In the end, it was a bit of an anticlimax, as we slid slowly and very neatly into the small port of Poti. Small the port maybe, but it is a hive of activity, with a miscellany of the world’s tramp steamers here loading and unloading a cornucopia of loads.
Ships from Antigua, Majuro in the Marshall Islands, Panama and more were being emptied by a forest of rusty cranes onto a crumbling dockside; were I not in a hurry to move on, I would have loved to explore this scene of intimate internationalism. Each of these ships spend weeks and even months at sea, seeking cargoes, shifting cargoes and then seeking new ones, and only rarely come together for few brief hours in port.
And to them Poti’s inefficiency must have been glorious; actually time to get off the ship, head to eh seaman’s mission and chat to a wider audience than their own crew of ten or so. I have heard it said that seamen grumble about the inefficiencies of modern ports where they can be in and out in a few hours, and the historic, and possibly romantic, vision of seeing the world is now limited to expanses of water, and no longer the delights of exotic ports
We, on the other hand, felt bewildered at this inefficiency, and while I should have been used to endless and apparently pointless waiting, I certainly wasn’t. We docked and waited; Waited some more, retired to our cabins and waited. After about three hours of intermittent waiting and shuffling we congregated by the reception area and waited a little more. Finally, a Georgian officer started calling names at random handing back passports; one after the other and the “Johnson” came the cry. As mine was one of only two non-regional documents it stood out and as he handed it to me he paused, smiled and said “Welcome to Georgia, Mr. Johnson”. A completely unnecessary but generous comment and it made me smile.