Copyright © 2012-2015 by Charles Bird
THE QUIET YEARS
The characters, localities and happenings in this story are the products of the author's imagination or, are used fictitiously. The story is copyrighted and is the property of the author and may not be copied, reproduced or retransmitted without his express permission.
From Chapter 9: Joe gathered all his Captains, who were in port, and he had a quiet drink with them and thanked them for all they had done during the awful conflict that just ended. As they left, Joe asked Toby and Gyles to remain behind. He sat down with his sons, for he had adopted Gyles and Gyles had taken the name, Turner, just after the war had begun. Those downstairs in the building heard both Toby and Gyles shouting, "NO" and then there was quiet. Joe had told them he was going to retire and they were going to take over management of the company.
Toby and Gyles were dumbfounded, they couldn't conceive of being without Joe. They did get him to agree to advise them and be on the Board of Directors. But that was all he said he would do. He told them that the war had just taken more out of him than he could handle and, now it was time to rest and enjoy whatever was left of his life. They were having a difficult time realizing that Joe was over 70 years old! He had spent too many years being overworked and hung up wet. His joints creaked, his stomach was in constant rebellion and he was having trouble sleeping at night.
The two brothers were sitting in Joe's old office, wondering how they were going to manage. Each of them loved the sea and they could see their days as captains of their own ships were ended. They had literally been on their ships since early childhood.
As they were trying to decide how to proceed, there came a timid knock on the office door. Gyles went to answer it and Lomo was standing there.
They invited him in and asked him what he needed.
Lomo replied, "eeer ahhh uh Papas, I want to help. Eeeer ah, can I become a Mate like you did? Toby chuckled and asked the boy, "Have you been talkin' to Grampa Joe?"
Lomo got red in the face and looked down at his feet as he replied, "Yes, Daddy, but I really wanna do it!"
Neither brother could think of a logical reason to refuse the boy, so they set about getting his papers as an Apprentice Mate.
Lomo was eighteen years old and just finished high school. They felt he would make a good mate, the boy was well over six feet tall and had shoulders like a bull ox. He had graduated at the top of his class from High School. He was well liked by all his classmates and was an outstanding athlete. Moreover, he knew about the ships and how they operated. They figured he would make a splendid Mate or Captain!
He had to go to the American Embassy to take to take his Seaman's Examination. He was an American Citizen by birth, having been born on an island in the American Protectorate.
When his documents finally arrived, he again knocked on his Daddies' door and asked to be assigned to a Turner Marine Ship.
They had moved Gyles' Uncle, Thomas McPherson to the Turner Mariner and they both felt that Tom McPherson would be the best Captain to start Lomo in training.
The period immediately after the war was good for their shipping business, there was massive rebuilding going on throughout the Pacific and aid shipments to Japan were beginning to pick up. There was some reluctance on the part of those who had been harmed by the Japanese during the recent war, but most folks realized that there would be more trouble again if the Japanese people were left impoverished and broken.
Not long after Lomo reported on board the Turner, they picked up a contract to ship rice from California to Japan and Hong Kong. The rates were generous and they were able to put together a cargo from Sydney to San Francisco to make the voyage profitable.
The McPherson Mariner was employed on a long term contract with Singapore, hauling construction materials. They expected the McPherson to be tied up sailing between Sydney and Singapore for at least three years.
With nothing left except the small ships for interisland trading, they put in a bid for three surplus Mariner Class ships being offered by the United States Government.
They were high bidder, but the ships were located in Oakland, California! They were talking about the deal one evening and wondering how they were going to get the ships to Sydney.
There was a method to their discussion and they both knew that Joe was fretting with no activity. Toby casually mentioned over supper, that he and Gyles were going to fly to San Francisco and ferry two of the new ships home. Gyles said, "But we don't know what to do with the third ship, we don't have any captains that we can use to get the third ship home."
Joe took the bait, hook, line and sinker!
He said, "Hell, I can sail an empty ship from San Francisco to Sydney!"
Toby smiled, "But Papa, the ship will have a cargo of farm machinery for United Farms in Adelaide."
Joe wasn't as dense as his sons thought him to be. He replied, "Damn, boy, I can sail a ship, I ain't dead yet and I am damned bored. You wanna listen to me plead? OK, I am pleading, let me do this before you have to lock me up in the loony bin!"
