And You Think You Have Problems?

By Cheryl Weaver from the July 2012 Edition

Green tea steeped lazily in my favorite mug as I gave a cursory glance out at the ocean that is my front yard. A white pointy protrusion bobbed with the waves about 50′ off shore. What in the world?

It was very early morning and it’s been raining for the last three days. Tropical Storm Carlotta has been generous with its weather spreading up and down the Mexican Pacific Coast heading north towards us slowly. The jar on the patio that catches rain water was 7″ full when I spotted this curious object. No one is on the beach and the sound of the crashing waves says the storm is not passed yet.

I add sugar to my tea and settle in to read the latest Nora Roberts in the comfort of my living room but my mind wonders back to what’s bobbing in the water. Through binoculars I take a closer look and now I can see that someone’s livelihood is sinking. One of the smaller Panga fishing boats has capsized and only the last 3′ is still afloat. These little boats head out daily at dawn to catch fresh fish for the restaurants and markets. They support families and are to the fisherman what a store-front is to a retailer. No boat, no income. It is that simple.

Obviously its owner is unaware what today holds in store for him. Someone needs to know but there is no one to call for help. I don’t know the fishermen and I regret not getting to know the beach guys enough to have a cell number. Certainly the authorities are too busy to bother with some guy’s Panga. Helplessly, I watch the swells drive the bow down again and again.

Suddenly, a large motored Panga with three men arrives on the scene and two jump in with snorkeling gear and head for the sinking boat. For an hour they dive over and over, riding the swells of a rough sea, but make no progress. The boat driver pulls on a t-shirt. I wonder the temperature of the water. They return to shore leaving one diver behind.

Shortly after, the two divers become four, two out from a jet ski. They return to the scene and dive for another hour with no success and still the boat bobs. I’m thinking with the bow in the air and the stern with the motor and anchor weighing it down, they’ll never be able to save it. What is to become of the fisherman and his family? I can’t even imagine how the boat could be replaced. Panga fishermen scrape a living together that is a meagre existence at best. Saving enough to buy another boat is out of the question. And what would they live on meanwhile?

The large panga heads back to shore and returns with 13 men. I want to cheer and pump a fist in the air. They bring rope, buoys, more diving gear. At one point, they board one of the anchored party boats and fish out what appears to be a wench and lasso. For two more hours six divers struggle with the buoys placing them inside the capsized panga. Finally, I see three divers bob to the surface with a large square box and struggle to keep it afloat as the jet skier hoists it out of the water and delivers it to the large Panga. Down they go again and for another hour there is no change. The original diver has now been in the water 5 hours. Where does he get his endurance? It must be his boat.

A line has long been secured to the bow of the capsized boat, little good it has done. Now I see it stretched taut between the large Panga and another tied to the jet ski.

Ever so slowly, ever so carefully, the Panga and the jet ski work in unison and begin with all their might to tow in the capsized boat. Will the line hold? The divers are weighing down the stern, trying to right it as the obvious drag keeps progress to a snail’s pace.

Foot by foot they crawl towards shore and FINALLY the majority of the sunken boat comes to the surface and they increase speed. I want to break open a bottle of champagne. I cheer and clap and don’t care that I am alone in my celebration. The divers crawl up on the hull and ride in the last 20 feet standing up in victory and it brings to mind a painting of an Admiral leading his men to battle on the high seas. I wonder if the fisherman’s wife knows.

Once again I am in awe of the humble ingenuity, determination, and collective efforts that Mexican people live by.

 

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