The Daily Gleaner had announced earlier that
" S.S. Ariguani is sailing from Kingston for Southampton via Puerto Cortez and Puerto Barios on Monday 25 February 1952"
Some years previously Dad had sent me material about careers in the British Army. I think he had obtained this information through the British Embassy in Mexico. It seemed that the Army was offering opportunities for training at the RMA Sandhurst as entry to a military career as a professional soldier. The scheme in those days was known as DOMCOL (recruitment for the Army of young men domiciled in the Colonies). The opportunity included possibilities for further training after Sandhurst.
The longer term prospects included the possibility of an Army sponsored place at a University to study for a profession. The possibilities available were naturally confined to fields of use to the Army like engineering or communications. I had always been interested in following Dad’s footsteps as an engineer. This route through the Army to fame and fortune was apparently the best on offer. As it turned out it was really my only escape route as I was not eligible for any local scholarships and there was no way in which Dad could afford to send me to the UK or anywhere else for that matter to get further education. I had to find my own salvation and a way of getting out of Jamaica.
Later, by good luck and the help of a school master at Jamaica College I made contact with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers (RWF). The master concerned was "Major" Allen. He had served in the Army during the war and had come to Jamaica on demobilisation to teach history at Jamaica College. He did his best to dissuade me from the idea of joining up, but in the end he proved most helpful by providing me with the vital initial link to the RWF.
The RWF were at the time stationed at Up Park Camp on a three year tour of duty. In those days it had been a continuous tradition for a battalion of the British Army to serve in Jamaica in support of the civil authorities. Needless to say this was a favourite posting for Army people as Jamaica offered a beautiful climate and surroundings with the delights of a tropical Caribbean island. This duty was especially prized being in stark contrast to the conditions in post war England at that time.
I had first come across soldiers from the RWF when hiking up to the Newcastle Camp site in the Blue Mountains behind Kingston. Newcastle Camp was a facility that had been used by the Army for well over a century as a place to give soldiers a change of air and some recreation from the steamy heat of the coastal lands and confines of life in Kingston. It was really a small cantonment with a few barrack huts perched on the steep slopes of the mountainside at an altitude of about 4000 feet with a marvellous view to the south over Kingston, its harbour bounded by the Palisados and the distant deep blue of the Caribbean Sea.
The camp had a NAAFI canteen, ablution blocks and other buildings and the typical paraphernalia of an Army outpost. In those days the Union Jack still flew at the masthead on the parade ground. The parade ground was just a large platform cut out from the side of the hill below the camp buildings. It was a dusty forlorn place being unsealed and generally featureless. But it was remarkable for the carved images on the hill side abutment. The carvings had been put there by nearly every regiment that had served in Jamaica since its capture from the Spanish in 1665. These images were the coat of arms or some other regimental insignia that identified each unit that had been in Newcastle Camp and showed the dates of their service on the island. They presented a unique record. I have wondered since whether these mementos have been allowed to remain as reminders of British links with Jamaica after independence in 1962.
Anyhow, I was on my way home down the steep unsealed road that started at the base of the parade ground when I heard the tramp of Army boots. Shortly a body of about 30 men came trotting round the corner in a cloud of dust. They were headed by a sergeant who was red faced and sweating like every other man in his platoon. He was exhorting them in loud stentorian tones "c’mon lads, we’re almost there, keep goin’, lef roit lef roit"……Although they had been sent for a change of air, the Army could not let them remain idle for long and had sent them on a time honoured route march to keep fit. They wore heavy hobnailed boots, blue woollen socks, puttees and shapeless, ill fitting khaki shorts that seemed too large. Stripped to the buff their tough skinny bodies were exposed to the pitiless tropical sun. Yet they seemed happy enough as the thundered past to get up the hill to ablutions and a well earned rest. I wondered as I saw them go how soon it would be my fate to be part of such a group under the unchallengeable discipline of an Army NCO.
