When someone spends minutes that become hours, hours into days, days into weeks and weeks into months, on a Korean tuna ship in the Pacific ocean, one wonders who is he. Where is he going to. Where he comes from. And why. He draws a silhouette of a face in the palm of his hand and talks to that drawn. As if he was a shipwrecked man adrift.
That shipwrecked man is my brother, Alfonso Vega. It has been several months since he ventured to fly a helicopter looking for tuna on a fishing boat in the Pacific ocean. He writes, he writes a lot because he has time, because that is the only thing that can diminish the weight clockwise.
In mid-January he took profit of his time on land (Honiara) for dining out, shopping in a mall Nutella, chocolate, crisps, popcorn and everything that he would miss for months. He went to the Pacific Hotel for dinner with Mike (engineer, pilot and airplane and helicopter mechanic), a boy who lived on a 15 feet sailboat, and took the opportunity to taste a bottle of Australian red wine. With 32 years he had almost travelled the world, he told stories of Iraq, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, and so on. “After listening to his stories, I can say I did not leave the nest”, Alfonso explains. Although of course he has left the nest, a long time ago, indeed. Then they went to Cowboy’s Grill, the most fashionable place in Honiara, to have a few beers while three Filipino singers tried to cheer up that rainy night. So my brother describes Mike as follows: “He is an adventurer – his philosophy of life is very similar to my character, he works hard during his young age and then enjoy life to devote to travel the world with his sailboat from the forties. The next day, it was still raining, so he went out again with Mike, this occasion to the Top 10 club of Honiara, until it was very late. They were dancing, also with the monkeys: apparently, “in these Pacific islands, they chew the roots of an addictive plant, leaving them red teeth and gums, and in many cases they can lose all teeth”, says Alfonso. Mike kept explaining his stories from Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan and other Western countries to those who joined them, from everywhere. “We looked like the United Nations: a Canadian, an American, an Australian, a Syrian and Spanish”, he concludes.
Three days later they left direction Papua New Guinea waters. In one approach to a fuel tanker, “I tried to buy bottled water and Chocopie, delicious Korean cupcakes that would help me to fill the stomach when the food was not good”, Alfonso says. “But there was a misunderstanding with Samansa (the official in charge of training the tanker and order supplies) – I asked for two boxes of Chocopie indicating with gestures the size of the boxes, which is assumed in each of them are 20 cupcakes (and would for at least one month)”. But the official understood my brother asked for two big boxes which contained 10 boxes each, so 400 chocolate cupcakes… Two days later, in which the weather did not give them any respite, they head to Solomon Islands in search of calmer waters. One night dinner on the deck, outdoors, celebrating a symbolic day in Korea to invoke good luck for fishing. But again the tedious rain forced to set sail east to waters of Nauru and Tarawa. Again no fish. Eternal day reversals. In this occasion they went Kiribati. “It’s been a month since I fly alone in the tuna boat, just a month, which means that is still eleven months more on the boat. It’s very hard to have to keep your mind occupied in something that makes you think you have left almost a year on this boat. We continue without any capture, just continue heading east, toward warmer waters where there is no storm, direction Solomon Islands and Rabaul. Lately, the days seem to weeks, weeks seem months”, explains Alfonso. He is totally devoted to read novels, including some of Pérez- Reverte on the shipwrecks of the Spanish Navy during the seventeenth century. Concentrate on that reading, suddenly the sound of the alarm makes Alfonso look for this lifejacket completely mad, until he sees a couple of sailors laughing at him. Apparently this is a mock shipwreck, which is followed by a fire drill.
To be continued…