The wheelhouse (aka the Bridge) of the MV Greenpeace is not all that big. Snug, some might call it. A free-standing gyro unit and two free-standing radars take up a lot of the room. And Esteban and Fernando took up the rest. Especially Fernando because he was a big chap. Marijke and I huddled together in the centre and stared out at the blackness beyond the windows.
To be fair to the fishermen, they tucked themselves out of the way – one at each side of the wheelhouse – and tried to be unobtrusive. Why were they there? Didn’t they trust two women to get us safely to Santander? Or were they just enjoying sailing on an ancient salvage tug decorated with rainbows? I like to think it was the latter of the two. I couldn’t ask them because neither spoke English and I don’t speak Spanish.
Midnight became 0100. 0100 became 0130. Marijke and I said little to each other because we didn’t want to be rude to the boys in the corners. Time dragged. Above the throb of the engine, I could hear the wind tearing through the rigging like a mournful ghost and every few seconds the ship buried her nose in the swell and threw sea spray up to splat against the windows. On the port side of the wheelhouse, Esteban hummed quietly to himself.
‘Ok Esteban?’ I asked him,
‘Si, si,’ he smiled and nodded.
‘OK Fernando?’ I looked to the starboard side.
‘Si, OK.’ Fernando’s teeth shone white under his huge Mexican moustache as he too smiled.
And that was all the conversation we managed.
Finally, 0130 became 0200 and Esteban decided to go to bed. Marijke and I held our breath. Would Fernando go to? No. Fernando stayed. Five minutes passed. Then ten.
‘OK, I had enough now,’ Marijke pulled something out of her pocket. ‘I bringed this up especially for us to listen to and I’m fed up with waiting.’ She went to the stereo and slipped in a cassette and jacked up the volume. Jangling guitar backed by harmonica burst from the speakers and Alanis Morissette asked us if she stressed us out.
It’s dark, it’s the wee small hours of the morning. A small green ship is rolling and pitching heavily along an easterly course. In the next port, many people are waiting to come aboard and see what a Greenpeace ship is like from the inside. Some other people are waiting to have serious meetings about wall-of-death fishing practices and, maybe, a few news editors are hoping to get some decent footage from their cameramen in the field …
But in the meantime, the ship is still at sea. Marijke and I are still on watch, Alanis is singing All I Really Want and Fernando has come out of his corner. The three of us are dancing – in a force nine gale – and we’re loving it.