Some time afterwards in early 1951 I made formal contact with the RWF. I was given an appointment with the second in command of the Battalion in response to my request to join the Army under the DOMCOL Scheme. I cannot remember the details of what followed except a sequence that included a formal interview at the headquarters in Kingston’s Up Park Camp. This was followed by form filling, X-Rays, dental and medical examinations and more correspondence. I had to find two referees and a JP to vouch for me and to prove I was worthy citizen with no police record.
In the end I was told that the Army was prepared to provide me with passage to the UK. I was to present myself before the Regular Commissions Board in Wiltshire (Westbury) for possible selection for training at Sandhurst. There were of course conditions attached. One was that if I was not selected by the Board I would be left to my own devices in the UK…there was to be no return passage at Her Majesty’s expense! The Army would virtually wash its hands of me except that I could be called up for National Service of two years if I decided to stay in England anyway.
If I did pass the RCB I was then to enlist as a private soldier for a minimum term of "3 & 4" (3 years in the Regular Army and 4 in the Reserves) to complete basic training before proceeding to the Academy.
I was requested to accept this offer by signing a formal paper witnessed by a JP. I did so, not really knowing what I was letting myself in for, but glad to have this lifeline out of the Colony.
Subsequent events followed very quickly. These included receiving a "Movement Order". This was to be the first of many I received during the course of the next 20 years. It had nothing to do with bowel motions. Rather it essentially stated I was to board the SS Ariguani in February 1952 for passage to Southampton with further instructions to report to the RCB at the end of March 1952.
Christmas 1951 was to prove my last in Jamaica. It was a sweet yet sad time tinged with regret at the imminent prospect of parting with Mum and Charmian. I had a premonition of huge changes in my circumstances and trying times ahead, but I was too naïve to fully realize and prepare for what I had ahead of me. The immediate future was simple. It was filled with hope and the independence I longed for, and there was the prospect of adventure in new places. I happily anticipated a pleasant voyage with friendly people as fellow passengers and calm sunlit seas to travel over. I had only vague ideas of what England would be like and how I was to find my way around and spend my time before I was finally accepted for service.
I spent my last weeks in Jamaica in a kind of trance. Having left school I felt at a loose end as if this was a calm before a storm. However, in reality the time went quickly by. I had a number of things to get to prepare for the voyage and for life in the UK including suitably warm clothing.
Mum was as always there in support and she made sure that everything I was to take with me was suitably labelled with my name. She used labels on which "M.Ough" was stitched in blue cotton thread. She had ordered a roll of these and patiently sewed a label onto every item of mine that she could find.
Some of the time I spent reading about England and trying to anticipate what I would find there. I also tried to get some money together to supplement what Dad was able let me have. There wasn’t enough time to get a job, so I concentrated on trying to sell the few things of value that I had. These included an old Francis Barnett two stroke motorcycle, an old Meccano set and some books. I cannot say that I was particularly successful. The motor bike fetched 3 pounds I think. The rest of my first business venture produced another 2 pounds and a few shillings and pence.
Finally the time of waiting came to an end and all that was left to do was to say goodbye to friends like Harry Dayes, Peter and Primrose Crooks and of course to Charmian and Mum. Mum and Charmian took me down to the wharf in the old Austin car and we all boarded the Ariguani. I quickly found that I was sharing a cabin with someone from the RWF. After dumping my trunk in the cabin we started to explore the ship. We had only got as far as the main saloon when the announcement was made over the public address that the ship was due to sail and that all visitors were to go ashore.
It all seemed to happen so very quickly. The time really had arrived when I had to say goodbye to Mum and Charmian and to leave them behind. I must admit to a spasm of fear and a lump in my throat when seeing Mum and C go down the gang plank to wave farewell from the wharf as the lines were cast off and the boat began her long trip to England and a new life for me. It was to be another 2 months before I had any contact with them… that was the time it took for a letter of mine posted in England to reach them and for their reply to return.
