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The Sinking

by John R. Bomar
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It took only a little while for the word to spread quickly through the thatched roof restaurants on the lovely beach in Puerto Angel – “she is sinking.” Most visitors were there for their evening meal and heads turned quickly to look toward the dark water in the bay and the floating hope of her new owner, the hope to soon take the strangers from far away for comfortable deep sea fishing trips and a good lunch. And they saw she was sitting heavy at anchor, out from the pack of local pangas of the local fishing fleet. The forty seven foot white beauty was the new queen of the anchorage. For almost a month now she was the one who first greeted any newcomers to the bay or the return of the open fishing boats from their daily hunt. She had sat high and proud on her lines, head up, bow into the wind, bobbing gently on the small waves rolling in from the Pacific to the south. She had looked eager and ready to be out in the hunt again, shouldering through current and waves to take her crew on new adventures to catch the bullet fast Tuna, Sailfish and Dorado, so prized for their good taste and healthy properties. Most locals had come to look on her with a certain pride, even though “la gringa” the American woman, who owned the snorkel tour business owned her. She was a step up, a sign of better things to come for them. She was seen as a welcome and fitting greeter in front of the fine tan-colored beaches of Playa Panteon and Playa Principal, in the Angelic Port, in the state of Oaxaca.

Word had it that the local fellows and some of the tour guides were working on one of her two engines after it had acted up on the way over from the nearby fancy resort town of Huatulco. So, she had just sat at anchor, only a promise of good times, delayed now, but with lots of dreams for things to come. In Mexico, such things can take a lot of time, amigo, and patience is the word when trying to make repairs and find the right parts.

It was early in the darkness of the night and the crescent sliver of moon at first rising sat yellow, like the horns of a bull, just above the hotel across the bay, on top of the hill. The low light of this bad night made only a ghostly shadow of the large boat sitting out beyond the others, the beautiful and proud Ismarelda, now wallowing sluggishly.

Then came the boys, racing down the sand, buckets swinging wildly at their sides toward the waiting panga. Jumping quickly in and pushing off they raced quickly to her side and jumped on board.

Victoriano, the one of many years on the sea, looking out from his restaurant said to the strangers at the table “they should bring this one to the beach right now.” He had seen many sinking’s over the years and knew the signs of one struck with the fatal blow. “Otherwise, she will sink for sure,” he said to no one.

Out in the bay, as the crew boarded the now lumbering sport fisherman, they could see by the depth of the water, already above the knees, that their buckets could not be quick enough. The only chance to save her was to try and find the leak and plug it. “Lampara, necessitamos una lampara,” Flashlight, we need a flashlight! yelled Nino, the head of the boys. Of course, no one had thought of such a thing in the rush to the buckets. “Get onto the beach for a flashlight” he screamed to the youngest one of the crew, “quickly.” And the boy jumped over the side into the panga with his legs now wet up to the thigh and raced to the beach, yelling “lampara, lampara!” as he got near. One and then another came running with their lights and splashed into the surf to deliver their precious cargo before pushing him off again. The boy turned the boat quickly and raced the panga back toward the queen, weaving his way deftly between the resting pack, hoping to not catch of the many anchor lines that lay in his path. Quickly he was back at her side and he could see that the dark waters were nearer her windows, as the beautiful Yachte struggled for air.

“Victoriano, el sabio viejo;” Victoriano, the wise one of many years says that we must cut the anchor line immediately and pull her to the beach if there is to be any hope,” the young one told the crew breathlessly as he reboarded and waited for new instructions. But, caught up in the struggle, the boss could not think with such a clear head, still a bit clouded from smoking the “toque” and the many beers of the night before. He dismissed the suggestion rudely, cursing the boy loudly, as he grabbed the light and sloshed his way back toward the engines. With such a rebuke the young one could say no more. But he had understood, and he had agreed, he could see the only way to save Ismarelda was to cut the lines and try and pull her close to the saving bottom near the shore.

Nevertheless, the boys went back to their losing battle with the buckets, scooping and dumping with all their might, and as she sank lower into the unforgiving depths they began to curse with each hard pull. Nino, the boss, back with the bad motor, could not find the leak as the water was now well over the heads of the two diesels and he too began to curse loudly as he groped around blindly in the oily mess.

Then, after only a very little while, to the sounds of the cursings, poor Ismarelda rolled over onto her side, knocking the boys off their feet, and the meanness and anger turned instantly to panic. “Get out, get out” were the next words heard inside the hull. As the fear of being dragged down with the boat grew the boys fought and scrambled for the hatch, now only a slanted sliver of an opening. No more thought for the boat was given, only the thought to keep breathing.

Gracias a Dios, thanks be to God, they all managed to get out. She was now so low in the water that they swam over the low side and slipped into the waiting pangas, pulled on board by their grateful friends.

They could only watch in silence and sadness, to shine the lights of the lamparas onto the tragic scene. With the extra light the ones on shore could see clearly now – she would be going down on her side, by the stern, where the heavy iron horses pulled strongly toward the bottom. And suddenly there was only a little bit of her gleaming white bow to be seen, it bobbed once more and rose, then lovely Ismarelda was gone. And the lights from across the bay danced slowly on top of her grave.

The little crew could only look away from each other so as not to cry. In their disappointment and frustration no one would speak. Finally, Nino, the boss said in the quietest voice they had ever heard “maybe we should have cut the lines and tried to pull her to the beach.” The young boy said nothing. But all the others turned to meet his face and with the raised eyebrows and quick flick of the chin said to him “yes.” They too had understood, he had been right all along.

“Aye, chingala” said Nino brusquely, giving it the finger, “we did not even have the knife, anyway.” And the pangas passed slowly to the beach.

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