format and the first results that I still have is a contact sheet that a friend of mine made on a professional film scanner at his work in 1999. Unfortunately the resulting images, while excellent copies were only 640×480 in size.

A few years later I bought a “Genius” flatbed scanner that could scan slides, and the results were mixed. Because many of the images had vast expanses of blue water in them I could not get a semi decent outcome because the scanner lamp had a slight blue tinge to it and rendered the images less than perfect. The scanner wasn’t faulty either because I even sat with a technician from the company and we were just not able to get a perfect result, or one as good as the contact sheet above. 

I never gave up though and at one point I bought a high end Epson scanner and it could scan slides and negatives but the interface tended to be somewhat iffy. The end result was much better and in some case I had a lot of success with the scanner, so much so that 90% of the ship and cruise images on my blogs were created with that scanner. I did not scan everything though, some images just came out badly and and others I skipped because there was too much to do. 

The scanner did produce some amazing results from negatives, and while I did not even tackle them as a project I really should have, although I never used an SLR for prints.

The images above are both scanned from the 1986 negatives. 

In 2010 I bought a dedicated slide/negative scanner that had just come onto the market and frankly it was a waste of time and money. Surely there were other ways to convert slides to digital? 

Since the advent of the digital camera (and high end cell phone camera too) there are other possible ways to scan slides and when I was in South Africa I did some experimenting. The end results were interesting although some images were a disaster due to focusing issues. My “rig” looked something like this:  

I have a small battery powered pocket slide viewer that I bought in the USA, and it formed the display part of my machine.

I also have a cut down enlarger head stand that enables me to get up close and personal with a document (or slide viewer) parallel to my camera.

And of course my digital camera forms the last part of it all and I initially set the camera on the “Macro” setting and set this up in a dark room with the only illumination coming from the viewer screen. The reality is that I was taking a very close up shot of a displayed slide. 

The output.

It was mixed. Some images came out so well, while others were lousy. The focusing being the biggest issue and that may have been a problem with camera shake or me misfocusing or in some cases the slide is slightly bowed.  I am still sorting the 1331 images that I photographed, so cannot comment on whether this was a success or not. The biggest problem I had was not being able to see the output on a monitor after I did it and now that I am back in the UK I cannot redo the images as the slides are in South Africa. I do however feel that the theory is sound, and I would have liked to have seen what a cell phone camera does under the same conditions, alas I did not have a way to mount one with me so could not try it out. 

I am not done yet and will reserve my verdict till after I have sorted and culled. But it is worth considering as an option if ever slides need digitising. 

To be continued.

DRW © 2019 – 2020. Created 21/03/2019

That last voyage across the harbour

In March 1990 a group of us went down to Durban to see the arrival of the Cunard cruise ship Vistafjord arrive. By way of explanation, I was a member of what was then the Transvaal Branch of the World Ship Society. We would occasionally go down to Durban over a weekend to see ships. Many times it was to see a specific vessel with a visit organised, and it would usually incorporate a trip out on the pilot boat or one of the tugs. Most of the vessels we visited are listed on my ship visit book page at allatsea. These were the days of film so we were limited by how many pics we could take which depended on how much film we had or could afford to process. It was an expensive exercise, and I shot mostly slide film back then and conversions to digital media is not always successful. 

The subject of this post is about a short voyage we made across the harbour on board the dedger Ribbok. She was in her last days, and was laid up at the Ocean Terminal awaiting disposal. The berth she was in had to be vacated for Vistafjord, and we were “in the area” when the pilot arrived. He was an amiable Dutch guy and usually tolerated our puppy dog eyed pleading and would allow us on board.

On sea trials. (Image by Pete Bower)
On sea trials. (Image by Pete Bower)

Ribbok was a diesel electric suction dredger, built by Alexander Stephen & Sons Glasgow as Yard No 698, she was launched on 11 November 1961 and registered in Durban.  She was of 4594 grt, 1726 net, 5120 dwt. and just over 110 metres long with a beam of 18 metres and draught of just over 5,4 metres. (Clydesite.co.uk)

She was a regular sight in Durban and I would have loved to have spent a day on her, but dredgers are working vessels and really would have not been an ideal way to spend a day. 

Entering the harbour after a days work
Entering the harbour after a days work
Ribbok alongside

We boarded Ribbok and took up position, I no longer recall where, but we always kept out of the way of the crew or pilots during their work on a ship. The lines were singled and we were soon on our way, dead ship, with a tug at the bow and possibly the stern. The pilot remarked that the poor old girl was in a poor condition and that was obvious from the many rusted areas and plated over decking.

A last voyage

The vessel literally on top of the tug is the Estrella Do Mar, a small ferry that used to run up towards Zanzibar and Mozambique, she ended up in Durban in later years and we always hoped she would do coastals but that never happened. 

Then we were tied up alongside and we disembarked. We all felt saddened to see this stalwart like this, but unfortunately like so many ships before her there comes a time when she has to sail away forever. Ribbok had very little time left, she was broken up in July 1990 at Alang.

The replacement for Ribbok was the RE Jones, and amongst my images is an image of her alongside Ribbok. 

Bibbok inboard, RE Jones outboard
Bibbok inboard, RE Jones outboard

Unfortunately the scanner chopped off the bows of the pair but in the background you can see the Achille Lauro in her short lived StarLauro livery which puts this image at December 1989. I don’t think Ribbok ever wore the new corporate livery and had her SAR&H funnel livery till the end.

RE Jones underway in Durban
RE Jones underway in Durban

And what about Vistafjord? I have to admit I did find her somewhat of a disappointment, and I only really appreciated her when I saw her as Saga Ruby in Southampton in 2013.

Vistafjord arriving in Durban. march 1990
 
Saga Ruby sailing from Southampton 2013

And so our short voyage slipped away into memory, to resurface during a discussion at our tug group. Good memories, but a sad one too.

© DRW 2016-2018. Created 15/09/2016