YOUR HOLIDAY DISASTER
It was certainly a junk, but to call it the `Nuttin' Wong' was not the most accurate of descriptions, as Wilson Muir and his shipmate Sophie Sarin discovered on a very unusual voyage to Trinidad
Sunday 21 March 1999
He was called Ahab and was the captain of a Chinese junk in the bay below, looking for crew to sail north through the islands to Miami.
It must have been the romantic appeal of sailing in a junk that made us lose all reason and prevented us from noticing the legions of cockroaches crawling over the galley and the rust devouring the hull before paying $600 for the passage.
Within two days, I had become First Mate, Gourmet Chef and Chief Recruiter of Tourists on the misnamed Nuttin' Wong.
The Chief Recruiter set about his task of converting tourists into passengers with the zeal of an early Desert Father. He soon picked up four enthusiastic and unsuspecting Germans for a passage to Port of Spain. The Nuttin' Wong was set to sail for Trinidad at first light.
Halcyon days in the making, one would think. However, the junk turned out to be exactly that: junk. The Brazilian cabin-boy was on strike, so when the bilge pump gave up the ghost, the captain - a character distilled from the bottom of a rum bottle - barked "I need some help over here!" to the "crew", the four very earnest young German professionals, who jumped to startled attention.
"Vas is der problem?"
"I need an engineer!"
"But ve are on holiday..."
"All hands in the fumigator!"
Having established the upper hand, Ahab instructed the Gourmet Chef to prepare a meal from a gulag recipe for bully beef and root vegetables.
Later, the Gourmet Chef put on his First Mate's cap, took the wheel in a moderate wind and nearly succeeded in capsizing the rustbucket, with cries from his Swedish helper of: "Look what you're doing!" The deck took on the appearance of a bungey-jump target. Things were resolved as Ahab took charge.
Not only were the Germans being slowly poisoned, they had narrowly escaped being drowned. The Gourmet Chef scurried back to the galley to prepare yet another brig masterpiece.
As sunset approached, increasing mutters of dissent were heard from the German camp. But as we neared the harbour, there was frantic bag- packing and excitement at the thought of the comfort of a porcelain toilet. It was not to be.
The engine was cut to quarter revs. This had the same effect as Andy Warhol's film of the Empire State Building. One take: 24 hours. After an eternity, the anchor was dropped by the "crew". But it just slid around without getting a grip.
After another eternity, the anchor was to be hauled. The windlass now decided it was close to retirement age and whined to a halt every two seconds. The paying guests had no option but to grab the rusty linked snake and help it back on to the spasmodically revolving drum with much Bavarian blaspheming.
As midnight approached the captain, mumbling about mutinous dogs, ended the cabin-boy's strike. This had a cathartic effect. He was able to find the anchor a home at last.
Meanwhile, at the stern the catwalk model extinguished her 37th Camel of the tedious evening and the German crew clambered into an overladen dingy to be carried off to a Trinidadian Valhalla.
Ahab came astern and dismissed it all with a shrug: "Worse things happen at sea, man." Sometimes, for example, whole crews jump ship at the first port of call instead of going all the way to Miami. Fortunately, Ahab was good enough to give us back our money.
Share your holiday nightmares by sending a 600-word account to: Holiday Disasters, Independent on Sunday, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL. E-mail: email@example.com
The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations
The 50 Best spas
Luton airport voted worst in Britain for second time running
Mystery as 'lake' appears in middle of Tunisian desert and becomes overnight tourist attraction
August Bank Holiday 2014: Five ways to make the most of it
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
- 1 'Alien thigh bone' on Mars: Excitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
- 2 West poised to join forces with President Assad in face of Islamic State
- 3 Mother fed her daughter tapeworms to make her skinny for pageant
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Disgusting, frustrating, but intriguing: how the country really feels about its politicians
Bin bag full of cats' heads discovered near Manchester's Curry Mile
£6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...
£17K OTE £30K: Charter Selection: Highly successful and innovative specialist...
£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...
£23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...