From Ray Dito, Matthew Turner volunteer and supporter.
The Doldrums of 1963 I was just 20 years of age, at sea, on my 2nd cruise as a merchant marine. We were outbound from San Francisco for Bangkok, Thailand, to deliver surplus military supplies to the government. Our first stop was in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, followed by a stopover on the island of Guam, then on to Manila before Bangkok. I had dreamed of going to sea for years and had tried a few times to get hired without any luck. I had my US Coast Guard Z-card that allowed me to sail under a US flag as an “Ordinary”, a food handler(mess crew), or a wiper. Of course, I signed on as a wiper/engine room cleanup crew. Finally, in August, 1963, I got the call from MSTS offices at Ft. Mason, San Francisco. I went there, signed the documents, and was sent to ship out aboard the USNS Core T-AKV 13, a WWII era aircraft ferry(CVE). The ship was tied up at Alameda NAS, south pier. I told my parents what my plans were and that I was taking a break from college at San Jose State where I had just completed my sophomore year. They were not happy with that decision; but supported me nonetheless. That first cruise went to Saigon, RVN, which at that time, had been engaged in a guerilla war for almost 10 years(and another 12 to go). That cruise lasted about 9 weeks. The ship didn’t linger in any port as most cargo could be off loaded in less than 48 hours. The 2nd cruise began in mid-October, carrying surplus F-104 fighters for the Nationalist Chinese government of Taiwan, and helicopters and replacement motors for the Thai air force. Stops in Manila and Okinawa would round out the trip. After departing Guam, we cruised westward, passing through the “horse latitudes”/ aka “the doldrums”. In the attached photo of myself on deck on a sunny Sunday afternoon, the languid seas in the background clearly illustrate those “doldrums”. I compared it to jello: smooth surfaces, undulating gently as far as the eye could see at every point of the compass. It was unforgettable then, and it is now, all these years later. The seawater temps ran to about 84-86 degrees F. The engine room was approx. 110 degrees, 24/7. No AC!