The ship quickly made her way through Kingston Harbour. I stood on the top deck behind the bridge to watch her progress. It was a lovely tropical day, blue skies studded with sheer white clouds and a strong wind blowing. The water in the harbour was unaffected by the wind and enabled a smooth start for the voyage. We passed quite close to the Palisados where the hulk of one of the ships forced aground during the previous year’s hurricane had been left to rot. We passed the tiny town of Port Royal very quickly and were soon through the harbour entrance and into a heavy sea. The Ariguani then dropped the Pilot off and set a course to the Southwest heading for the coast of Central America. The Pilot Boat was left in our wake tossing in a rough sea, but heading for the calmer water behind the Palisados.
By this time the ship was already feeling the effects of the open sea. She started a long rolling, corkscrew motion in time with the long 4 meter high swells created by the Trade Wind. It was not long before I started to feel sea sick so I returned to the cabin for refuge. My companion turned out to be 2/Lt L.M. Price who was returning to the UK having completed his two year stint on National Service with the RWF. He seemed quite unaffected by the nauseating motion of the ship. Sea sickness had also affected most of the passengers and few turned up for the first meal of the day
The Ariguani was an old vessel built pre war in 1926 to carry bananas, general freight and passengers between the British West Indies and the UK. Run by the Fyffes Line she was owned by the old Elders and Fyffes Company of Stratton Street in London .
She was coal fired and powered by an old fashioned triple expansion steam engine. She was only about 6700 tons and was driven by a single screw. She provided accommodation, single class, for about 70 passengers, but her main role was the carrying of fruit, most usually bananas, and these were held in large refrigerated holds fore and aft. The freight was worked into and out of the ship with derricks and steam driven windlasses moving the fruit in large rope nets.
The passenger cabins were on two decks and well above the water line. Cabins in the lower deck all had portholes and were accessed by a long passage way running on the inside of the vessel. The upper deck provided access to more cabins as well as the public rooms of the ship like the saloon forward, a small library and reading room amidships, the dining room and a games room aft. These were accessed from a covered promenade deck which proved very popular. I soon discovered that I could walk all the way round the ship on this deck with a good view of everything that was going on. Above the promenade deck was another that started with the bridge behind which were cabins and work rooms for the crew. The wireless room was situated on this deck as were the Captain’s and First Officers accommodation. This was also the life boat deck where three boats either side were hanging on davits and fixed by steel cables with quick release harnesses in case of need.
The life boats did not fill me with confidence, being open and equipped only with oars. They could hold about 15 people each and promised a crowded, wet and hazardous existence if ever they had to be launched onto the ocean in an emergency. But they were built to satisfy the minimum requirements of the Lloyds register and so presumably were fit for the purpose.
Out of the top deck rose the single orange funnel and several large ventilators. These were vertical pipes of a large diameter of perhaps 2 feet, and were bent at right angles at the top so that they could catch the wind and direct fresh air into the engine room far below as well as the cabins and public rooms in the decks underneath. The ventilators could be turned into the wind from any direction, but most of the time were pointed forward to take advantage of the wind created by the ships own motion through the sea at some 15 knots.
My cabin was on the starboard side forward on the lower deck with a porthole for light and air. There were two bunks, one above the other. I was happy with the top bunk as my companion passenger preferred the lower. Anyway, who was I to gainsay someone who already had achieved what I was hoping to do, and who was older than me. I was also conscious of the advantage of being on the top bunk in case of seasickness, being reminded of my father’s story of the foreigner who had taken the lower bunk, and whose poor knowledge of English prompted him to look out when the passenger above had yelled out "look out" before being sick.
One of the best known of the company's pre-war classic steamers to survive into post-war years was the 1926 built ARIGUANI seen above arriving in Avonmouth. She was broken up in 1956 by which time she was probably the last coal-burning Atlantic liner.
We started off with the porthole open. The tropical heat made the cabin unbearably hot and the stagnant air from the ventilators provided little or no relief. In fact through the first week of the voyage I found it much better to be out and about exploring as much of the ship as I could and taking advantage of the fresh wind outside. This provided a huge relief from the nausea of sea sickness that I endured for the first day or so.
