Francis Meyrick

The Tuna Hunter Ch.5 “The Refuse Barrel “

Posted on December 27, 2008


Life on board ship had its lighter moments.
Standing up on the helideck, Bob looked down in amusement at the furtive preparations being made to initiate a new crew member. Poor little Pablo, blissfully unaware, stood where he had been told to, waiting for orders. Small in stature, with long black hair, he was a gentle Philippino lad, on his first fishing trip. He seemed still a little overawed by everything, especially when, as now, the nets, bulging with frantically struggling fish, were being hauled in laboriously. Everywhere was noise, and organized confusion. Winches creaked and groaned, whistles blew,commands were shouted, engines roared, men tripped over cables, and ropes were coming on and off the ship. Men would grab a rope, and hold on for all their life’s worth. The captain’s voice, amplified by loudspeakers, would boom over the decks, and more heaving, sweating, toiling bodies would push, pull and tug at a cable somewhere else. In the midst of all this stood little Pablo, mouth agape, eyes a little fearful, rooted to the spot he had been allocated. Suddenly, while he looked one way, a rope snaked up over the railings, landing at his feet. Immediately, frenzied shouts and exhortations erupted over his head, to the effect that he was to grab it and pull! No, not like that! PULL! Pablo! PULL!!
Pablo heaved and pulled for all he was worth, while the burly crewman on the deck below, where the rope was looped around a post, alternatively pulled and slackened off a bit.
Bob could see the smothered grins, and grinned at the cacophony of roars:
“PULL! Pablo! PULL! ”
In desperation, the little guy shut his eyes in an agony of effort, making little headway against the steel railing of the deck below. Beads of effort stood out on his forehead, and Bob felt a wave of sympathy for the little figure, twisted into a knot of pure muscle.
A quick hand reached out behind him, pulled his trainers back from his buttocks for a second, and deftly deposited a large, very much alive, wet, kicking Yellowfin Tuna. Whilst the outline in Pablo’s pants bulged and heaved, and the shouts of “PULL, Pablo, PULL! ” reached a new crescendo, the surprised Philipino gamely struggled on, suffering the indignity of the fish now wildly slapping against his buttocks. It was not until a second and a third fish had been added, that he had finally cottoned on, and let go of the rope. He had stood there, rid himself of the fish, and, grinning shyly, had thrown them at his tormentors…
Everybody had been impressed at his tenacity, and the Chief Engineer had given him a fatherly pat on the back. Bob had felt sorry for the fish, but had admired the little lad’s determination.

Bob’s own arrival on board had been the occasion of two massive cultural faux pas in quick succession. He winced as he remembered them.
Within five minutes, he had been approached by a little dog on the bridge, a funny thing with a squashed nose and short legs. For some reason, probably because of nervousness, Bob had attempted a joke. Jerking his thumb to the dog, he had wisecracked: “Dinner? ”
The joke had unfortunately been taken serious. The looks of horror at the suggestion of eating a dog had been instantaneous. Shocked whispers in Chinese had doubtless been along the lines of ‘The barbarian! Fancy wanting to eat a dog!’ ‘And the captain’s dog at that!’
Worse than that though had been his enthusiastic desire to participate in what he had perceived to be the crew’s wholehearted attempts to protect the natural environment. Spotting a large oil drum on deck, with holes drilled in the sides, he had looked curiously inside, to discover what was undoubtedly a refuse burning system. The charred remains of rubbish on the bottom showed clearly that the Taiwanese cared about the environment, and didn’t just toss everything overboard. He had been very impressed. A few days later, he had been walking around on deck, and noticed the refuse burning system in full swing, with flames leaping out the holes, and four patient attenders throwing in rubbish. Darting back to his cabin, he had collected the very large, very full rubbish bin, marched up on deck, and – hey ho! – up ended the whole lot into the fire. Used tea bags, left overs from dinner, chicken bones, cold rice, and some fruit and tomatoes that were screamingly far ‘past their prime’. Then he had stood back and grinned one of those very self satisfied “didn’t I do a good job then ” sort of grins. The reaction had surprised him. There had been shock, consternation and horror, and various frantic attempts to pull out his contributions and heave them overboard. It had puzzled him hugely. He had retreated, embarrassed, vaguely aware that all was not well.
It had taken the Captain to lead him aside, and very gently, in words of not more than two syllables, explain that this was most definitely not ye common or garden trash heap.
He had interrupted a Buddhist prayer ceremony… The ‘rubbish’ burning in the barrel wasn’t rubbish at all, but prayers written to the Gods, and presents to the powers that be in the form of boxes of tea and chocolate,and paper money. Prayers were being made in all sincerity
for a safe voyage, and the catching of plenty of fish…And the devotees were, to say the least, a little startled with the sudden and dramatic arrival of ye foreign helicopter pilot; especially when he went and added his two pennies’ worth by upending a smelly barrel of rubbish smack into the middle of their sincere offerings…

Watching Pablo good-naturedly take his teasing, Bob couldn’t help but warm to the little chap. He had shown a plucky spirit. He would need it, Bob thought. A tuna fisherman’s life could be very hard. And uncertain. A tuna boat could be a surprisingly dangerous place.

In the event, he had no idea how right he would turn out to be…


Last edited by Francis Meyrick on December 27, 2008, 1:31 pm

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