A Cruise to South Africa

on Reina Del Mar

by Albert-Lulu Borgstein

Wednesday 29 November 1967

In this daily series you will travel along with my family on the voyage of the Union Castle line 'Reina del Mar’ from Flushing, Holland, to Cape Town, South Africa.

You hopefully will experience the same fun we had on this fantastic voyage (No.78 for this vessel!)

Reina Del Mar sailed on 29 November 1967 (1600) from Southampton with 780 passengers on board. It passed Beachy Head at 2100.


Thursday 30 November 1967

0830 Reina Del Mar arrived at Flushing.

We arrived there much later in the morning due to the inclement weather (snow).

After completing additional documents, going through Customs and handing in our luggage we were taken aboard. The accompanying family (25) were also allowed on board.

Later a blast of the ships horn announced that they had to leave and we had to say our farewells!

As shown the local newspaper also commented on the Reina Del Mar's visit to Flushing (the 3rd Union-Castle ship here that year) under the caption: "Castle of the sea in and out of harbour".  

It was only a year earlier that Capetown Castle has run aground entering this same port.

170 persons boarded here (mostly Dutch but also some Belgians and Germans) making a total compliment of 950 passengers on board.

The other photo shows one of the two tugs taking the Reina Del Mar stern first out of the harbour.

It was cold and cloudy, wind SW, force 2. Whilst casting off music was played, first 'Sarie Marais' followed by the SA national anthem.

Coral Lounge Reina Del Mar 1967, going south for winter, how white we were or was that Tonk’s lads poor exposure settings !!

Second day out and already In white mess kit. Captain Jimmy James always did that as he new not many of the juniors owned blue mess kit.

Company wine night dinners were good as well, our steward Louigi would park an extra bottle or two behind a strategically positioned menu against the bulk head end of the table.

Union-Castle kindly supplied us with a list showing the badges of rank on this vessel. (especially the ones of the Staff Commander, Chief Engineer and Captain look almost similar- just a difference in width of the braids which can't be easily visible from a distance?)

Next is a list of the main Union-Castle officers on board responsible for our well-being.

Together with all the other crew they were the silent workers not often seen and to whom many passengers owe their grateful thanks for a great voyage!

At the bottom is the itinerary of our journey. Arrival date in Cape Town was misprinted and corrected here by me.

Just an hour after leaving Flushing we had a lifeboat-drill. Some of the passengers present joked about it but I'm sure that if something would really happen they would be the first to panic!

Interesting is that this vessel was registered in Liverpool although at the time she was always operating from Southampton!

We got a nice and handy map of the Reina Del Mar to orientate us. One of the directors (Mr. In 't Veld) of the Dutch Union-Castle agents, Kuyper, van Dam en Smeer, was also aboard.

The Reina Del Mar was 600 feet long and 78 feet from port- to starboard rail. She was a single class ship equipped with stabilizers and air-conditioned throughout.

There were two lidos with swimming pools, a cinema, library, shops, hairdressing salons, a creche and playroom for children and numerous public rooms and lounges.

Yellow shows the many public rooms while blue represents the passenger accommodation. The decks just not listed on the left are from top to bottom: Boat deck, Promenade deck and A- to E deck.

As far as I can remember my brothers and I had cabin 164 on the port side while my parents and sister had cabin 185 at the starboard side.

My Dad paid extra to have accommodation on B-deck as we didn't want to sit as poor emigrants at the bottom of the ship.

His reasoning was that such a voyage probably would happen only once in a lifetime so let's make a great holiday out of it!

Both cabins had portholes at the end of a little corridor (see arrows on B-deck map).

Our steward was a Mr. Fielding, a very friendly man who we liked instantly. He was a radio-ham and did ju-jitsu. This was promptly demonstrated when my youngest brother challenged him. We had a lot of fun with him!

Friday 1 December 1967

In the morning it was overcast but it cleared later. (wind variable, force 1).

As there was a low swell the Reina Del Mar rolled and pitched so my sister promptly got seasick!

Here we see from the port side the upper lido on the boat-deck. The pool is behind the oval shaped railing from where you can see one deck below to the kiddies pool on the promenade-deck.