The Ariguani took nearly two days to reach the first port of call, Puerto Cortes in Honduras. At 15 knots cruising speed she achieved about 400 miles a day, so the distance to the port of 500 miles was soon covered. She took a course almost due west after clearing Portland Point on the coast of Jamaica and with fine weather and a reasonable sea the voyage proved very pleasant. We arrived off the entrance to the bay about midday on 26 February. It was still bright and sunny and there was a fairly strong breeze onto the land. The Ariguani stopped to wait for the pilot who came on board via a rope ladder slung over the side. She then proceeded slowly towards the bay and proceeded up an ever narrowing waterway. The reason for proceeding so slowly soon became apparent as she touched a submerged sand bank and had to go astern to avoid it. In doing so the lovely blue clear water under her keel soon became a dirty yellow mass as her reversing propeller stirred up the muddy bottom. After several more manoeuvres to avoid obstacles on the way SS Ariguani was quickly tied up against the local wharf.
Soon the hatches were opened and a line of men each carrying a large bunch of green bananas climbed up the gangplanks to load the holds. A conveyor belt had been rigged for the forward hold to take the bananas down to another gang who carried them into the hold onto racks for the voyage. The derricks were used for loading the rear hold hauling up bunches of bananas placed into the rope nets by other workers on the dock, and lowering them into the hold for final placement.
This labour intensive operation went on all night and must have involved over a hundred locals labouring to carry and place the banana bunches. I remember being struck by the poverty of the workers. Most were dressed in simple cotton shirts and trousers, wore straw hats and were either bare footed or used a simple leather sandal to protect their feet from the burning surfaces of the decks, gang planks and dock. Most also used a piece of old sacking draped over a shoulder on which they carried bananas. The weight of each bunch was significant….I imagine they averaged perhaps 20 kilos or well over 40 pounds each, making the work very hard.
There was an air of neglect and hardship about that port that was depressing. The warehouse out of which the bananas were being carried was almost derelict with holes in the roof and walls. The railway wagons on the wharf were being shunted and moved away by a small diesel locomotive that sported more rusty surfaces than painted; its smoky erratic exhaust providing sad evidence of neglected maintenance and abused machinery.
The mooring lines holding the old Ariguani to the wharf had been placed with metal disks as a means of preventing rats and other unwanted vermin from getting on board. But the gang planks and boarding ladders were not protected so it was highly likely that those already on board were able to go ashore and exchange places with their local cousins.
Not so the passengers, we were not allowed ashore, probably for good reason as there was nothing to see on the wharf itself and the town was some miles down the coast road. The town had a bad reputation as a lawless slummy place anyway, so we stayed on board to await better times.
Actually the loading process for me was interesting and I spent much of the time just watching what was going on. The scene at night was particularly fascinating. The ship was lit by large lights placed on the masts and at strategic points on the sides so as to illuminate the areas where the work was going on. Inevitably these lights attracted swarms of flying tropical insects, many of which perished to fall on the decks and mingle with the leaves and other detritus brought on board by the banana men. In keeping with local habits and custom this rubbish was augmented by the mucus of the hawking and spitting labourers.
Next morning I woke to the sound of water being hosed onto the decks and the ripe language of the ships crewmen engaged in clearing up the mess of the night before. Fire hoses had been rigged and the cascades of water were being directed to every part of the sullied decks. The crew were aided in this work by some of the locals and it was not long before everything had been cleaned and the ship made ready to leave.
We reached Puerto Barrios in Guatemala late the same day to repeat the loading operation. This time however the work went much more smoothly and everything was relatively more efficient. The approach to the wharf was in deep water and presented no problems; dock and cargo handling gear was newer and more modern. Conveyor belts were used to load both holds directly from the dock. This eliminated the need for labourers to carry the banana bunches on the ship themselves.
The final loading to fill the ship was completed during the night. The crew were also much happier because there had been much less cleaning of decks and hosing down needed to prepare the ship for the voyage. We were able to set sail for England early next day the 27th February.
We set off on another lovely tropical day with relatively calm seas. Most of the passengers had found their sea legs by this time and so there was more socializing. I made friends and found good companions with several people, amongst whom were Arthur Coombs, Joy Winters, Sergeant and Mrs Newby and Lieutenant Mike Price.
