John had worked his way to Australia on a ship so they decided to check out the docks. Nothing. There was a Greek freighter going to Newcastle, New South Wales, then to Japan and on to the U.S. but the Captain said he didn’t need anyone. Then they met a guy named Jimmy who worked as the radio operator on this ship, and found out the ship would be in Newcastle in three days. John was determined, so they hitchhiked to Newcastle.
They connected with Jimmy again and this time he gave them the information they needed to stowaway. At 3:00 a.m. the guard would go for coffee so they hid under a railway car and waited. Right on schedule he took his break, immediately they snuck on board and hid in the foc’sle hold behind some lumber. They had to stay hidden for the ship to be out to sea long enough that it wasn’t worth it to turn back and kick them off. Their only supplies were a liter of lemonade and a loaf of bread.
After the ship left the docks that morning the lights were turned off and the three-foot steel hatch was bolted down. Now it was pitch black, they couldn’t even see their hand in front of their face. After 52 hours of being in this dark hole they were getting a little scared that no one would be around the bow of the ship to hear them when they made noises. When they finally heard footsteps above, they started frantically banging on the hatch, hoping to be heard and rescued from their dark hiding place. The carpenter on the ship had come to sound the well to see how much water was in the bilge. He heard the boys banging on the hatch cover and left to tell the officer of the watch what was happening. Several of the crew came to investigate and opened the hatch to find two scared and half-starved boys peering up at them from the foc’sle hold.
They were given water, the most immediate need, then some food and sent to the captain for an interview. When the Captain saw them he laughed, did they want a job? They ended up being able to work on the ship all the way to Oregon. While they were with the captain, the first officer went through their stuff to make sure there were no drugs, even opening the seams in their duffel bags. The attitude toward them soon changed and the Captain liked them. He was Greek and John had studied Greek tragedies, Danny played chess with him and soon they were getting extra privileges and some of the crew didn’t like that. John got a job in the engine room and it was very hot down there, especially as they went through the tropics. Danny got a job on deck in the sunshine. Poor John! He was not a happy camper, or should I say sailor.
When they arrived in Japan the Captain gave them 1 months advanced pay so they could go ashore. Everyone else had to work! They bought radios, binoculars, cameras, and a doll for me! What a fun time they had there.