I was very pleased that Andrew Bell chose the Changuinola for his article in the September 2016 issue.
I remember visiting that ship in Garston at the end of what was her maiden voyage in 1957. My father, Dan, spent most of his working life on Garston Dock and was, for many years, the Traffic Manager there for Elders & Fyffes. As Andrew notes, Garston as a ‘railway’ port was well-placed to provide the fast and efficient onward distribution of banana imports. My father’s responsibility was to allocate amounts and destinations of fruit to the individual specialised vans in each rake as it was marshalled alongside the berth. In those days of a dense rail network and the lack of chilled road transport, bananas were sent to quite small stations, but the vans had to be sent in an acceptable sequence for either their destination or for detachment en route.
Since my father had to go to his office frequently on a Saturday, he would take my brother and I along with him: we only lived a three-mile tram ride away from the dock. Whilst he was busy in his office, we would be shown around a ship by the shipkeeper who was a certain Captain Chubb, the last Commodore of the famous Irrawaddy River Flotilla and a well-known contributor to Sea Breezes over many years.
Some of the ships we visited, for example the Reventazon and the Zent were, to put it politely, rather small and battered, but the Changuinola was not only brand-new, but sparklingly modern. On the way home, we would pick up colourful lumps of blue copper sulphate or gleaming ‘fool’s gold’ iron pyrites that we spotted on the quayside, but my souvenir from that visit was to go to sea on a fine white ‘banana-boat’. My father, however, insisted that I’d learn nothing by being apprenticed to Fyffes since I’d never get my hands dirty so I was sent off to the more practical school of a proper cadet ship.
It was in July 1963 that I saw the Changuinola again when the Elder Dempster ship on which I was serving was thrown off Tiko wharf as a consequence of the port’s policy of banana boat priority!
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