But life’s realities soon intruded, the first unwelcome experience occurred that first day at sea. I was on the aft top deck watching the receding coast of Guatemala when I got into conversation with an elderly passenger. Despite the heat of the day and the warmth of ship generated wind he wore clothing more fitting for winter in England. This included a hat and scarf and a heavy tweed jacket. I thought it eccentric at the time, but this impression was soon overwhelmed by a much greater and immediate concern.
His countenance suddenly became ashen grey, his eyes rolled so I could only see the whites, he started frothing at the mouth and collapsed onto the deck, his frame rigid, yet shaking violently, his feet drumming on the deck. It seemed an age before I reacted as I stared in horror and panic, not knowing what to do. Eventually, I got down beside him and tried to open his mouth to help him breath. But his jaw was clamped shut and he started to breath noisily, sucking air through his nose with great difficulty.
Fortunately some one else came on the scene and went off to fetch medical help. That arrived in the form of the ship’s doctor, but only after what seemed a lifetime. In fact the doctor probably got to us within 10 minutes, and he quickly took charge, and administered a sedative of some sort to calm the man down. The stricken passenger was then helped down to his cabin and I did not see him again for the rest of that long voyage.
Of course rumours began about the poor man. All sorts of wild ideas were exchanged about the cause of his illness and his subsequent absence from sight. Sunstroke, heat exhaustion, drunkenness, dementia, were the rumoured reasons for his collapse. But in conversation with the Doctor it turned out that this poor passenger had boarded the ship in England for a round trip voyage to restore his health. He suffered from epileptic fits and it was just that which struck him on the day we left Puerto Barrios. He also had a bad heart and so had to be confined to his cabin to recover.
By the end of the next day the Ariguani steamed through the Windward Passage between Cuba and the large island of Hispaniola ( Haiti Dominica ). She must have passed Jamaica during the night because I never saw that island again for another
Up to that point we had enjoyed good weather and relatively relaxed sailing. But as soon as we were north of the Tropic of Cancer and out of the tropics things became more ominous. The sea was now rougher and the skies had become a pale blue almost grey slate in colour. Even so to keep the passengers happy the crew had not yet taken down the canvas swimming pool they had rigged in the fore deck well behind the hatches. This was square in shape, perhaps 15 feet by 15 feet and 4 feet deep. It was filled with sea water. The rougher seas brought back the onset of seas sickness for many passengers and few were game enough to attend mealtimes in the dining room. I suffered along with the rest, but found refuge in the canvas swimming pool. The water in it moved of course with the rolling and pitching of the ship. But somehow it compensated and reduced the worst effects of the ship’s gyrations. My nausea abated for as long as I stayed in the pool and so I made great use of it.
But then the weather deteriorated even more as we entered the vast wastes of the ocean and climbed to more northern latitudes. It was now early March and still the season for winter gales in the Atlantic. As soon as the first signs of gale weather appeared. the crew set about preparing the ship for the worst. Fiddles were fixed to all the tables in the dining room and forward saloon to prevent crockery and cutlery from sliding off. Wooden strakes were screwed on the library shelves to hold the books, the canvas swimming pool disappeared and the hatches battened down. There was now no question but that every port hole had to be shut and shutters put up to prevent damage to flat glass panels on some parts of the bridge itself.
We also had another life boat drill. The signal was several long blasts of the ship’s horn. All passengers had to assemble at their appointed life boat stations wearing life jackets ( the old fashioned Board of Trade design that made you look like a square version of Humpty Dumpty) and warm clothing. On that occasion the wind was blowing some 40 knots, the grey sea was a mass of roiling water pushed along as huge ranked waves and rain was pelting down. This wild, cold scene made me even less confident about the prospect of committing myself to an open life boat. It made me appreciate all the more what other much more intrepid people had faced in the days of sailing ships, wartime convoys, and endless days at sea.