So it was the three men flew to San Francisco to take possession of three Mariner Class freighters.
They advertised for crews and were swamped with applicants, with the war over, there were hordes of merchant seamen on the beach, looking for work.
In less than a week and all three ships were fully manned and they even picked up cargoes for the other two ships. Merchant Marine crews are international, All their licenses are pretty much the same and most countries have reciprocity, they are not restricted to just the country that issued their license or certificate.
They decided to name the ships The Joe, The Toby and The Gyles.
Of course, Joe was going to captain The Joe. Toby would captain The Toby with a cargo for Hawaii and the Solomon Islands. Gyles would command The Gyles, but his cargo would take him to Alaska and Korea, before he could head for home.
Joe was as happy as that storied clam at high tide and he sailed first, with the other two following him out the Golden Gate. Joe sat on the bridge of the SS Joe, thinking how different this was from the last time he sailed a ship out of the Golden Gate.
The Joe was cruising at a little better than twenty knots and all the holds were filled with paying cargo! The three ships had been completely refurbished before being sold and none of them experienced any problems on their maiden voyages.
Joe had arrived first and, after he had delivered his cargo at Adelaide, Taffy had a cargo of bagged rice to go to French Indochina from Sydney, so Joe grabbed it before anyone could say anything.
He thought he was putting something over on his sons, but they had already told Taffy to keep Poppa busy with some nice, easy short haul cargoes for a while.
Toby was the next to arrive home, he had picked up a load of surplus Jeeps and 4 by 4 heavy trucks that were government surplus in Hawaii. He had arranged with Taffy to offer the trucks and Jeeps for sale in Sydney. Their steering wheels were all on the wrong side for Australia, but most of them would be used on a farm, so it really didn't make much difference.
By the time The Toby pulled in to Turner Piers, buyers were mobbing the parking lot. The entire load was sold before The Toby had even docked! The fact that the vehicles were all left hand drives made no difference, they sold like those proverbial hot cakes!
Gyles was the last to arrive. He had struck pay dirt in Seattle on his way back from Alaska. He had all his holds filled with prime lumber. There was a building boom in Sydney after the war ended and local contractors bid up the price of the lumber that left all three of them with big smiles on their faces! Douglas Fir lumber commanded premium prices in Australia as it did not grow there.
Joe sat down with his sons for a "talk". He said, "Guys, I can't take this retired stuff, will you please let me keep The Joe and let me be just a ship captain?"
The two brothers smiled and agreed with him. They never told him that it had been their plan from the "git-go"! He had been driving them all nuts in his unhappiness. They would see to it that he got no cargoes that would overtax him, nor last long enough to endanger his heart.
POST WAR BOOM
The shipping business boomed as economies recovered from the war years. Singapore began a building program that kept the Turner fleet tied up for years with hauling construction materials from Australia. The abundant limestone in Australia furnished quarry stone for buildings, limestone for cement and stone pavers for decorative patios throughout the Pacific area.
The McPherson had a long term contract hauling rice to Japan and Hong Kong and the smaller ships, the Camel, the Hauler and the Trekker had hardly time to refuel as they ran from island to island. Even the small island economies were booming right after the war. Their populations increased tremendously and the need for manufactured goods and "upscale" foods more than doubled.
Freight for The Joe was never lacking, the building boom throughout Southeast Asia had Joe almost wishing he had stayed retired! The Toby was booked solid for at least two years in advance, hauling machinery and equipment to the Philippines. Their economy was booming and they were paying a premium for fast delivery.
Gyles had just returned from a run to South Africa when they received a Marconi that Queen Salote, Taffy's Mother, was ailing and that Prince Tāufa'āhau was urgently needed in Tonga.
This was something they had discussed before and James was sent to the bank to recover the valuables that had been deposited there in Taffy's name. Joe had not spent any of it on Taffy's upkeep and the bag of pearls was still intact, even the bag had never been unsealed. The original Bank seal was still in place.
Gyles decided to deliver their brother, The Crown Prince of Tonga, in style. Riding empty, The Gyles could just barely cross the reef at dead slow at high slack tide and enter the harbor at Nuku 'alofa. Any speed at all would set the ship's stern deeper in the water and cause major damage to the ship.
They sailed the next day, Taffy urging the ship to go faster as he was worried about his Mother. He had been back to see her several times, but now that she was ill, he had a sense of urgency.
