From Cuba at Sea by Ron Ridenour
HAVANA TIMES, Jan. 10 — On course to Matanzas, I picked and hammered at the interminable rust. Sometimes an electric pick hammer was used for the thickest crusts. The perpetual hammering jolted my brain. I had no ear protective device as there were only enough for half the deckhands. Most of the engine crew wore protection; they needed it most.
On hands and knees, we banged and scraped old paint and oxides. We brushed specks with a hard wire brush and then swept the deck clean. We would now rub in oil to prevent dirt from collecting on the deck. Then we would apply the anti-corrosive paint, then two coats of thick paint. When we were about to apply the first coat, seaman Luis took the pail of rust and cast it overboard.
“What are you doing!” I said astonished. “The sea is our mother and you are shitting in her,” I continued indignantly.
Startled at my outburst, Luis snorted.
“She’s my mother too. But we always throw rust overboard, just like the cook throws garbage overboard, and the entire crew throws their wastes overboard too. What else are we supposed to do with it?”
“You could store it in pails and barrels or special containers, and take it to garbage dumps ashore,” I suggested.
“There is no system for that. All the ships would have to have thousands of containers. It would be too difficult and expensive,” Luis replied, soberly.
“Well, maybe we lack proper respect for our mother,” I moralized. “She is getting sick from all these industrial wastes discarded in her.”
“At least we don’t throw junk overboard when we’re in harbor, not usually anyway,” Luis rationalized.
“That doesn’t solve the problem. The junk moves anywhere the currents take it, and kills plant and animal life. It contaminates the fish. They get sick and we get sick,” I replied.
“Ah, the sea is big; it can hold it all,” Luis retorted, petulantly.
Other deckhands listened to us argue, smiling paternalistically at my self-righteous tone. I had stepped out of bounds. Cubans usually avoid biting confrontations.
I shook my head sadly, realizing I could not change their casual notion towards ecology. The entire international maritime industry is contaminated with this listless attitude. Cuba was no different. I stopped lecturing.
Luis was sensitive today, anyway. The first mate had just handed him a disciplinary sanction for failing to return on time from leave in Havana. Luis had checked at the company’s operations office to find out when the Seaweed was to sail. Learning that she would depart later than was posted aboard the ship’s blackboard, he didn’t bother to arrive until she was casting off.
He barely made it aboard by jumping from a shuttle launch as she was departing. Sigi did not see the situation the same as had Luis. A captain’s orders take precedence over an operational delay. So Luis must stay aboard ship during the next four port stops. That could mean a month without seeing his wife, or girl friends.
To purchase a copy of the book you can place an order with Amazon (www.amazon.co.uk/Cuba-at-Sea-Ron-Ridenour/dp/0906378028), Socialist Resistance (www.resistancebooks.blogspot.com/http) or write the author at Soderupvej 1, 4330 Havalsoe, Denmark.