The next two weeks were punctuated by a series of gales. They seemed to assail the old Ariguani one after the other with malevolent intent. She rolled, pitched, cork screwed , stalled, stopped, started again as the huge waves came again and again to strike at her. At times her screw would come of the water as her stern was lifted high and then she shook as if she were out of control. The engineers did their best to prevent this, or at least anticipate it to reduce the effects, but once the propeller was out of the water it took several seconds before her massive engine could be slowed down to reduce the vibrations and the shock of the propeller when it hit the water again.
Sea sickness returned with a vengeance. But I had passed through the stage of violent vomiting and being unable to retain any food. Instead I seemed to suffer from a continuous nausea and disinterest in food. I spent a lot of time wandering around the boat to get fresh air and exercise, occasionally diving into the saloon or library to get out of the weather. I searched for a place in the ship where its motion was least, a sort of centre of motion that was relatively steady and about which the boat rotated, cork screwed its way along. The best place I found was on the top deck behind the bridge. The trouble with that was that it was in the open and not a good place to stay very long, especially in driving rain and biting cold.
Meal times came and went. The food on offer was on the whole pretty good, but I remained disinterested for much of the time.
That was until the refrigeration system for the banana cargo failed. This was a serious handicap for the ship because without refrigeration the bananas would ripen before they could be landed. There was a high risk that a large part of the cargo would be ruined before we reached England. Fortunately the engineers managed to restore refrigeration to salvage most of the cargo, but not before many bunches had started to ripen prematurely.
The result was a choice for the Captain to either dump the ripening fruit overboard or feed it to the passengers. And so it was that for every meal over the last days of the voyage we found bananas on the menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as morning and afternoon tea. Fried, boiled, mashed, sliced, with milk, or with sugar, or with molasses, or with sweetened condensed milk or just au natural….every variation of ways of persuading passengers to eat the fruit was tried. They even provided fruit trays in the cabins to tempt one. Needless to say the only fruit on offer was bananas! I found it very hard to face bananas again for a long time after that voyage!
The passengers were on the whole a friendly bunch. There was no way of making any meaningful contact with other than a few in the relatively short time of the voyage. But Arthur Coombs was one I specially remember. Like some other passengers he had joined the Ariguani for the round trip sea voyage from England. He had done so on the recommendation of his doctor that the change and the sea air would do his health good. Arthur suffered heart problems and had survived the London blitz by the skin of his teeth. He had been bombed out of his home at least twice. His nervous disposition may have been the result of his trials during that time or he was naturally inclined to be retiring and somewhat shy. He was a small, balding man in his sixties and a confirmed bachelor. Arthur had the reserve of a typical Englishman, and initially I had some difficulty in striking up conversation with him. But once this initial reserve was overcome he turned out to be a generous and informative friend. Generous in the sense that he never tired of my questions about life in England and informative in that he never grudged trying to answer even what to him must have been some pretty inane questions from an inexperienced teenager who had very little idea about how to get about let alone live in England.
Arthur had a keen sense of humour and never complained about anything. He was always cheerful, even when the weather and the Ariguani were at their worst. I don’t think I even heard him complain about the super abundance of bananas at the end of the voyage, I suppose having been so short of them as a result of wartime rationing he would have been pleased with any quantity. He had an almost obsessive passion for minor and endless detail. He particularly liked crossword puzzles, maps and timetables. I was lucky in that he was able to tell me how I could get a train from Southampton to Honiton in Devon when we landed. I think he must have enumerated at least six different ways I could do the trip and how to go about getting tickets and where to change trains. In those days before Dr Beeching’s axe fell on the British Railway system there really were many alternative routes one could take to get from one place in the British Isles to another. I am sure I would have quickly become very lost if I had not had the benefit of his help.
Arthur also knew a lot about ships and shipping, especially about the British Merchant Navy. His work as an accountant had brought him into contact with shipping and things connected with the sea. He had researched both the owners of the Ariguani as well as the ship itself. He passed on much of the following information that I have since confirmed through my own searching of the Internet.
