An Outpost of Progress – The Narrative – The Long Voyage Home


PROLOGUE: One of the advantages – maybe the only one – of being an expatriate is that after a long absence from home, anyplace from 6 to 18 months generally, you get sent back on a long vacation, 30 to 90 days. Since you are removed from the job site and far enough away to be out of communication it is generally a genuine vacation. After his first tour in Venezuela Bill Leach found himself bound back for the Port of New York for his first leave.

In a few short years things would happen to the ship he travelled on, to ship’s he saw and to places he saw. But this was before the Hindenburg blew up at Lakehurst and during the heyday of American dirigibles, it was before u-Boats would prowl the Gulf of Mexico and U. S. East Coast almost at will and it was before a war that would change everything. His account includes sailing through heavy weather and the way north and the sensitive with literary pretensions will probably want to make much of this as a harbinger of things to come from the storm clouds festering over Europe at the time. If he had any ideas that a war would demand his attention in three short years there is no indication of it here – the storm is simply a storm. In hindsight we have noted some of the things that happened subsequent to his travels out of a sense of poignancy and because we think they help complete the story.

PAUL H. HARWOOD a US single screw steam tanker capable of making 10 knots of 7,193 gross registered tons  was 435 feet long x 56 feet abeam. Purchased by Standard Oil Co. in 1935 she was in service until 1949.

PAUL H. HARWOOD a US single screw steam tanker capable of making 10 knots of
7,193 gross registered tons was 435 feet long x 56 feet abeam. Purchased by
Standard Oil Co. in 1935 she was in service until 1949.

Time is really flying by and vacation time is just around the corner.
Left Mata Negra Camp on March first, rode to the Boca de Aracoa where I was to get on board the Caripiteno and thence to Caripito.  Arrived in Caripito on the 2nd , and made arrangements to get for home.  Sailed 12:30 p.m. from the Caripito Terminal, arrived at Guiria at about 5:30 p.m. and had to wait for the high tide due to the low sand bar at the entrance to the Gulf of Paria.  Sometime during the night we arrived at Guiria.  When morning finally arrived our tanker Paul H. Harwood was being filled with oil.  Left Guiria 12 a.m. and sailed for the island of Aruba where we were to discharge our oil cargo.

Between 10.16 and 10.17 hours on 7 Jul, 1942, U-67 fired four torpedoes at three ships about 40 miles southwest of Southwest Pass, reported one hit and assumed that one tanker sank at 10.45 hours. The Paul H. Harwood (Master George Rasmussen) was hit by one torpedo while steaming at 12 knots in a small convoy of four ships being escorted by one destroyer. The torpedo struck on the port side abaft amidships at the #6 tank and blew a hole 15 feet by 12 feet into the hull, causing the flooding of tanks #5, #6 and #7. The tanker was stabilized by counterflooding the forward tanks and continued on her course at 10 knots into Southwest Pass to Burwood, Louisiana. She anchored at Pilottown and then proceeded to New Orleans. None of the eight officers, 32 crewmen and 16 armed guards (the ship was armed with one 4in, one 3in and four 20mm guns) reported an injury. The tanker arrived for permanent repairs at Galveston, Texas on 16 July and returned to service on 28 September.

Between 10.16 and 10.17 hours on 7 Jul, 1942, U-67 fired four torpedoes at three ships about 40 miles southwest of Southwest Pass, reported one hit and assumed that one tanker sank at 10.45 hours. The Paul H. Harwood (Master George Rasmussen) was hit by one torpedo while steaming at 12 knots in a small convoy of four ships being escorted by one destroyer. The torpedo struck on the port side abaft amidships at the #6 tank and blew a hole 15 feet by 12 feet into the hull, causing the flooding of tanks #5, #6 and #7. The tanker was stabilized by counterflooding the forward tanks and continued on her course at 10 knots into Southwest Pass to Burwood, Louisiana. She anchored at Pilottown and then proceeded to New Orleans. None of the eight officers, 32 crewmen and 16 armed guards (the ship was armed with one 4in, one 3in and four 20mm guns) reported an injury. The tanker arrived for permanent repairs at Galveston, Texas on 16 July and returned to service on 28 September.

