That evening, collected and delivered to the wharf, I was welcomed onto the Buxstar again. The captain, who was going on leave, was handing the ship over to a new master, a youngish Ukrainian man. There was only one other passenger, a male New Zealander. There was also a new cook, another Filipino who proved to be an excellent cook, and the food improved considerably. There were other new faces too, all Filipino, but sadly I found that Handsome Harry, the second officer with the fabulous smile, had signed off. Singapore is the Buxstafs home port so this is where contracts begin and end.
This time I had a cabin much the same as my previous one but on the fifth deck.
The ship spent all that day and until eight the next morning at the wharf, loading containers. The harbour was crowded with countless vessels. From the deck or my porthole I watched a constant movement of them coming and going. Apart from freighters the Irina, Hamburg Sud, CMA, CGM, Hanjin there were the blue-and-white fast-cruiser police boats, battered old junks, and the always busily coming-and-going pilots and tugs.
World Map Myanmar Photo Gallery
We left port and, passing a small lump of an island covered with green trees that divided the waters at the entrance to the harbour, sailed out onto a calm grey sea. Towards nightfall thirty-six hours later, we approached Jakarta. As we drew near the wharf a small boat without lights circled us in the darkness. ‘They are not pirates, only robbers, I was reassured by a deckhand, who added that all the access points on our ship had been already secured with boarding repellers. Jakarta is not a safe port. Work began as soon as we tied up but, as the ship was due to leave early the next morning, no shore leave was posted.
I stood on the deck as we left port and sailed slowly along a curved breakwater with a red lighthouse on the end of it. On the other side of the breakwater were dozens of water craft, from a fisherman in a rowboat to big freighters. As we sailed south toward the north-west coast of Australia, two warm, pleasant days and lovely cool tropical nights followed, and it was delightful to be out on deck.
At breakfast the following morning the second officer told me that our ship had been diverted to the locality of a sinking boat that had sent an SOS. We were not in busy shipping lanes here and the Buxstar was the only ship in the area apart from the Australian navy ship Parramatta, which was also on its way. We had been told to rescue the two hundred refugees on board the ship. I queried how we could find room for that many people and was told that this was not a consideration. It was necessary and it would be done.