Sunday, 28 December 2014


Sunday 28th December 2014

Dear Futurest,

We are now drawing near the end of our memorable stay in Western Australia. We flew in last Tuesday afternoon from Sydney, after leaving the  fantastic ‘Voyager of the Seas’. A quick revictualling was all she needed  before she disappeared over the horizon again, towards Fiji on her next whirlwind trip with another four thousand excited passengers aboard.

At Perth airport we met Sharon, Janis’s sister and battled through a wall of heat outside the air conditioned airport buildings to find a taxi. This was no trouble as there were hundreds available.



Agapanthus and Pine in Perth


Exotic Frangipani….


….and Hibiscus


Soon we met Leonard, Janis’s Dad at his home. He lives on a retirement development similar in style to the McCarthy and Stone idea we have in UK, except here in Perth the dwellings are laid out as tasteful small bungalows instead of a block of flats. There are also one or two flats furnished for visitors and we are happily staying in one of these while we are here.

Everything is amazing here in Western Australia, especially the weather. Each morning we have woken to cloudless skies of crushed emerald with temperatures well into the thirties. The weather never varies apparently and can be guaranteed throughout the year. Rain, what little there is, conveniently falls only during darkness hours.



Sunset over the Indian Ocean at Scarborough, Perth


Janis’s eldest sister Raeleen, arrived on Christmas Eve and though we had a memorable and very happy Christmas, I have to say that it didn’t quite feel the same as it does with the air temperature hovering around freezing point or worse and with the possibility of having real snow outside.

Here in the shopping malls little children dressed in festive tinsel are greeted by Santa Claus looking most uncomfortable and almost incongruous in white woolly beard and scarlet fur coat sitting amongst cotton wool snow. Somehow I feel it doesn’t fit in with the azure skies and searing heat outside.

Every day we have been out visiting or shopping somewhere with Leonard insisting in doing all the chauffeuring though with plenty of positive help from the back seat. I think he and his girls are particularly happy being together at this time of the year; a rare happening these days since all four live so far apart.

Leonard has two brothers living in Perth and with them and their families we spent Christmas Day at one of the cousin’s homes. There were thirty four in the party altogether and I was made to feel very welcome by uncles, cousins, both once and twice removed together with spouses. The hospitality was  typically generous and Australian.

Leonard has took us to Fremantle one day and it was great to be able to see the port that I used to visit, so many years ago. After forty or fifty years the place has obviously changed but the wharves where our ships tied up are still there, even though they are not used now as they were originally intended. There are expensive yachts and ferry boats tied up there now and the adjoining sheds have been turned into classy tourist shops and restaurants. We spent a long time at the Maritime Museum along the quay which painted a vivid history of all the different immigrants that have passed through Fremantle over the years.

We  have walked in the city and sunbathed on beach at Scarborough and Rockingham and Some of us have actually plunged and frolicked in the warm Indian Ocean.

But tomorrow morning early Janis and I have to leave this wonderful paradise. We fly to Christchurch in New Zealand on the next phase of our trip to begin five weeks of exploration in the land where Janis was brought up; Aeotearoa, the land of the long white cloud; the land where Hobbits now reside.

I think of you often old Friend and recount all the stories of you and and me together to the locals here. They are most interested always. I hope all is well with you and the weather is not too cold so as to cause drastic catastrophes aboard.

Be assured that I shall write again soon.


Old Salt (the Ancient Mariner)


Saturday, 20 December 2014

Sydney Bound

Thursday 18th December 2014

Dear ‘Futurest’

Here we are in the Tasman Sea again, having in the meantime circumnavigated the the North Island of New Zealand. We are heading back to Sydney now, the port from which we left ten days ago and our estimated time of arrival is on Saturday 20th December.



Our luxurious cabin aboard the ship


The cruise aboard this magnificent ship has been wonderful and though it has rained occasionally, as I remember it was always prone to do in New Zealand fifty years ago, this hasn’t spoiled our experience too much, as it has thoughtfully only commenced during our shore leaves just as we were returning aboard.



The ‘Voyager of the Seas’ berthed at Auckland


There was only one occasion when the weather was a little less discriminatory and that was on the day we docked at Tauranga when the rain began soon after we berthed and continued throughout the day till we sailed.Janis and I arrived back at the ship in this case thoroughly wet through having climbed to the seven hundred feet or so summit of the local Mount Maunganui.

Of the five ports visited in five consecutive days only Auckland, our first port and Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, were of any size. The others, Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty, Napier in Hawke’s Bay and  Picton our only port in the South Island, were really not much larger than villages.

Auckland and Wellington are graced still by much of the Victorian architecture that displays their early British heritage and Napier, which unfortunately was completely destroyed by an earthquake in the early 1930’s, was rebuilt completely in the Art Nouveau style popular at that time. This is now listed and the town looked very spruce since the exterior paintwork has been maintained so well ever since. During the ship’s stay there the passengers were rightly entertained in the streets by musicians and singers imitating that Gatsby style period. Many fine pre-war motor cars were there as well waiting to be hired with suitably dressed chauffeurs.



Art Nouveau street in Napier



Statue of ‘Pania of the Reef’ today

52  Some of the lads on a Sunday walk at Napier

The same spot in May 1958 with crew of MV‘Imperial Star’

Of course I took my camera ashore on all occasions as there was many strange birds and flowers to record.

