Around the World in 80 Days
Day 63: 26 November
At five past two the pilot comes aboard. Unlike any other I've encountered he is in a civilian suit, an elderly man surely near retiring age, with crinkly grey hair. The smooth efficient American accent goes into action. It's odd to hear the real thing after so many international imitations. It makes me aware that I'm a foreigner - along with Captain Amirapu and Chief Engineer Durrani and Lily and Rajiv and Bosun Ong and Saatchi, Hang On, and all of us aboard.
There are small boats all around us now, but the difference between here and anywhere else I've been is that they're not working boats. These boats are for play. All modern, well equipped, fibreglass-hulled. None of them looks more than six months old. One sweeps by close to us and its occupants wave. A classic American quartet of rugged men and huge honey-haired women. We're in the land of giants.
Escorted by our tug, the Sea Robin from San Francisco, we pick our way carefully to the container terminal, where the American stevedores wait beside their cars (no bikes here), shouting, joking, swaggering, flexing muscles - every one of them from Central Casting. Captain Amirapu gives his last instructions to the engine room: ''ard a port . . . 'ard a starboard', an Indian bringing me to the New World. The temperature is in the upper 60s, a light wind blows from the desert.
The customs men come aboard. Passepartout and I are officially signed off the ship's register. 'Ohhhhhhhkay,' pronounces the senior officer, a grey-haired black. 'You're clear for customs. Enjoy your time in the U.S. Don't drink the water or eat the food.'
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- Series: Around the World in 80 Days
- Day: 63
- Date: 26 November
- Country/sea: USA
- Place: Los Angeles - California
- Book page no: 202
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