The table on which to play table tennis stood on the verandah above on the navigating-bridge deck. The problem here was that as the ship rolled your killer smash never sent the ball to its intended spot on the table as the table disappeared at that moment!. At 1620 we rounded Ushant Island and entered the Bay of Biscay.

Saturday 2 December 1967

Its fine and clear today (wind NE, force 4) with a moderate NE swell.

My Dad got quite a surprise: A rumour went around ship that some crazy youngsters took a dip in the pool already! He was not impressed to find out that it were his own sons who did that!

We got an invitation to attend the first sitting at 6 o'clock of the Captain's Cocktail Party.(shown).

Suitably dressed we met Captain James at the entrance to the Coral Lounge and were introduced to him.

I'm the guy with the glasses on the left of this photo (I was 21 at the time), next was a chap we befriended on board and on the right my two younger brothers at this party.

At 1231 we passed Cape Villano and left the Bay of Biscay. That evening we had to turn our watches back an hour.

Sunday 3 December 1967

There was also another member of our family on board, namely 'Bambi', our dog. She was a Miniature Pinscher and before our journey a standard large wooden kennel had to be made for it.

Apparently it was not allowed for the dog to accompany us on the ship. It was initially stowed on the radar-deck but we were denied access there and were assured that the ship's carpenter would look after the dog.

This was a disaster as on the second day Bambi escaped. When the ship's carpenter finally got hold of the dog she bit him.

Highly upset this guy (large as a bodybuilder) came to our cabin to show us the two droplets of blood!

Alternative arrangements were made by putting the kennel two decks lower so that we could feed the dog ourselves. It was still in a crew area and only we had access there.

Unfortunately the dog's journey came to a sad ending when it fell out of the train during the night somewhere in the Karoo. The stupid guard had forgotten to lock the outer door of her cage!

The empty kennel arrived safely in Pretoria.

Monday 4 December 1967

We were woken early to have a quick breakfast.

Looking outside in the dark we could see the outline of the mountains and all the lights of Funchal, the capital of Madeira!

We arrived here at 0724. There are 3 other islands in the vicinity. We have travelled now 1436 miles from Flushing.

As soon as Reina Del Mar was moored a lot of rowboats from across the Funchal Bay appeared to sell their wares.

When something was sold it was hoisted aboard with ropes. Although some of the islanders even displayed their wares on board!

I decided to see the island on my own and got a landing-card (shown). I declined to get a water-taxi to Funchal but decided rather to walk around the Bay as it was such a lovely day.

When passing the radio station there was a light shower but I didn't care. For European eyes it is a tropical island and the local flowers, plants and palm trees are stunning (as was the Madeira wine later!)

On my walk around the harbour I photographed the Reina Del Mar  from across the Bay.

The water-taxi's are still loading passengers!

I walked past the town until I got to a police station, showing the Portuguese flag as seen here.

In town I got a taxi (vintage Buick) and I arranged to drive it myself! (it still had overdrive!). Crossed the island's mountains and gorges to the other side and saw the airfield there and some smaller towns. I got quite a conversation going with the taxi-owner, who was like me a soccer-fan. He supported Benfica and I was a Feyenoord fan who beat Benfica 2-1 in the Europa-cup final the previous year, a game which I attended. When I said that his hero Eusebio did almost nothing in this game that really got him going! He charged me next to nothing on account of that!

Coming down the mountains again I took another picture with Funchal down below and the RdM making up steam already. Time to get back again!

Being a railway enthusiast I also went looking for the 4.8km rack-railway on this island.

It was called the Mount Railway (CFM) but found out it was closed already in 1939. Just the former trackbed could still be seen in places.

Here an old 1930's postcard of this line, the picture on the extreme left maybe could be an older Union-Castle ship?

An additional 12 passengers boarded here.

The bow of the Reina Del Mar can be seen shortly before departure at 1300. We were taken out with two tugboats.

On the last picture we are leaving this beautiful island behind us. The wind today is ExN, force 3.

Tuesday 5 December 1967

At 0220 passed Palma Island. Wind NExE, force 3.

We passed Hierro island at 0500 this morning. At lunchtime we were abeam of Cape Bojador.

