After two days of loitering along to keep our date with the pilot, he came aboard from Thursday Island, a long way in a small boat at three in the morning. Then we were transiting the Torres Strait, a narrow passage between Australia’s Cape York and Papua New Guinea. On the bridge the captain and five officers were all attention as the pilot called the course. There were islands either side of the channel, which has only a five-metre draught just enough for the Buxstar at high tide.
Often we were close enough to the Australian shore to receive Telstra and Optus range. Dave, one of the other passengers, stood on the deck outside the bridge talking to his wife in Brisbane.
Burma Map Tourist Attractions Photo Gallery
After eight hours on our ship the pilot was ready to leave, his job done. We were through the Torres Strait. I stood on the bridge watching for the boat that would come out from Thursday Island, one and a half hours away, to take him off. A yellow dot appeared on the bare expanse of flat green sea that soon became the fast-approaching pilot boat. A speedy looking enclosed launch, it was painted in bright yellow and blue. Shaking the pilot’s hand, I wished him a safe ride back. He swung easily down the rope ladder that the crew had flung over the side, and the boat sped off into the empty sea.
Singapore to Bangkok rail ride
Once through the Torres Straight it was smooth sailing bright days and lovely sunsets. I saw a few birds, otherwise there was nothing except the wide dark-blue sea.
The ship’s table tennis Olympic finals were held. I attended, but I wished the crew wouldn’t treat me like a visiting duchess. When the basketball matches that were held in the swimming pool (dry!) finished, it was filled with water and looked inviting. The large Ukrainian engineer, whom I think I insulted once with a ‘Good morning’ in Russian, wallowed in it. The pool didn’t look much bigger than a large bathtub but a joker had hung a life belt on its side.