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Orsova Continues Her Voyage

Harry Bonning continues his story of life on Orsova in 1968

Acapulco to San Francisco

"Next stop Acapulco. In the 60’s Acapulco was not a regular port for cruise ships and we had to anchor off in Acapulco Bay and run the lifeboats between ship and shore. This was not as easy as it sounds. In the deeper waters of the anchorage, the transfer from ship to lifeboat was relatively easy. At the quayside, it was a different matter as there was a significant swell with the boats dropping up to 3m below the level of the dock. This required great boat handling by the deck crew who ran the boats with superb professionalism and good timing to get the passengers on the boats as she reached the highest point. I doubt you would be allowed to do this in today’s Health and Safety and litigious world, but it was managed expertly and with no one getting hurt. Most saw this as the adventurous part of their trip.

Next stop Los Angeles where we berthed at San Pedro just before the Vincent Thomas Bridge. We were usually there for a couple of days which gave us the opportunity to explore. Sea World and Disneyland were the favourite destinations, but otherwise, Los Angeles had little to offer in easy reach of the port.

San Francisco was a totally different experience. From the entrance through the heads and under the Golden Gate Bridge, past Alcatraz Island to berthing almost in the City. We were there for 4 or 5 days so had plenty of time off. From Fisherman’s Wharf, the Cable Cars, and the nightlife, this was the best port yet. We found a bar with live country music that only served steamed beer and you had big buckets of peanuts roasted in the shells which, once open and the peanuts extracted, were thrown on the floor so very soon you were walking on a thick carpet of shells. It was also the first time I had experienced a true American milkshake. Unlike the thin watery concoctions I was used to, these were large, thick, and creamy and needed the extra size straw to suck them up and you could probably just as easily have used a spoon. Wonderful!

Of course, it did involve extra work for us in that we had quite a number of passengers disembarking and embarking with all the usual Immigration procedures to comply with.

We had a couple of interesting occurrences on various visits to San Francisco. One time we were approaching the coast and ahead of us was a line of US warships, part of the US Pacific Fleet was also heading for San Francisco.

There were 15-20 warships following a Battleship, the name of which I am not now certain of but could have been USS New Jersey. The flotilla was proceeding at a slow rate of knots presumably to arrive in port at a designated time. We also had a timetable and I was later told by one of the Navigating Officers that our Captain had a conversation with the officer commanding the flotilla and requested permission to steam past the line of ships. I am not sure in naval law he had to do that, but probably a courtesy call. It was quite a sight to steam past all these battle-grey warships in line astern and on into San Francisco Bay.

What was of additional interest that evening was that we were in a bar in town and the news broadcast was reporting on the return of the fleet. Cameras were looking down on the Golden Gate Bridge and the commentator was getting quite worked up about the imminent arrival of the ships. His commentary went something like this. “As we wait now for the fleet to pass under the bridge, the first ship we will see will be that battle-scarred veteran of numerous wars, the battleship USS New Jersey”. Of course, as soon as he said this, what should steam into the picture but Orsova which drew hoots of laughter from us and strange looks from the other customers.

Orsova as seen from the Golden Gate Bridge

On another occasion, we entered San Francisco during a tug strike. The Captain, therefore, had to put us alongside unaided by any tugs. He positioned Orsova across the end of the Pier and using shorelines warped us round, stern first into the berth. Of course, to do this he had to pivot the ship round on the corner of the pier, amazingly with very little damage to the ship."

More Stories from Harry Bonning

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