During our shore leave in the last port of call Picton, Janis and I boarded a small aeroplane on floats and were treated to a thirty minute flight around the creeks and islands in the area.

Flying a bit bumpily at an altitude of 1000 feet the thick tree covered promontories and sandy bays, mostly untouched by Human hand and the water so clear that one could see beneath the surface to great depths, could be appreciated so much more. It was magnificent.

But now we are on our way back to Australia, for Sydney Airport on Saturday afternoon, to catch a plane to Perth in Western Australia, where we have been invited to stay with Janis’s father till after Christmas. That will be wonderful too as it was 1968 when I was last in this city.

So how are you old friend? Looking at the BBC weather forecasts in your area over the last few days, it doesn't seem that you would have suffered too much from the freezing cold as temperatures seem to have hovered above freezing point day and night. Long may it continue.

I think of you a lot and miss you of course. This is the longest that you and I have ever been apart. I know your leisure batteries are suspect and I have arranged for Rob the engineer to come aboard a bit later on to change them ready for next year’s cruising. So when he clumps aboard don’t worry old girl and you will feel so much better when he’s done the job.



The midships shopping area etc of ship


In the meantime I’ll sign off and write again probably from Perth. Since there is no economical wi-fi aboard the ‘Voyager of the Seas’ it is not likely that this letter will be forwarded till we arrive in Sydney. But the date shown at the top is the date of writing.

Goodbye for now old friend


Old Salt the Ancient Mariner

Saturday, 13 December 2014

A Letter to ‘Futurest’

Friday 12 December 2014

Dear ‘Futurest’,

I hope this doesn’t shock you as everything has happened so quickly but Janis and I are currently in the Southern Hemisphere, in the middle of the Tasman Sea on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship ‘Voyager of the Seas’ bound for the port of Auckland in New Zealand. We were standing on the platform at Warwick Station only as recently as last Sunday morning. 



Terminal 5 Heathrow Airport



At Hong Kong awaiting our aeroplane to be loaded up


Patiently waiting at Hong Kong

It’s something we have been planning for most of the year now and I am sure you must have noticed in the meantime that something unusual was afoot.

Other people will probably call me stupid and wonder why I should be nuts enough to write to a boat, but you are my little ship and I am responsible for you. Therefore I have considerable guilt at leaving you for what in fact will be the whole of the winter.



Departure Sydney on ‘Voyager of the Seas’



Looking aft towards the Bridge



Looking along Deck 5, the shopping mall


In our life together over the years it is the first time that I’ve ever left you for more than just a few days so I am naturally feeling a bit apprehensive at being away for so long, even though you are well protected and winterised while Janis and I are away on our adventure.

But let me tell you of that planned adventure in a bit more detail. Currently We are on a course of 096 degrees true heading for the Cape Reinga, the northernmost  tip of New Zealand which the ship should round during the night. However our speed has been reduced to 13 knots so as not to arrive at Auckland before  0830 tomorrow morning. We shall be spending the day there before continuing our journey south to Tauranga, Napier, Wellington and Picton  and then travelling back across the Tasman Sea to Sydney, from where we set off last Tuesday evening 9th December. We shall arrive back on the 2oth.

It’s really a voyage of rediscovery for me as the last time I passed this way was back in 1967 and the above mentioned ports were all those in the North Island that my shipping company Blue Star Line used to call at. I have many happy memories of good times past while associated with these ports.

After we arrive back at Sydney we fly on the same day across to Perth in Western Australia to spend Christmas with Janis’ dad, before returning to Sydney en route for Christchurch, to stay for a while with Janis’ mum, during the period while we explore New Zealand’s South Island.

After five weeks we return to Sydney to fly to Brisbane in Queensland, where Janis’ sister Sharon lives. After a few days there we finally fly down to Hobart in Tasmania during the last weekend of February next year for a weekend’s Blue Star Line reunion before returning to UK during the first week of March.

We left Heathrow Airport on Sunday evening bound for Hong Kong. It took us eleven long tiring hours to get there after which we had to wait another nine equally tedious hours in the airport buildings till we could make our connecting flight onward to Sydney. This flight took us a further eight actual hours of flying before we touched down on Tuesday morning to join the ship the same afternoon for sailing in the evening. So after twenty eight hours of actual flying, across numerous time zones we were exhausted when we arrived and it has taken us until now to  set up new sleep patterns.

But so far the sea trip has been a wonderful experience. The weather is fine and the sea smooth and deep blue, just as I remember it from so many years ago. But the  ship is so different that it makes the ones I sailed on seem so primitive (which they were in comparison of course). Very sophisticated and automatic navigation systems abound on this ship that make the navigational bridge look more like the one on the Star ship ‘Enterprise’ than the traditional one that I was brought up with. The only piece of navigational equipment our ships had were the sextants that we navigating officers supplied ourselves and a lot of the vessels didn’t even have a radar set aboard. On my first trip as 2nd Mate for example I sailed on a ship whose only piece of equipment was a magnetic compass.

The food and entertainment here is plentiful though with four thousand passengers on board the effect is one that I associate rather negatively with our family holidays so many years ago at Butlin’s Holiday Camps. But the ship is enormous and good exercise when one can walk around the full circuit, which is getting on for half a mile.

But I’ll keep you informed of our continued progress later. It will soon be time for dinner and Janis and I feel like a little exercise before then.

I hope all is well with you and I’ll be back to report some more news later.