This was written many years ago when I was still involved with the World Ship Society. Many of the characters in here are based on members within that society. This was written with their blessing, nevertheless: With apologies to everybody.
It was an exciting day in Durban harbour, today the latest addition to the South African passenger service was to sail on her maiden voyage. There were dignitaries for Africa. Nelson was there, so was FW, PW, DRW, and of course Eugene too. There were reporters, demonstrators, rioters, police, hub-cap salesmen and harbour officials everywhere. Indian security guards were busy confiscating camera's, a certain konstabel was asking dumb
questions, late passengers grappled for parking and chaos was the norm. Everybody that was anybody came to see this new ship.
The new vessel gleamed under her coat of kakhi whitewash, she had been built in Boksburg by an all white labour force, dismantled and posted down to Durban piece by piece. On her bridge the master tested the controls, Captain Koos Kopindiesand felt confident, his first officer Niks Weetnie was better than most officers, he could actually speak English and find his cabin.
Departure arrived, the newly launched tug Gonnatjie Piet, resplendent in her British rail colours prepared to take up the strain, the band played Sarie Marais, passengers waved at the crowd on the quayside, throwing naartjies like any average South African crowd. The ropes were singled up and then cast off, slowly the SAMV Naas Botha started to draw away from the quay, suddenly there was a loud crash, somebody had forgotten to remove
the telescopic gangway and this had plunged onto a minibus that was loading its 27th passenger in the cubby hole. The Naas turned majestically, the rugby ball on the funnel a symbol of the shape of things to come in the re-emerging passenger liner trade in South African waters.
Crossing the bar she headed towards Mauritius for a 7 day cruise full of braaivleis, rugby, sunnyskies and fancy dress. The captain retired to his suite, leaving the ship in the hands of
Niks Weetnie. On deck were members of the Bloemfontein branch of the Free State Ship Society, Braam Loodgieter, Hannes Duh, Kan Melkkan and Dries Looper, seasoned sailors, (they had eaten lunch on the Athlone castle in Bethlehem) they would be doing a
scathing voyage report if all did not go vlot! Immediately Braam accosted the first boeremeisie that he saw and proceeded to tell her about himself before bringing up 6 slices of toast on her voorskoot. Kan Melkkan headed for the bar, he wanted to try drink it dry in as few movements as possible, however he discovered that they did not serve Castle lager and only Klipdrift was available. He then burst out in tears and went to the cabin. Hannes Duh and Dries Looper disappeared around the corner, screwdrivers and hacksaws hidden under their safari
suits, they were out to collect some souvenirs. All agreed to meet at dinner that night to compare notes.
Dinner came, there was no sign of Braam, Hannes bought a Schoonspruit mineral water just in case he turned up, the other two tucked into dinner, there was potjiekos, waterblommetjies, koeksusters, melktert and boeretroos for afters. After a
satisfying dinner they all headed for the lounge to watch Bles Bridges, Kan remarked that he was puzzled by the very long cord that seemed to trail behind the ship, the three intrepid ship
enthusiasts went to look but could find no trace of the cord, Kan
was dismissed as a crackpot that had drunk too much mampoer.
Later that night while watching the boereorkes in the main lounge
the ship ground to a halt, the lights went out, came on again
then died again. Everybody rushed on deck, Dries Looper ran into
the set of rugby post masts on the foredeck, loosing his
mondfluitjie in the process, Hannes ran into a deckchair where he
discovered Braam laid out groaning to himself. Kan cannoned off
a big soustannie and her 14 children. In the distance the lights
of Durban twinkled and on the port side the smell of a fishing
boat loomed, Red NUC lights proclaimed the fact that the power
had failed, the ship was dead, and somebody had forgotten to
employ a radio officer. It didn't matter though because the radio
could only receive Radio Highveld!!
The ship drifted helplessly, the trawler contacted Pretoria (it
was a CCB trawler) who notified Durban who notified Portnet who
notified Pretoria who phoned Cape Town who faxed Johannesburg who
wrote a letter to Pretoria who filed the report under middle
secret. The Navy meanwhile had been watching this whole incident
on radar and decided to send a strike craft out to investigate
this vessel with no lights-it could be a communist plot to
infiltrate spies into Durban harbour to photograph ships names
for all we know.
The weather was turning nasty as well, Captain Kopindiesand was
in his cabin, he had eaten a dead polony sandwich for breakfast
and it had made his stomach very omgekrap, the fate of the ship
lay in the hands of Niks Weetnie. As the strike craft headed
towards the stricken vessel the passengers had found solace in
their own ways, Braam was prostrate on the deck, praying for the
ship to sink "blerry fast" so that the torment could end, Kan had
discovered that the alcohol in the boats compass was drinkable,
Dries had found his mondfluitjie and was playing it to prevent
having to listen to a boer who was telling him about how when his
father was around things were different, while Hannes had sneaked
onto the bridge wing where he discovered Niks Weetnie busy with
one of the dancers, Sannie Broekierek under the chart table, the
whole voyage was going to the dogs!!
Finally the strike craft arrived, unfortunately the helmsman got
his starboard confused with a bottle of port and the strike craft
proceeded to strike the Naas Botha right between the rugby ball
and two kugels who were comparing BMW's. (That's why they call
them strike craft.)
Pandemonium reigned, the order was given to lower the boats which
was supposed to be done by a gang of Zulu deckhands, these were
on strike for a living wage so some off duty police were called
to assist them in making up their mind. Unfortunately no mention
was made of loading passengers as well. Braam suddenly got a
stroke of inspiration, remembering his days on the plaas and
forgetting his seasickness took out his knipmes and started to
carve a lifeboat. Kan, always quick with the bottle tied a few
bottles together and with his glass life preserver jumped over
the side, hotly pursued by a young kugel shouting "but doll I
told you when I was on the QE2 ..." Hannes (being a very polite
young man) helped a little old lady onto one of the remaining
boats, she shouted murder and a "mainman" from Pretoria shot him
in the bilge pump (that was where they found his body, he was
actually shot in the head.) Dries was confused (nothing new), he
ran to the side of the rapidly sinking ship, tripped over a
deckchair, slid down a flight of stairs, demolished a glass door,
nosedived through the curtains into the swimming pool where he
swam around until the ship sank underneath him. He later
complained that there were no lifeboats around when he was in the
The strike craft turned back to Durban where it sank the pilot
boat with a well aimed burst of anti-ship missiles, thereby
eliminating most of the members of the local ship lovers club who were on it for a trip out to sea.
Braam and Kan survived their epic ordeal, they were picked up by
a Zimbabwean trawler and ended up in an Angolan jail under
suspicion of spying. Dries was last seen swimming in the
direction of Perth muttering about a refund, Hannes was cremated
but the maid spilled his ashes and the ended up in the
electrolux. Niks Weetnie retired from the sea and was last seen
working as a shunter.
The Naas Botha was raised by a local salvage company who
discovered that in an effort to save generator bills the owners
had used a very long extension cord which was plugged into Eskom
in Durban, unfortunately it wasn't long enough.... The ship was
later converted into a boutique for fashion conscious maltese
(This is definitely not a true story!!)