Gyles ramped the ship up to twenty-six knots as they raced across the ocean towards Tonga. On the fourth day, the island of Eua came up over the horizon and Gyles turned the ship to come up on Nuku 'alofa from the West.
He slowed the ship as he eased over the Tonga Ridge and entered the harbor at "dead slow". The Gyles was the largest ship the islanders had ever seen and Gyles eased her up to the Queen Salote Wharf as he let a mighty blast from the ship's steam horn as the first mooring line went over the side.
He had the Tonga Flag and the Royal House Pennant signifying that a member of the Royal Family was on board, run up the courtesy halyard and, as he escorted the young prince down the gangway, the First Mate, Billy Fable, gave three huge blasts on the horn in salute to the young Prince whom they all considered one of their brothers!
An open car picked them up and they rode along the Bay Road to the Palace. Taffy was waving to all his people and they were cheering him. Tears of happiness were flooding his eyes and his people cheered him and threw him flowers, tokens of happiness and joy. He was a very popular boy!
As soon as the car pulled up to the palace steps, Taffy lept over the side of the car and raced into the palace. He had all the "Pomp and Circumstance" he could take, he needed to find out about his mother!
His people were amazed, he had left them as a small boy and returned as a muscular man, six and a half feet tall and the shoulders of a rampaging bull ox!
Queen Salote recovered from her illness, but the family decided it would be best if their Crown Prince remained in Tonga, so it was with great sorrow that Taffy bid his brother, Gyles, good bye.
As The Gyles slowly steamed out of the harbor, Taffy stood on the pier with tears running down his face. His Mother, Queen Salote, would continue to rule until 1965, when Taffy would ascend the throne of Tonga. By that time, Tonga was an American Protectorate and the Throne was protected by the might of the American Government.
Gyles returned to Sydney, missing Taffy's ready smile and happy disposition already.
James had a cargo for The Gyles, she was to carry grain to San Antonio, Texas and then bagged nitrates from Valparaiso to San Francisco, on consignment to Atlas Explosives That meant he had to backtrack through the Panama Canal, but the freight rate was lucrative. He told Gyles that he would have a return cargo for him before he got to San Francisco.
They loaded the grain in huge sealed metal containers and sailed before either The Joe or The Toby returned.
It was any easy trip to San Antonio and The Gyles made it in eighteen days. Even having to go through The Panama Canal did not slow him up very much. They swung the metal containers out of the holds and onto railroad flat cars. The rail service was poor and it took them a week to offload all the grain bins.
Gyles was NOT a happy camper! He was not any happier when he arrived in Valparaiso, after back-tracking through the canal. There was a wildcat strike going on among the dock workers and it took five days for the government to regain control of the port.
The dock workers were surely and uncooperative, Gyles had to assign ship's crew to make sure the ship or the cargo was not sabotaged.
It was with great relief that he quit the harbor of Valparaiso and headed back north to the United States. It was typhoon season in the Pacific and he had to dodge a storm off the coast of Central America, but with the speed of the Gyles, he was able to veer away from the center of the storm and soon left it behind.
Two days out from San Francisco, he received a Marconi from James, he was booked to haul a shipload of Caterpillar Tractors from San Francisco back to Sydney.
Having a sure paying customer for the return voyage made him feel better and he looked forward to visiting San Francisco again. Joe had taken them to some fine places to eat, while they had been there taking ownership of the three Mariner Class ships and he figured he would be able to find them again. He did!
The loading in San Francisco, actually, across the bay in Oakland, went smoothly and they were shortly on their way back home.
Gyles set the ship at her most economical speed and they headed to Sydney, eighteen days away. It was an easy trip and The Gyles performed faultlessly and right on schedule, Hornby Lighthouse was spotted.
They had to wait until daylight to enter the harbor, but it was a great relief when Gyles eased his ship up to Turner Pier No. 3 and rang down, "FINISHED WITH ENGINES"!
The Toby was berthed at Pier 2 and Toby met his brother as Gyles came swinging down the gangway. They hugged each other and they briefly kissed, before heading into the office.
The consignee of the tractors was due to offload that same night and Gyles told his First Mate, Billy Fable, to handle it, he was going home. When the two Captains got home in Paddington, Lomo was there, bouncing on the balls of his feet and an excited look on his face. He finally couldn't stand it any longer, he shoved a paper in Gyles face, asking him to look at it.
