Thursday, March 09, 2017

SPIROCHETE—Caribbean Spiral 4

Friday, February 9, 1979
At 1600h today, two hours from now, we'll embark the Sanka-M by driving our six vehicles up ramps onto the ship that will carry us to Colombia. We’ll sleep in our cars and vans docked in Cristobal tonight and set sail in the morning.
Terran Cruiser is the first to load.

Ramps are set for Mingo.
Mingo guns it and the crew runs for cover.
There was no room to roam on the Sanka-M during our rough and rolling 33-hour journey northwest across the Caribbean. The vans were inches apart. Lucky for Pedro, his yellow Ford, in the middle of the lineup of vehicles strapped and tethered on deck, had sliding doors. It left just enough room for him and his family to slip in and out of their van. MJ and I had to slither out our driver’s side window and squeeze past an enormous crate that was part of the cargo being smuggled to the island. Once out of our vehicles there was nothing to do, except walk along the railings to the bridge. 

The deck was unsafely lined with large propane gas cylinders that were chained to the railings. The small ship rocked constantly making it impossible to walk without hanging on to something. It was better to stay in our vehicles.
David checking his Camero.

A friendly ship worker from Trenchtown Jamaica,
Neil Campbell, drawn to our Bob Marley tunes, squeezed between vans for a visit. He stood at the passenger door with his head in the window. We talked and laughed as he shared tales of his hometown, until suddenly he was alerted by a warm breeze and increasingly higher waves that indicated we were heading into a squall. Excusing himself to prepare for rough seas ahead, Neil scurried around, tightening the steel cables used to lash down our vehicles and checking the stability of the gas cylinders. MJ and I prepared by tucking away loose items and securing cupboard doors. I took Gravol. Neil stuck his head in the window again and warned, “Don sleep too heavy tonight man. I be glad ta know you got you eye on tings.”

The safest place to ride out the storm was strapped into our seats. We clung to the armrests as we heaved to and fro, up and down for hours. Windows up and skylight tightly closed, waves crashed over us as we rocked 180 degrees. The sound was deafening. Blackness surrounded us. Somewhere the crew was busy keeping us on course and upright, fighting fury as the squall raged around us. 

By daybreak the sea calmed to a steady roll. The crew emerged to assess the damage. Through the storm, the lashing on David’s Camero had loosened and in the constant heaving had slid forward scraping into Fernando’s Volvo. The Camero's front wheels were hanging over the edge of the ship. A few gas cylinders had come unchained and gone overboard. Otherwise luck was with us.

Everyone including the captain, except me, was grey with seasickness. Whether it was the Gravol or my fortitude, I was spared having to line up with the others to heave overboard. Near the edge of disaster once again I was surrendered, unpanicked and unangered. Calm in the storm, or numb?


  1. Your very descriptive narrative confirms why I will be sticking to land travel!