At 03.54 hours on 26 Oct, 1941, U-83 fired three torpedoes at the convoy and saw three detonations and columns of fire between running times of 4 minutes 28 seconds and 5 minutes. Kraus claimed three ships sunk with 18.000 tons. In fact, only the HMS Ariguani (F 105) (Cdr R.A. Thornburn) was damaged by one torpedo. The vessel was abandoned, later reboarded and towed to Gibraltar.
Two days before, after the sinking of the SS Carsbreck 18 survivors had been transferred to the HMS Ariguani (F 105). These men were picked up by the HMS Campion (Lt Cdr A. Johnson) after they abandoned the HMS Ariguani (F 105) and were later transferred to HMS Vidette (LtCdr E.N. Walmsley) and landed at Gibraltar.
After repairs the HMS Ariguani was taken over by the Ministry of War Transport (MoWT) In October 1943 and used by the Royal Navy as ocean boarding vessel (OBV). At the end of the war she was returned to owner and converted back to duty as a passenger cargo vessel. She returned to carrying fruit and passengers from the Caribbean to the UK until 1956 when she was finally decommissioned and broken up for scrap. This was a rather sad end for a ship that had faithfully served both her owners and the Royal Navy.
So I was on the few remaining voyages of the Ariguani as she had only another 5 years of useful life in her. She was certainly showing signs of her age even at that time. The refrigeration system was not the only machinery to suffer from breakdowns. At least one of her cargo windlasses broke down during loading and her fresh water generators stopped working for several hours. She also showed rusted plates and fittings where peeling paint had exposed the surface to the elements. Yet for all that she was a comfortable and clean ship, with internal fittings of high quality. The wood work and panels in the cabins and public rooms had obviously been made by skilled craftsmen and were lovingly polished and maintained.
Her crew were also competent people who went about their business quietly and effectively. The only one I disliked being the steward who looked after the starboard lower deck cabins. We saw little of him during the trip and he provided minimal help with a surly air. At the end he was very ready to standby with his hand out for a tip unlike many of the other crew who had been far more friendly and helpful during the voyage.
Finally on the 16th March Ariguani entered the English Channel. I had been led to expect that the Channel would provide the worst of weather. As it turned out, the gales had ceased within sight of Lands End and the last hours of the voyage were peacefully calm. She approached Southampton Harbour through the Solent. I could not see much except the shadows of land beyond the myriad navigation lights and the glare of the lights of Southampton. Everything seemed so busy and well organized as Ariguani navigated her way along the channel avoiding vessels of all kinds that seemed to compete for space and routing.
In the early hours of the 17th March she stopped briefly to pick up the pilot and immigration people. Passengers were then called into the main cabin to be processed for landing. It all seemed so simple and easy and contrasted with the endless bureaucratic processes that had been my only previous experience in Mexico and the USA.
Whilst the business of immigration was being completed Ariguani docked and in just the space of a few more hours I found myself ashore with one suitcase negotiating the purchase of a train ticket to Honiton. It was a bit of an anti climax, but a happy start to a new adventure in England.
APPENDIX A. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION
· 1901-1911 Avonmouth - Kingston - Costa Rica.
· 1901-1916 Canary Islands - Liverpool / London / Avonmouth.
· 1901-1967 Avonmouth - Kingston - Central America (Ports: Port of Spain, La Guaira, Santa Marta, Cristobal, Puerto Limon, Tela, Hamilton, Bermuda and smaller Jamaican ports)
· 1901-1912 Manchester - Jamaica - Central America.
· 1912-1965 Garston - Jamaica - Central America.
· 1926 Regular calls at Rotterdam and Bremerhaven introduced.
· 1927-1931 London / Garston - Canary Islands.
· 1931-1939 Southampton included in the Rotterdam / Bremerhaven route.
· 1939-1940 Avonmouth - Cameroons.
· 1946-1964 Europe / London / Avonmouth - Cameroons.
· 1949-1967 Inbound became Kingston - Southampton - Rotterdam.
· 1967-1988 Southampton became the UK terminal.
· 1988 to date Portsmouth - Surinam the main service.
© Copyright M.& M.M.O.Dealy 2007-2010
This page last modified on Thursday, July 10, 2014