We have now arrived in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, Mexico ...totally saited on flying fish ! I am in awe...this place is unreal, nothing like the tourist ports I was later to discover. The smells that assulted our noses were scrumptious ! and we headed for the nearest restaurant and some food. For me the " Cameronies ( shrimp) were unbelievable delicious and huge. I never stopped eating them the whole time I was there. We ate from the vendors in the street , everything; not ever worried about anything, we drank bottled water however. None of the crew ever got sick ...well ...unless it was of their own making : )
We sent the Canadian crew back to Canada and just kept the Cdn.Officers, Cap of course, Chief and 1st mate, Chief and 1st Engineer and myself as Chief Cook. Then we brought on our Mexican crew to fill out the rest of the positions. The first experience ashore was something else, I was shocked at the living conditions, it was really sad, mother's sleeping in the streets with babes, elderly men with no legs surfing the streets on boards with 3 inch wheels, pitiful, I cried off and on for a month , it was that sad.
We spent the first couple of weeks in port , there was necessary paperwork to be done, name changed on the ship. We had sailed her under "Seaway Trader" coming down, now she was to be the "Patricia 11" contracted to Pemex ( the one and only oil company in all of Mexico , Gov. owned ) We got to go ashore every night so we would hang out in the local restaurant on the corner. At first there was a lot of finger pointing at me as my hair was light from so much sun and I was the only white woman around.
There was always a bunch of kids around begging and I kind of took to a little guy who wasn't more than 5, he wore the same clothes everyday for two weeks...so sad. I bought him a couple new t-shirts and shorts and took his old clothes and threw them. I wanted to take him on the ship as a steward in training but they couldn't let me, he was too young.
I made a point of always collecting change from the officers before I went ashore ( wasn't worth anything to us) and they just threw it in their desk drawers. Once ashore I would give it to the kids, it made a happy bunch of children !
I was sad to leave my little friends but we were ready for our job , taking oil from refineries up river and delivering offshore to the super tankers. As the days turned into weeks we became accustomed to the different ports.
The rivers were horridly polluted and people lived on them , swam and washed in the water and fished , unbelievable !! One of the ports had a sulfer plant and because we had no air conditioning, we had to keep the windows open. The sinks would be coated with a yellow dust all the time. Cap and I were concerned about inhaling this stuff but what could we do. We were working 3 months on , 3 off which meant 7 days a week but Captain Bunker was a good man and he and I decided that we would have a deck party at the end of every month. The crew loved these parties, the officers would challenge the deck hands to all kinds of contests. The one however they shouldn't have challenged was the " jalepeno eating contest ". Mexicans can eat those things by the dozen . Ray was our second engineer, as crazy as they come , and stoned most of the time, he was one of these people who could work while toasted ; he would go ashore and buy these huge packages of grass all wrapped up in banana leaves, measuring 4 inches think and a foot square. They would make stogies as big as cigars. The first contest with the jalepeno eating was a disaster for the Canadian boys the next day. Being the cook, I knew better. They however, were challenged and you know what happens when you challenge a man ? Needless to say there were some laughable outbursts as the peppers did their work !
Cap and I would do the grocery order every week or two depending on where we were. The markets we used were the same as the locals used , so it wasn't surprizing to see anything out of the ordinary. The thing that bothered me the most was the sale of turtles for food. They would drill a hole in the back of the shell and tie them together. Me being me, decided I would start saving turtles and buy them all up, so I would carry them away and let them go. This went on for weeks and then one day Captain Bunker started chortling just after I let a new bunch off in the ditch. I looked at him , I can still see those merry eyes of his and he said " you know Joyce , the kids figured out the first day what you were doing so they've been following you, picking up the turtles and selling them back to the market !! We laughed the whole way back to the ship.I kept doing it anyway, what the heck !
Cayaso was our 3rd engineer from Guatemala, a true gentleman, a tiny man, well read, quiet with a quick wit and about 63 years old then. What we found most amazing about him was his ability to get all the young women hanging off him when he went ashore. Most of the time we were at anchor so we had to use a boat going back and forth. About 11 oclock , there would be Cayaso, surrounded by 4 or 5 young ladies arriving back to ship to drop him off. This went on the whole time we were there, the guys would just shake their heads wondering.
About 7 weeks into our stint, we had a week off docked at the mile long wharf in Progresso. This beautiful town wasn't far from Merida, one of the oldest cities on the Yucatan. Captain Bunker gave us the weekend off so we went into town , got rooms at a wonderful old 2 star hotel ( which are the best in Mexico ) From there the boys decided it was time to party, being the only woman , I had to follow. We visited everything we could, tasted everything we could taste. Then we decided to go to Ushmal about an hour from Merida and see the pyramids at night .They had an amazing sound and light show and from the benches overlooking the courtyard you had a great view of everything. Off in the distance a storm flashed lightning behind the pyramids and the thunder rolled. Each doorway would light up as a King or minion would speak, the lights and sounds were fantastic, either that, or we were so stoned anything looked and sounded good.: ) to be continued.....
Never say never
4 years ago