Left the last of the Keys around midnight, and sighted the light on the dry Tortugas and set course for the South Pass entrance to the Mississippi and had a good run till about 1 A.M. Then fog shut in and it was thick too! I had a good position then and was crawling up to the Pilot Station at slow. However, the Pilot Station told me they couldn't see me on the radar so I smelled a rat -- tried to check my position, found the D/F was suffering from night effect and swinging about 90-degrees. The echo sounder was showing no bottom and the radar, due to indentations of the coast and the enormous number of drilling rigs just offshore, was doing nothing for me in trying to identify my position. I decided to get out and turn the ship around to go out to sea again, anchor, and while doing it I ran aground in deep mud. 15 feet forward soundings and 16 feet aft. We were drawing about 13'6" forward and 17 feet odd aft. We couldn't get off. After all, I only have 6,500 HP and about 40% stern power and the grip of mud is tight. Pumped out about 1500 tons of ballast and fresh water to lighten the ship, but no luck. Sent for tugs and one came out to us from New Orleans on simple towage arriving in the worst fog you ever saw at about 9:00 p.m. As soon as he had a wire on us, paid it out to 1000 feet, the weight of the wire almost pulled us off and the first easy pull, we were afloat. We went off about a mile, dropped anchor and waited for the clearance of the fog. All that day and the start of the next day. At the first sign of clearance, I upped anchor and by 3:00 p.m. I managed to get the Pilot aboard and went right up to New Orleans arriving there around midnight. I certainly had had it as far as standing on my feet was concerned. We were a long way from the town but we were tied up and there was no fog. Had a diver down the next day but nothing wrong; in fact, the barnacles were there still and that shows how deep the mud was. Of course we had insurance men and cargo men around, and reports by the mile but everything is OK now.
We stayed two days; had trouble with stuck rubber bales that refused to come adrift from the hold but managed OK. Sailed around 2 p.m. on the 13th for Galveston, Texas. Had a very fast run down the river, about 18 knots - that's with a two knot tide of course. Ran into fog in the lower reaches. I was all set for a bad night again but it cleared and out we went. Got a check on the Gyro Compass and to my surprise found that it was 5-degrees low. When we found the last check after we left the Dry Tortugas, it was nil so now I am going to get the Gyro expert down as I think the error came on for some reason after we had the last D/F bearing at 0100 before we arrived on the mud and as we would have been steering 5-degrees to the right of the course and all the D/F bearings would be putting us to the right, it would explain why we were 5 miles to the east of the planned position. However, we allowed it all and had a good run till about 60 miles from the entrance to Galveston when into thick fog again. Actually it's a hell of a place to have to navigate in. The whole area is full of drilling rigs capped off with all sorts of lights and what have you, and they take rigs and move them. All one can do is head well south of the rigs as are known, and hope! So I was on the entrance channel and passing rigs that were not chartered. By 2:00 p.m. was about twenty miles off in pea soup trying to steal up on the Pilot Station. Managed to get from him that it was not too bad (visibility about 500 yards with him and less than 200 feet with me); however, by 4 p.m. managed to make it and also got the pilot on board and he said that it was clear inside the harbour so, in we went and as soon as we passed the bar, the fog went. So we are now inside and discharging, hoping to get away and up to Houston by about 3:00 p.m. That's the story so far.
Apart from that, everything is going well. I find the officers are very good, most reliable and on the ball. They know most, if not all the answers to the things going on on the ship. I had an inspection the other day and played a mild bit of hell with the crew about dirty quarters. Managed to get something done. The ship itself is beginning to look fine. They managed to paint all one side of the ship in one day and that's only six men. They did a real good job too, as good as any shipyard could do. By the time we are clear of Houston we should have the whole ship's side painted and looking good too! Food still is good and I get what I want but certainly feel the loss of white company. Essentially, I can amuse myself and can put up with my own company. The Chief Officer is about the only one that I can have a conversation with - and it's rather limited. However, he is a good fellow and most likeable too. The paper work is very complicated but I think I am managing to get on to it. Have to get going on another batch of papers as soon as we arrive in Houston. I find the whole job is a challenge to me and quite a hard one too. Certainly, it is keeping me very busy and I rather like any job that makes me think and occupies my whole time. It's right up my alley.
From this report, it is obvious that the command of a ship carries great responsibilities, and in spite of modern devices and navigational aids, Mother Nature in her taciturn way is still master of her own house. As we receive further reports from the PIPAT SAMUT through the summer months, they will be compiled and will appear in the fall issues of the SCANNER. Capt. Irvine was proceeding from Houston to Beaumont, Texas to load another 1000 tons of rice on top of the 13,000 tons picked up at Houston. This is food for children in Indonesia; from there to Manila or Singapore, then to Shimonoseki for dry dock which will take about l4 days. After that, it is anyone's guess what the schedule will be, but certainly loading all over the Far East for New York and the East Coast of the U. S. A.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.