Nenad Belic, May 24 2000





In 1952, I took the freighter Slovenija to Philadelphia. It was November, and the North Atlantic was quite rough; on top of that, a hurricane was coming north, and with the deck stacked with bales of cork, the ship changed course to avoid the brunt of the storm. But even the periphery of the storm was impressive with the ship plowing into the waves with water washing over the deck and slamming into the bridge. The sailors had to string additional steel cables over the cork to prevent it from being washed away; they would scurry around as the ship mounted a wave, and then hold for dear life between the bales when the ship plowed into the water flooding the deck. I remember sitting at the back of the bridge, on the floor, looking through an open door at mountains of water climbing above the stern in the trough, and then the stem slowly rising until only the sky  (with pale-yellow sunshine penetrating through the thin clouds) was visible; the ship seemed to pause for a moment, and then the stern would sink and sink until I was looking at the wall of green water. The wind was strong and steady, and the ship creaked and groaned as it teeter-tottered on the waves. Everybody was sea sick, and I found that Dramamine ("wonder drug" for sea sickness at the time) was totally useless. My roommate was pale as a ghost, and did not sleep well listening to creaking of the ship at night. I later realized that he was much more scarred then I, because he knew that some of these "Victory" class ships - built each in a few days during WW II to carry troops and cargo - have been known to crack in half and rapidly sink in bad storms. After three days of this, the sea calmed, and the rest of the voyage was rather uneventful.