SHIPS THAT PASS IN THE NIGHT
23 August 2008
SHIPS THAT PASS IN THE NIGHT
Willenius Willhelmsen - it was painted on the side of one ship that passed in the night so close - perhaps 1 or 2 boatwidths apart from the other ship as they slid by on opposite courses, a couple of a hundred metres from where we lay, in our small ship; they go by every night as if they are traffic on the main street - keeping to the right on perfectly parallel tracks, like trains on tracks, on rails even, guided by a Panamanian pilot, by satellite GPS waypoints autopilot certainty of the highest order never wavering never failing ... ... ...
I had gone on deck to have a pee, in the moonlight, from the stern of our little ship, 46 feet long on deck, when I saw these two ships pass as one left the Panama Canal heading to the Pacific - and the other headed towards the canal, I suppose ultimately heading for the Atlantic, first passing under Las Puntas de Americas, which oddly, looks like a version of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.Why I put that in Capitals I don't know. Back in the old days they put many more things in capitals than we do now.
It is so hot here - try and imagine that. If you are out of the breeze, and working, you sweat all over, your body does that - and if your mind is "sweating" too (metaphorical!) - well, water is coming out of your body at a phenomenal rate. Where you are right now, are you "cool"?
Panama is not Melbourne, or Hobart, or Sydney, or Los Angeles - it's different. There are lightnings nearly every night, rains nearly every day, the engines of the launches and of the workboats that take stores (oranges, cabbages, unidentified foodstuffs) to the anchored ships; engines at any time of night. This is the crossroads of the world!
Today we tackled the head. This word "head" means to the landsman "toilet". It was blocked, and the pump stopped working. Sooner or later you realize it is no use wearing clothes to service a shitter, you might as well strip off. So - two naked plumbers, after breakkie, with plans to unblock, Writer's block is bad, plumber's block is worse; still, if you want a boat, you want problems like this. So - a bucket and the seawater pump hooked up to a hose which is forced up the blocked pipe, and a willingness to get dirty, a few hours, and - wow! - we did something! Time for a beer. First a shower!
A yacht is calling "Aura, Aura, Aura - this is Spirit" on the radio - calling us! Can we come over today and have a look at the charts of the Caribbean you said we could copy? Asking. I say well we are up to elbows in fixing a blocked head. Well, we've all been there, she says, I'll come tomorrow. There's always tomorrow. Mike comes on board from the launch, he's my age, American, lives on Wild Turkey, a 46 ft ketch, Chicago Illinois, with wife Winifred, with wonderful electronic skills, he's fixing our battery monitor. He stays and chats for an hour or two, has a couple of beers. He's going to help us install the radio and depth sounder we bought in LA. We'll probably have to haul the boat out of the water to do that. Our toilet is a Wilcox Crittenden - it has leather washers in the pump. You pump it by hand. We have spares, dated 1993. It's all okay.
As the sun goes down, we drink rum, ice, mango nectar and fresh lime. We sit in the cockpit and talk, about past, future and present. Don't forget the third one. ... But don't talk about it, experience it.