In a number of posts I relate stories from years worked in ‘line up’ for the ship MV Logos. The job involved various assignments around the world – see line up if you wish to know more about what representing the ship and preparing visits to ports involved.
My initial experience in this role was during May and June of 1979. This had been mainly on my own in the townships of Kota Kinabalu and Sandakan in Sabah, East Malaysia as well as the tiny nation of Brunei. Learning on the job. My next line up assignment was to be in Sydney, Australia – a big cosmopolitan city of 3 million. This would be different. Everything on a larger scale. Permissions and negotiations with many more officials as well as publicity to civic groups and about a thousand churches. I was to be teamed up with a mentor in the form of an experienced line up man Stan.
Getting to Sydney was not so straightforward. I needed a visa for my 2-3 months stay. Logos was owned and operated by an international Christian charity so was also looking for the cheapest way to travel. To facilitate this I sailed with the Logos from Sandakan. We went across a beautiful Celebes Sea in lovely weather to the port of General Santos. This was on the island of Mindanao in the southern Philippines, an island sadly riven by conflict even to this day. After 2 days there I went by car to the regional capital Davao city and stayed a night at the guesthouse of a sister Christian organisation OMF. The next day I flew to the country’s capital, Manila. My host there was a Chinese Filippino and his large, extended family. They gave generously of their time and resources to help me. In the capital I could obtain a visa for Australia from its embassy and also get a crew discount for an air ticket to Brisbane. There were several fraught trips back and forth to the embassy and our shipping agent. I eventually got cleared with a visa and ticket 7pm the evening before my flight next morning at 8am. However due to a mistake made by the shipping agent when leaving ship in General Santos I was also in trouble with Philippine immigration. This meant I was escorted to Manila airport for my flight.
To complicate matters further the crew discount obtained meant I would travel via Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. This made for a very tight transit time to catch the ongoing Qantas flight. The flight from Manila was behind schedule and my possibly unrealistic transfer time was reduced further to what seemed impossible to achieve. I had all but given up of making the connection with the plane to Australia. In those days airports, aircraft and aircrew were not so bound by security and other regulations. Becoming aware of my plight the crews of the 2 planes involved took initiative. My plane landed in Port Moresby and I was bustled down the plane’s stairs to choose and grab my large suitcase from a trolley on the tarmac. I then rushed across with my luggage to the 747 waiting just for me and ready to taxi. It was a bit embarrassing lugging my stuff up the steps into the cabin. My short diary entry for the day puts it more graphically ‘I was thrown onto the 747’. Any shame at holding people up was dispelled by the ‘can do’ encouragement of the Aussie crew and my perceived good will of the passengers patiently waiting. I was only on the ground 15 minutes! No customs, no immigration and no transit through an airport terminal. I had made the connection by ‘walking’ from one plane to the next. Such would not happen in today’s world!
My embarrassment with my fellow Qantas passengers was not over though. On arrival in Brisbane the airport officials learned my travel had originated in Manila. Apparently I was at risk of bringing in a horse borne disease. “Could I take my shoes and socks off to be fumigated?” So it was that a bare footed Scotsman arrived ‘down under’ – mingling in the arrivals queue with his more sophisticated fellow passengers.
In Brisbane I spent four nights in 4 different homes. Again the recipient of freely given hospitality. From there it was on to Sydney where I settled down to work with the aforementioned Stan. We divided responsibilities and I was given the recruitment of volunteers, training programmes, publicity and on board and off shore meetings for when the ship was in port. He was from Liverpool and about 28 years older so there was a generation difference. Before serving on the Logos Stan already had a successful career as a chief electrician in the merchant navy. He had worked on some of the most famous luxury liners of the day including the QE2. Afterwards he had lived onshore for a time before sensing a call to serve with MV Logos in his fifties. He continued with Logos and her sister ship Doulos for many years, I think till his seventies. He became an elder brother to many young people serving with the ships. It had been a privilege to learn from Stan and we remained friends the rest of his life.
Our Sydney hosts were a Scottish couple. They had previously lived on board Logos where John had been chief engineer. Selflessly he and his family put us up for several weeks, serving us in a multitude of ways. They lived in the suburb of Manly. By car it was quite a distance from the city where we had set up a temporary office in the premises of a seaman’s mission. It was located walking distance from the main ferry terminal. We therefore often commuted to the city by ferry – a much more pleasant and convenient way to travel. There was something very refreshing and relaxing about the trip which took about half an hour. Breathing in the fresh sea air. Drinking in the spectacular coastline views and iconic city landmarks such as the Sydney harbour bridge and opera house. A great way to get to the office and to de-stress at the end of the day.
Perhaps being inspired by the Sydney city skyline and a good dose of the enthusiasm of youth I tried to be creative in my responsibilities. I recall getting a tour of Sydney Opera House with a view to hiring for a concert to be put on by the ship’s crew. Sometimes in line up we could get big discounts on facilities, occasionally even for free. The tactic was to relate that all crew and staff of Logos, including the captain, were unpaid volunteers. Our purpose in port was to serve the local community. On this occasion it didn’t work. Commercial interests prevailed and the going rate for the opera house was way beyond our budget.
Another idea was prompted by the great berth location we had secured for our vessel. It was very near the Sydney harbour bridge. Many thousands of vehicles went over it every day. We obtained a mini airship type balloon with an advert inviting people to the ship. The whole contraption was tethered to the handrail of the bridge on Logos. The balloon then floated to be seen by commuters crossing the harbour bridge. It was a success. Alas as an advert it was too much of a success. The authorities said it was a distraction to drivers and could cause accidents. After a short lived existence it had to be taken down for safety reasons. Ah well, worth a try.
What weaves these stories together? An older English gentleman mariner, an expatriate Scots engineer and his family and the Chinese Filipino family in Manila. Also the help of a large number of other unnamed hosts and organisations. My life intersected with these apparently disconnected people and groups. What united us was not our culture or age, our abilities or occupations. It was our common faith in Jesus and a desire to share His love for this broken yet beautiful world.