Supernumerary in the States

Hope you’re feeling well and coping well with it all. After a flurry of Covid-19-related posts, I’ve decided that actually, sometimes, we might just want to think about something completely different. So – unless there’s something that I feel I really need to post, relating to Covid-19, I’m going to simply continue to post ‘normal’ stuff. A change is as good as a rest. I hope you agree.

Here’s the next installment in my occasional series about living on a ship when I was first married. Hah!! Like that was normal!!

The story so far – my first husband was in the Merchant Navy, and for the first three years of our marriage I travelled with him, living on a ship for six or so months at a time.

My first trip took us from Europe to the South Pacific islands, Papua New Guinea and then home via the Suez Canal. You can read about it here.

We were then on leave for two and a half months.

But by mid-March is was time for us to join our next ship.

Once the leave was up, we were watching the post every day for the joining letter. It could have been stressful – but we were young, and it was exciting. Where would we be going?

They only had to give us 24 hours’ notice. That was 24 hours in which to close the house up for 6 months (don’t leave any food in the fridge!!), get our suitcases packed, and get to London.

Packing was easy – if you’re going to be away for 6 months, and you don’t know where you might end up, you basically take everything (although as a supernumerary I didn’t get any additional baggage allowance). Also – there are shops everywhere in the world, so if you’re short of something you can always just buy it.

And then it was a train to the company head office in London, where we met the rest of the ship’s company and were taken out to the airport. I often wonder what people thought when they saw us walking through the airport – 12 blokes ranging in age from 17 to late 50s. And me.

And then we were off.

This time they were flying us to New York to join the mv Ruddbank. It was a scheduled run from the States to South Africa and back again. It was my first ever long haul flight. No movies in the head rest back then – there were headphones and you could listen to music, and I think there was probably an in-flight movie although I can’t for the life of me remember what it was.

We landed at JFK and we were ferried to the ship, Manhattan appearing in the distance like we were in a movie ourselves. The ship was berthed at Brooklyn Number One Wharf – basically we were parked under the Brooklyn Bridge. The iconic Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre in the foreground. Absolutely amazing. I just couldn’t wait to get up the road – Manhattan was just a walk away, across the bridge. So close.

Well, anyway – we sailed almost as soon as we’d got on board. Hardly had time to get unpacked.

I went and stood on deck. We moved slowly but surely away from the side of the dock and made our way down the Hudson to the Atlantic. And within half an hour New York, in fact the whole of America, everything, had disappeared below the horizon. We were alone in the world.

I shared the moment with a first-trip apprentice, watching the Big Apple disappear, and feeling like an old hand with my one previous trip behind me. At least I was able to tell him not to sit on the bulwark before anyone else saw him do it – fools, firemen and first trippers…

We were heading across the Atlantic to South Africa.

We’ll arrive in 21 days. See you there…

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Photo by Caio Christofoli from Pexels

7 Comments Add yours

  1. Sarah says:

    Brilliant, I’ve been looking forward to the next instalment of your high seas adventures.


    1. Thanks!! Glad you’re enjoying it!!


  2. graham s. says:

    Hi, you re-create very well the joys of youth, the joys of discovering the big wide world. I remember it well, even 50 years later. Thank you for reminding us. At the risk of seeming naive, why shouldn’t you sit on the bulwark?


    1. Oh, that’s lovely, thank you!! The bulwark is the ‘wall’ around the side of the ship. If you sit on it, you are a VERY long way up if you should happen to fall backwards. And of course, ships roll and pitch, which makes it more likely that you would lose your balance. Hence it’s only something that fools, firemen (ie engineers) and first-trippers would do.


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