Monday, 20 February 2017

got the paddle..wheres the bloody canoe..

Did I ever tell you…Of the time I was working down at the very tip of India, in the state of Kerala.
We were staying at the Kovalum Beach Resort,
In those days, mid seventies, it was a very rare and attractive hotel that sprawled down a gently sloping cliff face and every room and large terrace had a view over the fantastic Kovalum beach which curved away into the distance to finally be obscured by the foam from the breakers.
There were a number of very active, and for India, seemingly prosperous fishing villages dotted along the beach and one was just outside of the hotel compound, a short walk from the hotel bar down the well guarded path..
One evening the crew were as usual propping up the bar knocking back a few beers and getting quite merry when pandemonium broke out. The hotel staff were running around doing a bit of weeping and wailing and calling for divine help.
Apparently one of the fishermen from the village had gone missing during a fishing trip and everyone presumed he was a gonner..including us. We returned to the bar and continued with our hobby, getting drunk.
Some thirty minutes or so later the noise of weeping had diminished a little and we were a little more drunk..The Manager appeared and apologised for the scene we had witnessed as it must have been a little embarrassing for us. The problem was that the missing fisherman was from our local village and nearly everyone employed in the hotel was a relative of his.
We asked what sort of rescue operation had been set up to search for the man..”None” he said…”we don’t have such a thing, his fate is in the hands of The Almighty” And with that he left us.
The producer on this particular trip had a slight fetish, he saw himself as the archetypal Englishman. He never travelled anywhere in the world, no matter how hot or dusty or tropical, without wearing a black pinstripe three piece suit, plus collar and old school tie and Oxford wing tipped shoes..
And that’s what he was wearing now as he said to me in the words I will never forget “We cannot let this happen, just sitting here getting drunk when a poor chap might be dying for want of some effort” or very near to those words anyway..
And so it was a few minutes later that both of us were down on the beach pushing a canoe out into the Indian Ocean.
What we had failed to spot in our very drunken state was the fact that the canoe was the only one left down near the waters edge…very much on its own., but it seemed to float very nicely so we hopped aboard. and grabbing a paddle each we headed off into the pitch black night……..Fools….
At this very tip of India the two oceans from either side meet and to put it mildly, collide.
This causes the water to churn on the surface and heaven knows what type of strong currents are running deep underwater.
We were to find out.
After vigorously paddling for some time we hit this maelstrom of water .It was rough. and it suddenly got very tough..
The canoe we were riding in departed..without warning it serenely sank beneath the Ocean waves and left us floating, with just two small wooden paddles. It happened so quickly that we didn’t speak for a few moments and during that time we both got very sober.
Here we were bobbing about. The hotel lights were fading in the distance very fast and in a short while we lost sight of them completely. The current was strong and we could actually feel it towing us further out. We locked the two paddles together and contemplated our fate, or rather our imminent demise
This was how it stacked up. A long way South of us, several thousand miles was Antarctica, immediately to our left was Malaysia and just beyond that Australia, again, several thousand miles and many days of floating along clutching our paddles. It would never happen, this was the Indian Ocean which is apparently stuffed with man eating things called sharks.
The thought that in a few hours time we would be shark shit did not make us very happy and we both went very silent, each with our own thoughts.
We floated for a very long and sombre time, waiting for that first strike. I did keep my legs up as much as I could and never let on
Do you believe in miracles. I never did .The parting of the Red Sea, the Five loafs and Fishes, Turning water into wine. That was just great storytelling and total myth to me.
And then a miracle turned up.
Way out there in the Ocean, having almost given up hope, a small canoe came out of the darkness, at great speed. It almost went straight over the top of us.
We both desperately grabbed the outrigger that those canoe’s had and it came to a sudden stop.
Had it been twenty or even ten feet away we would never have stopped it and I feel sure the fisherman onboard would not have stopped..would you..
The man on board must have been near a heart attack as he looked down and saw two white faces peering up at him,grinning wildly.
White sea monsters..
I have often wondered what his thoughts were as we struggled aboard. Two Englishmen and one wearing a complete Saville Row outfit. I bet his grandkids think he is nuts.
He did manage to keep his cool as we requested he drop us off at our hotel
Two happy endings to this story. The fisherman took us to our beach and kindly dropped us off and on returning to the Hotel bar we were told by a bemused but delighted manager that the “Lost” fisherman had been found .
Moral of the story..If you ever steal a canoe, stay sober and make sure the bugger floats..

Originally published on     by RJ Dodd

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