I was all packed up and ready to set sail at dawn but then…
Whilst I was in the internet cafe last night writing “Octopus Manouvers” there was a late thunderstorm, lots of rain and wind. I considered running for the boat to see if it needed attention but I knew by the time I got there it would all be over. Desesperado had gone through many such storms before without incident; it would be all right.
It wasn’t. Oh no.
As I approached the mooring very ready to sleep after day’s octopus fishing and a long blog sassion I realised I could not see the white of the wrapped, raised sail in the distance. I found disaster – the mast, yard, boom, sail and rigging were all in the water. The cover of the Little House on the Proa had been stripped off and the mosquito net was shredded. The lid of Cargo Bay Three was gone and much rain had entered. My bed, pre-prepared inside the bubble, was thoroughly soaked.
I was philosophical about it as a tired man who faces a grim night can be. There didn’t seem any way I could sleep without my bed, worse, without my mosquito net.
Andres the nightwatchman approached. He looked even grimmer than usual and that is saying something. A propellor was missing from one of the lanchas. I had come in on the lancha next to it. Did I know if the owner had taken his propellor with him that evening? If not, it had been stolen and on Andres’ watch.
Propellor thieves are a real scourge of fishermen here, except I guess for the ones in the market for a cheap used propellor. They cost several hundred dollars to replace but can be removed in seconds simply by pulling out a cotter pin with pliers and undoing a castellated nut with a wrench. Even anchored lanchas are easy targets for a thief who can swim. It is to protect the engines and their propellors that so many clusters of lanchas have nightwatchmen. Andres would have to pay fora new prop if this one had vanished by foul means and was as bummed as I was.
I had to wade around in the black and slimy lagoon to untangle the rigging and restep the mast. Eventually I raised the sail out and made all fast again. I threw all my wet stuff on the dock and laid out the sleeping mat in the faint hope that its non-absorbent surface might dry even in this damp night air. I found my swimming trunks and best trousers were gone, they had been “drying” on deck after being washed in a bucket with dish detergent, as one does. I don’t actually manage to get much dry here, wearing wet clothes has become second nature. My body heat eventually drives off most of the moisture but then it rains again.
I reconstructed the little house on the proa and used the soaked bedsheet to cover the holes in the mosquito net. when the outer cover was on I gathered together what few dry clothes I had in cargo bay three and put them inside. Then I turned over the sleeping mat and went for a walk around the night-deserted town to give the clothes I was wearing more time to dry.
To my surprise I encountered a Dutchman with car trouble but he was not friendly so I kept going. I did not fear being mugged; Sabancuy is a small town but unusually well streetlit (the better to illuminate the many huge toads that hop the streets at night) and anyway if someone messed with me on a night like this it was going to end up his problem, not mine. After an hour I returned to find to my joy that the foam sleeping mat (given to me by Susan Lange. Thankyou thankyou THANKYOU Susan) had gone from dripping wet to that state considered acceptable by mariners, merely damp. I stuffed it into the bubble, crawled in, made a pillow by covering scrunched-up plastic bags, and there in my damp clothes covered by a couple of t-shirts and a plastic rainjacket, fell asleep.
I was so amazed I had fallen asleep that I woke up again. Ok that was was bullshit. But dawn came along with the ruckus of the departing octopusmen and I emerged if not refreshed at least alive and semi-human. I got to drying out my bedding and clothes and cargo, spreading it all over the dock. There was no damage to the boat apart from the mosquito net but the trousers bothered me. They were my favorite, the Levis you gave me Gringo Jack. I wanted them back. When Gringo Jack gives you a pair of trousers, it’s for life, you know? I spent nearly three hours wading about in the slimy muck poking with a broomstick in a sytematic search of the area I thought they may have gone, but found only the swimming shorts which are so covered with epoxy resin they are kind of garbage anyway . The locals were more than happy to line up along the nearby sidewalk and watch the gringo in his obsessive search for his pantalones. “Se fue!” They shouted. “They’ve gone! They floated away!”. But I did not give up. Who knows the mind of a pair of trousers, who can say which way they will go? I did not find them.
O trousers, I neglected you and now you have gone away, but I miss you and if you forgive me and come back I will hold you tight and never let you go. And we will never mention the incident again.
The propellor turned up in the hands of its owner and went out to sea and I am very happy for Andres.
With all this drying-out going on I have missed the tide which could have carried me out of the lagoon entrance today. I will be ready to try again tomorrow.