Going out of Guiria and through Boca de Sierpo the water was choppy and rough.  Finally arrived in Aruba on the 6th and it was rather smoky due to the refineries working at full capacity.  The view of the houses from the harbor was just a flash of brightly colored houses – they certainly do go for loud colors.  The boat was being unloaded on the 6th and 7th and in the meantime, Lenert, LeBlanc, Hewes, McClendon, Willis and I went out to do our shopping.  Bought quite a few interesting articles for folks at home.  Imagine that all will be appreciated. Left Aruba at about 6 p.m. on the 8th and headed directly for the Windward Passage.  Stood by the rail to enjoy the night view of Aruba. The refinery plant lights vent flares and smoke make the night scene of the island rather an interesting one.

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On the 9th we were well in the Caribbean Ocean and I was out at the bow looking into sea as we rode safely, rode above the deep-seated coral beds.  It was around the vicinity of the Island of Haiti (8 a.m) that I saw three octopi, numerous orchid-colored jelly-fish, flying fish, squids, and a giant sea eel. Saw the Island of Cuba about 5 p.m. but it was about twilight and nothing could be seen.  Saw the lights of a number of tankers, freighters and a cruiser. On the 10th at 5 a.m. we were off to the west of Crooked Island.  Saw the usual amount of jelly-fish and flying fish. At 3 p.m. we were off the west coast of the Island of San Salvador, and about 10 p.m. we were about due east of the southern tip of Florida.

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The Italia Società di Navigazione a Vapore was founded in Genoa in 1899 to operate services between Italy and South America. Although registered in Italy, the company was controlled by Hamburg America Line. In 1906 Hamburg America sold their share of the company to Navigazione Generale Italiana and sailings to New York and Philadelphia started in 1908. In 1917 Italia was absorbed into the new company Transoceanica Società Italiana di Navigazione.

March ll th. The sea was rough all day.  We had a heavy wind-blown sea. The waves washed over the lower decks; the wind whistled and lightning snapped quite often.  We did not however get the heavy part of the storm.  At times the waves splashed well over the bow of the tanker. The ship rolled as much as 16 degrees.  Some of the passengers did not feel so good and remained in their rooms.  Periodically the ship’s whistle blasted its warning since visibility was not very good.  The sea was heavy all night. Between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. the sea was at its worst.

Built by Cantieri Riuniti dell'Adriatico, Monfalcone in 1931 for Lloyd Sabaudo, she was a 48,502 gross ton ship, overall length 814.6ft x beam 96.1ft, two funnels, two masts, four screws and a speed of 27 knots. There was accommodation for 360-1st, 375-special, 400-tourist and 922-3rd class passengers. Launched on 28/10/1931, she was transferred to Italia Line (which was an amalgamation of three former independent lines) in January 1932. She was one of the first ships to be fitted with gyro-stabilizers which, it was claimed, maximized her rolling to three degrees. She was sunk in shallow water at Venice by British bombers on 11/9/1943

Built by Cantieri Riuniti dell’Adriatico, Monfalcone in 1931 for Lloyd Sabaudo, she was a 48,502 gross ton ship, overall length 814.6ft x beam 96.1ft, two funnels, two masts, four screws and a speed of 27 knots. There was accommodation for 360-1st, 375-special, 400-tourist and 922-3rd class passengers. Launched on 28/10/1931, she was transferred to Italia Line (which was an amalgamation of three former independent lines) in January 1932. She was one of the first ships to be fitted with gyro-stabilizers which, it was claimed, maximized her rolling to three degrees. She was sunk in shallow water at Venice by British bombers on 11/9/1943

March 12th: The sea was heavy all day, and a cold wind blew from the northwest.  Remained in our cabins all day as the ship rolled as high as 17 1/2 degrees; our ship had to slow down to 3 1/2 knots per hour and we were pitching badly.  About 4 p.m. the CONTE DI SAVOIA liner passed us on the east side and it was literally plowing thru the heavy seas.
March 13th and 14th the sea had quieted down somewhat but the air was rather chilly.

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March 15th: Sighted the Jersey coast, saw the air maneuvers of an Army blimp from Lakehurst.  Gradually pulled into the New York Harbor and thence to Bayonne, N. J. where we remained overnight.

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March 16th: Went thru the customs inspections.  Met Mary and Dell at the pier.  Then went to Hotel Taft where reservations were made for me. Straightened up business, bought a new  Plymouth 2-door De Luxe sedan and headed for Amsterdam.

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