History Items of the Canal Zone

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Sea Ramble

Anchors remind me of another sea story...

I was on a pole fishing Tuna Boat spending my summers catching tuna for Star-Kist. One of the AB seamen, a crazy "Portugee" from Brazil, had a hot temper and refused an order. He attacked the chief engineer with a ball peen hammer over some perceived slight in the order. We never got a clear explanation. The Portugee was 6 foot to 6 foot 2 inches tall. The Chief engineer was 5 foot 5 inches tall. No match... After a chase by the crew and a brief struggle in the shaft alley we captured the attacker. The captain ordered us to bolt a chain tight around the Portugee's neck and peen over the threads, to take him into the chain locker, affix the other end of his neck chain to a link in the anchor chain in a like manner, drive out one of the two steel chocks that held it fast, give him a wood fish bat to hold in the other chock, and lock the locker behind us as we left. If the chock came out or sheared off, the 400 # anchor would drop pulling him into the chain tunnel and grinding him up as the links ran through an 8 inch collar port. In 14 trips we had 2 accidental drops with both chocks in place. In one we had to jettison the anchor.

Now the headroom clearance in the full chain locker is maybe 24 inches so the Portugee had to lie on the chains (6 or 7 inch links). We washed the chain as it was stored but there was still enough muck to make it smell like a week old conch shell with the dead animal still in it. In addition from time to time the chain shifted with ship movement.

The captain then turned for Peru where he shipped from; a 180 foot ship into 35 foot seas for over 900 miles. When we got to port the Portugee was still alive but black-n-blue and short 2 fingers. The captain charged him with mutiny and turned him over to the Port Captain in chains. I heard scuttlebutt he was ultimately hanged.

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Author Dale C. Clarke.
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