New Orleans, f/k/a Enchanted Isle

Leaving Violet, Louisiana -- October 25, 2003

 

"A FINAL FAREWELL TO A GRAND DAME"

 

Bill called me at 4 p.m. on Friday, October 24, 2003, to inform me that the ship I once knew as the S.S. Argentina was leaving Violet the next morning for her final voyage to Alang, India.  The gangway was to be removed between 10 and 11 a.m. that day.  After rushing home and packing up the Roadtrek, we left at 9 p.m., EDT, driving all night with only an hour stop at a rest area on I-10, arriving in Violet at 7:30 a.m., CDT, exactly three months to the day since we saw her last. 

After freshening up, and without sleep for over 24 hours, we strolled down to the ship.  We were told several days before that the ship changed her name from Enchanted Isle to New Orleans.  And there it was, New Orleans was stenciled in several places on her hull.  The reason for this might be so the ship is not generally known on her way to the breakers.  If that is the reason, it is a poor reason.  The name Enchanted Isle was covered over in off-white paint and her name still showed through.  We also noticed she was very mildewy this time.  If one grabbed a water hose filled with bleach and sprayed her with it, she would have cleaned up nicely. 

Bill shouted to the crew members on board asking if he and I could come aboard to take photos.  They invited us up and we went directly to the Captain's Quarters.  There we met Captain Costica J. Dimitrescu  from Romania.  He proudly showed the ship to us while at the same time saying that this was not a pleasant task for him to guide her towards Alang.  This is his maiden voyage as a captain and he really did not want to take her to Alang.  "She is still in good shape and it is a shame," he told us.  He then offered us orange juice in Commodore Cruise Lines hurricane glasses and wanted us to have them as keepsakes.

We then took a tour of the bridge, crew decks, galleys, and engine room.  It was absolutely fascinating.  He offered some items to us, including a Steinway piano, but together Bill and I only had four arms and hands and a couple of hours left before the ship had to leave.  The Captain kept repeating that a lot of the materials would be destroyed in Alang.  He wished we had gotten there a week earlier so we could save a lot of the items that no one else would care to have.  While taking a tour of the bridge we saw four interesting pieces of paper under the glass on the navigation table and after carefully removing them (after being there for several years, they were stuck to the table) he had one of his crew members photocopy them for us so we could put them up on the site.  Before the Captain went about his duties of getting the ship underway, he asked Chief Engineer Jaydeep Sanyal to give us a tour of the engine room and a few of the other rooms.  Along the way, we did grab a few of the "Welcome Aboard Enchanted Isle/Enchanted Capri" three-ring binders that were stacked up, never to be used again.  Shortly after touring the engine room, we heard over the intercom that the ship was ready to depart and that we should be getting ready to leave the ship.  Although Bill and I would have loved to have sailed on her, we didn't really want to go to Alang, so we thanked Jaydeep for his tour and he told us he would try to take photos of the ship while she was in Alang.

As we arrived on the bow, the Captain told us to wait because he had something to give us.  He ran up to his quarters and then ran down to us with a photo album that he told us would otherwise have been tossed away in Alang.  He then asked Bill to take our picture with the album (we think he thought we were doing all of this for a magazine and not doing it for a web site).  The album contains photos of members of the Bahama Cruise Line/Bermuda Star Line, Inc. Passport Club taken during March 1986 through September 3, 1987,  while she was named S.S. Bermuda Star.  This meant a lot and it is a special album.  Most of the photos contain names of the Passport Club members so if anyone out there would like copies of any of the photos, please let us know.  We can look to see if the name you are requesting is in the book and send a copy to you.  It appears that Yvette Caldera, President of the Passport Club, constructed the album.  As we said our final goodbyes to the Captain and his crew, I made a passing mention to the Captain to hide the ship somewhere because it worked for the "Red October."  He gave me the biggest grin.

Just before we descended, we noticed that Bret and Sherrie Bowen had arrived to assist us in taking photos of the ship as she leaves.  A couple of months before, they had seen our request asking anyone who lives nearby to help us take photos of the ship as she leaves, especially if Bill and I couldn't make it in time.  Bret and Sherrie were the only ones who replied.  So as soon as we knew the ship was going to head out, we notified them by e-mail and they called us while we were driving over to Violet to let us know that the ship was lit up and her engines were running and they would be there the next day. 

After we climbed down the steep ladder and over to the levy to meet the Bowens, we all waited about two hours and watched things happen as the ship was preparing to leave.  The pilot came in, the crew members hustled about, the Captain and others were on the bridge checking things out to make sure all lines were dropped.  It seemed like an hour before all the lines were dropped.  The people from Violet were having trouble.  Bill did snap a photo of the last line being dropped.  The crew on board and the four of us on the ground called out our goodbyes to each other as the ship pulled away from the dock at 12:20 p.m.  There was no fanfare, no streamers, no music, only black smoke spewing from her twin uptakes while she was being pulled out by the tugboats.  She was facing north on the Mississippi River since December 30, 2000, and she had help from the tugboats to turn herself around counterclockwise to head south out into the Gulf.  As she was turning around, Bill took photos of the stern she is now registered in Kingstown and the flag of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines was flying on her stern.  After snapping shots and taking video, we half walked and ran over the levy to our respective vehicles Bret and Sherrie in his Sheriff's SUV, and us in our Roadtrek.  We had to head south to catch her again as she was heading down the River.  We left in a hurry and because of that, doors and cabinets were not firmly shut tight.  I forgot to close the door to our electronic cabinet and CDs and DVDs fell out all over the RV.  The bathroom door flew open and a can of something hit me in the head.  Our two cats were with us and they were staying low as best they could to get away from the fallout.  As we passed the ship sailing down the River, I held on for dear life while closing doors, trying to stay balanced.  We came to a stop in the town of Caernarvon two miles down the road, just outside Violet.  Bret and Sherrie were already set up, after all he is a Deputy Sheriff and could race down the road without anyone questioning his speed, while Bill and I were behind two "Sunday" drivers (didn't they realize it was Saturday?) and had to duck everything flying out at us.  Remember Spike from "Love Affair"?  Well, I could see him laughing when all of this was happening.  Fortunately for him, he didn't fly about.

But we arrived in plenty of time for she was coming around the bend.  Her smoke was still spewing, but not as bad and she was so quiet that if you closed your eyes you would not have known she was passing.  As she was gliding through the River, we bade her a final farewell and then we watched her disappear behind some trees and she was no more.  For a few seconds, no one said anything; it was quiet except for a few birds singing their farewells too.  Although her bow was held high, it seemed as if she was being led away on a leash.  A horrible thought came into my mind -- "dead ship sailing."  As we turned to leave, at the bottom of the levy a funeral procession was passing on the street, grey clouds were coming in, and Sherrie mentioned that if it rained it would make the picture complete.  It did.

Since returning home, we began to read rumors on a couple of web sites that the ship was not going to scrap.  We still don't know for sure, but we do know the Captain and crew told us the New Orleans was headed towards the breakers.  "She is going to be scrapped," they said in their Indian accents.  But captains can always be radioed to head in another direction.  This may not be the end for the S.S. Argentina.  And so it goes ....

 

Ginger Quering Casey

Oviedo, Florida

November 11, 2003

 

   
   
 

Captain Costica Dimitrescu from Romania

 

   

Richard Welch from South Africa in Captain's Quarters

Captain Dimitrescu waving good-bye from bow

 

 

 

      

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