At 1800 a special event was held for the kids; It was 'Sinterklaas feest", a Dutch national event when presents are given to family in the name of Saint Nicolas and his assistants, the "Zwarte Pieten' (Black Peters).

It was held in the Dolphin room which soon became much too small due to the huge interest of the British passengers on board.

British kids were also invited and became quite scared when Zwarte Piet (my younger brother, dressed as such) appeared.

However, they soon got the hang of it when he threw (traditional) sweets amongst them and a mad scramble ensued!

All the kids got a present from Zwarte Piet, each one in turn.

In front is Yoka Muller, the Union-Castle hostess for the Dutch contingent on board.

My brother battled for two days to get all the black stuff of his face!

I think this was the first and only time that such a Dutch event was held aboard a Union-Castle vessel!

Wednesday 6 December 1967

Fine and clear today.

Had a beautiful sunrise as shown. Wind NExE, force 4. Low SE swell.

We are nearing Cape Blanc and are now in a shipping lane as can be seen on the next photo. At one stage I counted as much as five ships.

Every morning we get the days newspaper shoved under the door of our cabins. It contains the position, speed, etc. of the Reina Del Mar but also announces the day's activities, of which there are many!

Made a big mistake today by falling asleep on the Lido-deck next to the pool. Look like a Red Indian now and had to visit the ships doctor.

The Reina Del Mar achieved its highest speed (18.33 knots) today of the whole journey,

Wednesday 6 December 1967

Tonight the 'Ascot Derby' was held in the Coral Lounge.

Four races took place, bookmakers did a roaring business and betting was fierce. The jockey's were introduced by taking them around, as is done with my sister here.

Special hats had to be made by the ladies for this event. The 'horses' (husbands and boyfriends) had to sit on one side of an 'H'-shaped white wooden structure and hold a long paper ribbon in their hands.

The 'jockeys' had to cut this narrow ribbon lengthwise with small curved nail-scissors. If by accident you cut the lint off the 'jockey' was disqualified ('fell off the horse!').

The 2nd picture shows pre-race chaos by the jockeys who had donned paper double-coloured racing outfits.

"And away they go" shouted the announcer at the start of the race as shown here.

This race was called the 'Scissors-witch cup' and the lady second from the right became the winner.

My sister came third, her 'horse' was an unknown young man, promptly called "Surprise'!

Thursday 7 December 1967

At 0107 we passed the Cape Verde lighthouse and I remember seeing its revolving light beams.

Wind NExE, force 1. Clear and sunny today, however with my sunburn couldn't really enjoy much of the fun.

Was for a short while at the pool but had to wear a jersey as can be seen here.

Was forced to spend a lot of time indoors and in our cabin. I didn't mind because it gave me time to work on my model tank locomotive (Dutch NS 8700 Class as shown) which I brought along together with tools and materials.

Our Purser noticed this and apparently told some of the other crew. Imagine my surprise to get an invitation to see one of the senior officers who was himself a GWR modelling fan and we obviously had a nice chat.

This interesting event was later drawn by me in a cartoon used in a local SA railway modelling magazine! At 1300 we passed the Bijouga Breakers.

Friday 8 December 1967

It is overcast with occasional showers. As you can see in the first picture there is almost nobody on deck. Wind SExE, force 3. It cleared a little bit later as seen next.

We are looking aft, the rear structure was the bar from which they served delicious tea at 4 o'clock in the afternoon with accompanying food.

At 0500 we passed Bald Cape near the mouth of the Gambia River. In the afternoon we passed another ship at close distance, it's named the 'Mary Cruiser'.

In the evening at 9 o'clock just after our fish-barbecue on the Promenade deck a ship passed us by, but very close! it was coming from the opposite direction. Both ships had all their lights on and a lot of signalling (Aldis?), shouting and cheering went on during this exciting event.

It transpired that it was the B&C’s own freighter M.V. 'Clan Ranald'! Sadly I didn't have my camera with me to capture this dramatic nightly passing of ships.

Saturday 9 December 1967

Cloudy but fine, wind S, force 3, low swell.

At 1720 Reina Del Mar crossed the Equator in Longitude 7º 09'W. This obviously resulted in the usual Neptune ceremony.

