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by Willie Lagarde


I was 3rd Mate aboard SS Israel Putnam in Kowloon many years ago, probably twenty or more before Yorktown’s visit in the sixties and memories of this event are all pleasant. We were tied up across the slip from the Danish freighter MV Laura Maersk, a ship that carried a few passengers, much like our ships did during those days.

Kids were swimming and diving for coins in the water between us. It was an amazing sight watching these kids go deep after a sinking coin then surface proudly showing the coin.

Don't know what possessed me but I decided to try it. The water was green but clean looking so I stripped to my skivvies and dove in. The kids beat me to the coins but that started something.

We soon had a swimming party in Kowloon harbor as others from both ships joined in. May have been a one and only type of event. The kids left in disgust.
On the day we were to leave the sailing board posted on the gangway said 3PM. We never sailed as posted so I figured I had time for a drink or two and maybe pick up a bottle or two for my private stash.

I don’t remember any business women hanging around the bars I visited even though there were plenty available elsewhere. It was mostly British and Australian soldiers and sailors and the contact we had with them was always friendly and peaceful as long nobody uttered the word “limey”.

This bar was on the second floor of a building and I could see the ship from where I sat.

I noticed it was getting close to 3PM but I also noticed the chief mate was in the bar so I’ll go when he goes. Looking around I saw a couple more of the crew and one or two others were just coming in. I ordered another drink, thinking maybe the sailing time has been changed.

Not so, the captain started blowing the whistle and I’m supposed to be on the bridge relaying engine and helm orders from the pilot plus keeping the bell book.

No point getting on the captains shit list no matter what the chief mate does, he is more valuable than me and I’m expendable where maybe he isn’t.
Good thing I went back because I was the one sent to round up the rest of the crew including the mate. The word was ten minutes or find another way back to the US.

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