Toby had a grin also, but he held off saying anything until Gyles had scanned the paper Lomo was waving around. When Gyles was able to read it, it was Lomo's Merchant Marine License as THIRD MATE, any ocean, any horsepower!
Then, Toby whispered in Gyles' ear, "Love, he is my Third Mate on The Toby!"
THE 1949 DEPRESSION
1948 ended with a sagging economy, shipping volumes were down and shippers were discounting rates in order to get the business. The hardest hit were the small, inter-island ships. More often than not, they were tied up at the company pier.
Gyles and Toby were doing everything they could to not have to lay off any of their sailors. A few could be placed on one of the Mariner Class ships as there was always a vacancy or two on each of them.
James finally found a contract with the United States Navy for the Camel, supplying McMurdo Station. It was only for a few months, but it would keep the wolf from the door for a little longer.
He found employment for The Hauler, again with the American Navy, they were building radar stations on Guam and Rota Islands. It would be a two year contract, so that would relieve the pressure somewhat.
Finally, the Philippine Government gave them a contract to supply building materials around the Sibuyan Sea for the Philippine Army. They assigned The Trekker on a full time basis to that project. The Philippine Army was building a series of Security Posts against the encroaching Communist Chinese.
They were still getting enough contracts for the large ships to keep them in business, although, they had to range far to make the deliveries.
Joe had had deliveries as far away as Goa. He had The Joe's holds full of bagged rice as he sailed towards the India Ocean. It was a long haul, he plotted it at twenty days and he would have made that, had he not encountered a violent storm between Sri Lanka and Male.
As it was, he missed by less than twelve hours. He had to pause in order to make repairs to the ship.
From Goa, he had a mixed cargo of machinery and brass castings for delivery at Livorno, Italy. He navigated up, through the Red Sea and into the Gulf of Suez. After transiting the Suez Canal, the Joe headed for the west coast of Italy, circling around Sicily and entered the Tyrrhenian Sea.
After discharging his cargo, he received a Marconi from James that he had a full cargo waiting for him in Barcelona. He ran empty over to Barcelona and found a complete load-out of Pegaso Trucks for delivery to Casablanca.
Joe had heard wild tales of the Port of Casablanca, but had never given them much credit. After he had been tied up at the pier for a day and a half, he believed the wild tales! The port itself had no cargo handling gear, everything had to be set on the pier with the ship's own booms and, if anyone even looked cross-eyed at the dock hands, they were calling a strike!
It took them two weeks to off-load the trucks and he was forever, thankfully there was no cargo waiting to be loaded onto The Joe. The minute the last truck was offloaded and he had the dock master's signature on the waybills, he ordered his crew to drop the lines and they departed.
He pulled the chain on the ship's horn and raced out of the small harbor, leaving a wake that tumbled the small fruit vendors' boats into the dirty harbor water.
Joe didn't even look back as the passed the breakwater, their wake crashing over the stone breakwater as they went by.
When he got out into international waters, he slowed down and had the operator send a Marconi to Sydney, asking for a cargo from a CIVILIZED COUNTRY!
As 1951 rolled around, the Joe was in Savannah. James had negotiated a cargo of baled cotton on pallets for delivery to Hong Kong.
It was a tossup, whether to return through the Suez Canal or through the Panama Canal. Seeing as how it was nearing the typhoon season in the South Pacific, he opted to return through the Suez Canal.
While Joe was enjoying his "cruise" Gyles and Toby were struggling to keep the profit line in the "black". Toby had made contact with the American Navy Supply System and had been fairly busy running cargos from the West Coast of North America to the far flung bases the United States Navy operated throughout the Pacific area.
Gyles had landed a long term contract to haul rice and other grains to Japan and Taiwan. His contract had another two years to run, so he was going to be busy into 1953.
The small ships had been keeping profitable, supplying the small islands of the Pacific Ocean with food and needed materials. It wasn't going to make them rich, but it was paying the bills.
Another war is again creeping over the horizon, all of Southeast Asia was aflame and the fires in Korea were beginning to crackle. The Chinese Communists were moving, consolidating their grip on China and looking for opportunities elsewhere. Turner Marine Services is ideally situated to supply the shipping needs of those countries whose survival depended upon food, goods and materials shipped in from the outside world.