A long procession appeared at the swimming pool. In front a lawyer dressed in a toga sporting the Union Jack, followed by King Neptune with his trident.

His wife Neptunia embarrassed herself by loosing one breast (balloon) here.

They were followed in turn by helpers dressed in all sorts of costumes, one of them looking like a doctor/butcher.

The first picture shows King Neptune sitting down and the second shows some of the children who underwent a treatment of being doused in all kind of rubbish after which they were thrown in the pool.

Here they are getting sweets from one of the mermaids after their ordeal

The prosecutor found the two young men and two ladies, representing all the passengers, guilty of trespassing in the domain of King Neptune.

As seen here they were led to the operation-table where all sort of items (strings of sausages, a cow bone, etc.) were removed from their bodies by the doctor/butcher.

From here they were taken one by one to the little green chair where lots of gooey stuff was pored on them by Neptune's helpers.

Next a pin in the chair was removed and the accused fell backwards into the pool to the laughter of everybody present.

At the end of the ceremony everybody (including King Neptune) ended up in the pool.

Just watch the remaining rubbish on the chair!

Besides the Neptune ceremony we also had a costumed ball competition that evening..

Passengers had to make all kind of funny costumes from materials available on board.

We see a young girl in the first picture dressed as a Coke tin, with other ladies dressed in various attires at the back (Christmas cracker, dress of Bingo cards, etc.).

The competition for the men was more spectacular, next we see Mustapha in front with Emperor Nero, a London business man, a ballerina and Twiggy standing at the rear.

The winner is shown next, being a person from Middlesex, 'it' was from the waist down a man but dressed like a woman above!

Regular Union-Castle passengers were prepared for such occasions and brought along costumes already made beforehand, like this elderly 'Fallen Faces' couple.

Sunday 10 December 1967

It's fine and clear today, wind SExS, force 5.

At 1030 Captain James officiated at the Divine Service in the Cinema, which seats 321 persons.

Films were shown here everyday at 1730 and 2115. I remember seeing the film 'Khartoum' here and another about Reina Del Mar on a cruise in the Mediterranean. Also shown were films about South Africa.

In the morning we were frustrated as the pool had to be cleaned and pumped full of water after the Neptune ceremony yesterday. My brothers are waiting here for the pool to be ready.

My youngest brother was watching the waves in the pool and schemed that if you jumped in at the right time at the one end it would throw you clear out at the other side! In practice this was a disaster as he broke his nose in the process!

We had a beautiful sunset that evening.

Monday 11 December 1967

Fine weather today, wind SE, force 4 and a low swell.

This morning we saw a lot of flying fish and at 1100 it was announced that there was a large school of Dolphins at the starboard side.

In the afternoon we had a tour of the bridge.

Here we see this control centre on the outside from the sports deck in front.

The next photo is of the inside of the bridge.

It was on automatic pilot but they disconnected this when my Dad was chosen to steer Reina Del Mar by hand. In front of him was a turning floating disc (gyro compass?) with a marked line at 90 degrees.

This disc had a lot of numbers all round and my Dad had to keep Reina Del Mar on heading 137 (SSE).

So for a few minutes he was at the helm of the ship! That evening we had a sing-along event in the Coral Lounge where the in-house band provided the music.

Here you see us (Dad, Mom, 3 sons and daughter) at the ship's railing throwing paper ribbons to our family on the quay side. A nice gimmick for tourists but for us it really meant the last ties with the old homeland! These paper ribbons were broken when the Reina Del Mar cast off at 1612.

Captain Jimmy James

Tuesday 12 December 1967

Clear day, wind SE, force 3.

Low SE'ly swell causing some seasickness on board.

At the doctor's surgery a lot of patients with blisters around the mouth and nose. Apparently caused by a bad wind blowing seaward from land (Congo).

Had a great breakfast again. We are eating in the Pacific Restaurant (shown) at table 46, exactly seating just the six of us. We have our own Spanish waiter, who can barely speak English, so we have to give him the numbers from the menu. Noticing my fondness of ice cream he often arranged second- and third helpings for me!

The next two pictures are from spots I liked to stand and watch the sea, both looking aft on the starboard side.

Haven't seen another ships for a couple of days now.

