Ben Oostdam story # 223


Ze Peixe, or "The Fish"

The captain and the professor had just ordered their Cuba libres when they were joined by the journalist. Shortly after, Cristine brought an Italian dish for the captain (his and her favorite, respectively) and for the guests two deep bowls of sancocho, a national stew made of five kinds of meat, four types of tuber and various vegetables and spices.
"Something like my 'Ingredient-Stew," snorted the professor, while the captain assured the journalist that it would be safe to eat.
After finishing a short story about one of his friends, a berserk Irish Fighter pilot with seven children which he (the captain) listed by name, he launched into the following tale dealing with another kind of pilot:

"One time when I was working off Brazil, I was in charge of a tugboat which had to tow a large seagoing barge with a crane and pipe-line layer."
For the benefit of the journalist, he sketched the barge in outline on a paper napkin.
"This was a tough job, going all the way to the port of Aracaju at the mouth of the Sergipe river. Since the chart showed a buoy at the entrance channel with rather shallow depth, I had to carefully calculate to get there at high water, which was at 09:00 in the morning of the next day."

" I had radioed ahead for a pilot to be there just before our planned arrival time, and they had assured me that the pilot would be there. When we approached, I started to pull in the towing cable which was well over a kilometer long, and I slowed down in preparation for turning around the buoy into the channel. I got worried when I did not see the pilot boat and the crew was anxious, too. I radioed once again and was told that the pilot was on the buoy, but I did not see any pilot boat so I got really worried. We only had some fifty meters of cable out and were close to a spot with a depth of 5 meters, while my draft was about 4 1/2m."
"What about the draft of the barge?" asked the professor.
"Well, that was less, some 3 m only, but the real danger was that if the tug ran aground, the barge would just run over her because of its momentum and that would be the end of us all! I can't tell you how the crew looked at me, especially since I was rather young at the time."

Then the captain's tiny cell phone range and without a word he got up, leaving the two guests in suspense. They waited politely and soon the captain returned and reumed his tale as if time had stood still during his absence . .
. "Then one of the crew shouted that someone was on the buoy, and I saw a small figure waving at us. When we got near the buoy, the man dove into the water and swam out to us.
We pulled him aboard and he started talking to me in rapid Brazilian. I was rather mad and swore up and down, let's get this f. show on the road or somethingk like it but he asked me to first sign some papers he pulled out of a plastic bag stuffed into his swimming trunks. As soon as I had completed signing them he took charge and with all kinds of gestures told the helmsman exactly where to go and what to do. Within a few minutes the whole tow had rounded the buoy into the channel - some 90 degrees turn - and was steaming into port..."

"But how did you get the barge to stop?" asked the journalist remembering the momentum.
"That was easy, we just headed for the quay and the barge dropped its anchor well before we got there."

"I got to be good friends with this pilot afterwards," the captain continued, "he was leading a very simple life. He never wore any shoes and had feet like a duck's. He swam 10 to 12 kilometers each day, and only used a small body surfboard. .."
"What, no flippers and no face mask?" asked the professor incredulously.

"No, nothing at all, and he also was not worried about any sharks, he said they were just his friends and never bothered him!
He had been doing this for decades and everyone called him by his nick-name: "Ze Peixe" which is Brazilian for "The Fish."
He even took me to church every Sunday when he dressed up for the occasion, but only put on the single pair of shoes he owned just the second before getting into the church itself."

The captain stood up suddenly and told the guests to come along to the office so he could show them on the computer that the Peixe was famous and appeared on the Internet. With some problems he found some links, but mainly in Portuguese.

"Anyhow," the captain went on, "there was an article in a German magazine in which Peixe tells about a young American captain swearing at him, quoting literally what I said... Amazing, after all those years ....I'd sure like to meet the guy again, he must be in his late seventies by now!"

Translation of part of a log mentioning the Pilot "Ze Peixe
(please click to enlarge)

Photocredit: Ed Kashi(permission for use asked on Dec.28, 2006)

BLO fecit 20061228 - stories