Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Net

Here is a story that the West Charlton firemen would like to tell about me at the firemen's annual banquet.

We approached the northern shore of Yucatan about 0700 after a very hard 36 hours at sea battling the wind and the currents. We came in at the nearest place on the coast that it appeared that we could approach the shore without fear of hitting offshore reefs or shoals. That turned out to be 60 miles past the northeast corner of Yucatan.

According to my maps there is nothing there. The north shore of Yucatan is essentially unpopulated for 500 miles. I wasn't expecting to encounter anything or anybody.

I decided to anchor in 15 feet of water. That would leave us about three miles out. As we approached 20 feet of depth I breathed a sigh of relief. Soon I would be able to sleep. I was slouched low in my seat to leward on the port side. That made the whole starboard side a blind spot.

I saw a styrofoam buoy in the water to port. It had a flag waving from the top. "Duh, what could that be?" I thought. My course took me close to the buoy and soon I was worried about underwater obstacles. I stood up to see more clearly. To my amazement when I stood I could see a fisherman in a small boat scrambling to pull up a fishing net and to not be run over by Tarwathie. I missed him by only 6 feet. As I looked back I could see the net draped over his boat and over the propeller of his raised outboard motor. He was yelling at me and shaking his fist.

A few minutes later we were in 15 feet of water and anchored. I could see the fisherman speeding directly toward me. Uh Oh, I thought. He'll be mad.

Sure enough he was mad. The man had a very weathered but kind face. He was angry but he didn't raise his voice. My tongue lashing was blunted by the fact that I couldn't understand what he said. I had only a little Spanish from high school. I only know a few dozen words. "Dos cervezas por favor," is an easy phrase for Americans but it wasn't very helpful in this situation. One word I did know was dinero so I said dinero? and he shook his head yes.

Now here is the part where I must admit to being totally inept at haggling. I gave him a $100 bill. The fishermen set off on another tirade. I didn't understand his words, but I eventually understood his meaning. "Only $100 for all of this net? Not enough." I tried to negotiate with him by my Spanish was too poor. I went below and fetch a paper and pencil, hoping to get him to write down what he wanted. He refused, but he did slow down enough for me to catch two key words - dos cien. Ouch! He wanted $200. I thought that was too much but I was too tired and feeling too disadvantaged to argue. Libby managed to scrape up another $100 in small bills. I paid the man and he was satisfied.

Before casting off, the fisherman looked me in the eye and gestured. He pointed to his left eye and then to his right eye. The meaning was plain as day -- "Next time keep a sharp eye out for where you're going." Si, I answered, si.

Did I get taken? I don't know for a fact how much damage I caused, if any at all. I don't know how much of his time it would take to repair the net. I wonder if I had offered $20 initially if I could have gotten away with paying less. All I know is that I was in the wrong, and that the fisherman eventually left satisfied and that with no more ado I was able to go below and get some sleep. Was I a fool? I don't know. What would you have done?

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