The first is at the stern on the Promenade deck and it was always mesmerizing to see the working of the water in the ship's wake.

Taken from the boat deck looking down to the Lido area on the Promenade deck.

Extra 2nd Officer Alex McCutcheon peering in from the starboard bridge wing

Wednesday 13 December 1967

Fine weather again, wind variable, force 1.

We were advised to change our Pounds into SA Rand today and prices in the shops (on A and B decks) are indicated now in two denominations.

Whilst this was in process my brothers are waiting in the long alleyway on A-deck which runs almost the entire length of Reina Del Mar.

During our journey a British couple gave dancing lessons in the Coral Lounge (shown) which had a large oval wooden floor for that purpose. They also gave shows on some evenings.That afternoon I decided to try this as well and they were teaching us the Cha-cha-cha.

One movement in this dance was to hop three steps backward on one leg and just at that precise moment the ship rolled! I immediately lost my footing pulling the (unknown) girl I was dancing with on top of me on the floor. Extremely embarrassing! I knew then that dancing was definitely not for me and have never done it since!

Professional Dancers

Peter & Audrey Glenn

The Coral Lounge

Thursday 14 December 1967

Fine day, wind variable, force 2, low S'ly swell.

Just past 5 in the morning woke up seeing lights in the porthole. It was the 'Stad Amsterdam' of the Holland-Africa line passing us.

We arrived at 0600 at Walvis Bay and we see here the South West Africa coast (now Namibia).

Reina Del Mar didn't dock in the harbour but remained at anchor instead.

Saw my first pelican flying past.

My Dad and one of my brothers tried to do some fishing but the see-sawing of the ship as well as the local tugboat loading- and offloading passengers thwarted their efforts

Reina Del Mar sailed for Cape Town at 0800.

The afternoon was spent completing a lot of forms and documents required for our arrival in Cape Town.

Friday 15 December 1967

Fine and clear, wind SSE, force 5 - S'ly swell.

Shown is Reina Del Mar on one of the J.Arthur Dixon series of postcards. We have collectors of these in SA too; picked it up quite cheaply at a local (Pretoria) philatelic bourse..

We kept a distance of 21 miles from the coast today. That evening we had a sumptuous Farewell-dinner of which the menu is shown here.

Later there was a Gala evening where the Captain handed out prizes to people that won at various events during the journey. This was followed by dancing. However, with my dancing skills I refrained and rather played Scrabble with my Dad and a friend until we were chased away out of the Coral Lounge at 12 o'clock.

It's the last night on board!

Saturday 16 December 1967

Woke up very early (0500) this morning and went straight to the sports deck looking over the prow of Reina Del Mar.

We entered Table Bay at 0600 and we see here Lion's Head and Table Mountain during a beautiful sunrise.

A fantastic and for us moving sight as we realized this will be our new home country!

On the next photo the morning mist is still hanging over Cape Town while the first tugboat is coming out to assist us.

Today is a SA National Holiday ("Day of the Vow") and the harbour authorities had opened up the harbour for the public for this occasion!

Just sad that of all the welcoming- and waving people you didn't know anybody!

At 0700 Reina Del Mar was moored along F Berth as shown here.

Sadly It was time to leave Reina Del Mar ending a great holiday and this was our last view of her.

The moveable covered ramp was housing the SA Immigration officers and our future in a new country started now in earnest.

Reina del Mar covered a distance of 6445 nautical miles from Southampton to Cape Town (cruise no.78) at an average speed of 17.39 knots.

Although we disembarked in Cape Town this is not the end of the story!

Reina Del Mar went across the Atlantic to Rio de Janeiro in order to do an additional 3 cruises there (nos.79-81). However, near the coast of South America she was involved in an accident with another ship that severely dented her prow! (Sadly I can't find my newspaper clipping about this anymore).

She had to return back to the UK without delay!

The illustrated Tourist Itinerary Brochure of Reina Del Mar for 1968 indicates no less than 18 cruises but due to this accident I wonder how many became a reality!

This is the end of this series about our very memorable and wonderful journey on the Reina del Mar 47 years ago. I hope you enjoyed it too!

Thanks for all your comments and likes!

Then its off to South America

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