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15 Days to Kill

Jamie was an Irish guy from South Boston who worked in the engine room. He had thin, wispy red hair, and skin so pale you could see through it. Never once in the four months we spent on that ship, did I see him place anything other than meat and potatoes on his plate. Every meal, mashed, hashed, boiled, fried…Potatoes, alongside some slab of institutional grade meat, boiled gray, or slathered in some canned slop of a sauce. For an Irishman, he seemed ironically averse to the color green.

Andre was an Able seaman from New Bedford. His native language was the Cape Verde dialect of Portuguese, and his accented English replaced the ‘R’ sound with ‘H’. Today it was haining outside. “Be a-careful, itsa heally bad hain es-storm out dere.”

His diet consisted mostly of Baccala, and he always had a few pieces of the heavily salted codfish jerky in his pocket. Like most Portuguese sailors I had known, his only ambition was to be the hardest working person on the ship. He was constantly grinning and joking, and making fun of our ‘strange accents’ and ‘bad English’.

Mario was the Second Mate, he was a third generation Italian from NYC who was roundly believed to have mob ties. While he had spent his childhood at the finest prep schools and was educated at the Federal Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, he didn’t let that stop him from talking like a Brooklyn street thug.

He and I stood watch together and four of us found ourselves gathered in the “Movie Locker” one night as we each tried to plan the next two hours of our lives. The movie locker was a small room filled with VCR Cassettes on tiny shelves. We had just completed a Suez transit and we were headed south through the Red Sea enroute to Singapore.

With little overtime being offered, and a long passage ahead of us, we knew that our four paths would likely cross again, here in this locker and then later in the lounge. Movie selection could become a contentious issue with the wrong crowd, and we all seemed to silently agree that we were in this together. Jamie spoke first

“So mate, did you say that the trip to Singapore is 15 days?”

“Yeah, that’s right.”

“Well look here, the first 15 James Bond movies right here, all in a row”

“I think the Sea Gods have spoken” I added.

Fifteen nights transiting the Indian Ocean, fifteen installments of the Connery/Moore era Bond movies. Jamie had brewed some Blessed Bilge wine, and we bribed the Steward well to ensure that the party included food. The Captain earned the nickname Blofeld, and the Chief Engineer became ‘Q’, and the entire voyage was elevated from melancholy brooding on the lack of overtime, to eager anticipation of a party each night.


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