“If the cook is not fat, the food is not good.” –Nick Henderson
I know, some people might think that it is a big arrogant to quote oneself, especially when my readership is still only in its infancy. But I’m thinking that I’ll produce a book of proverbs out here on the ocean, so I might as well start writing them down. In our case, the cook on this bit if plump – and his food is, if you like Korean cuisine, palatable. I can fast promise each and every one of you that after this voyage if we go out to eat I will not be open to any suggestion that involves Korean food, or rice. Any rice. I don’t care where it’s from. I’ve had more rice in the last 4 days than I’ve ever had in my entire life combined. I’m getting handy with chopsticks too – I can actually sort my rice with them, pick up bits of side dishes, it’s like I’m a regular Asian. Except – well, not.
“There is a caste system. If you don’t think it exists, you’re most likely at the bottom of it.” –Nick Henderson
The other night for dinner we were treated to chicken soup. It was actually pretty good broth that tasted like chicken, it was a large bowl filled with rice, and broth. Oh and I almost forgot about all the chicken bones. Yum! As I dove in I found myself in an interesting position, often I had been perplexed by my Asian friends tenacity at picking every little bit of meat off of chicken bones. Being American I’d grown accustomed to just eating the juiciest parts and tossing the hard work stuff away. If that isn’t a bit telling of American society I don’t know what is. We’re very much a luxury oriented culture, not inclined to hard labor, and happy. Well, here I am on a Korean fishing boat in the middle of the ocean fighting against a tenacious bit of white cartilage on the stripped bare leg of a previously living chicken for a morsel of meat not much bigger than a grain of rice. But it had been so long since I had tasted anything the resembled a protein that damn it I was going to get that chicken. Before coming out here I was on a pretty regimented diet my coach and nutritionist had put together for me that called for damn near 30 ounces of protein a day. I was a chicken eating fool. But only the juiciest, biggest, easy to get to chunks of meat.
Then I found myself wondering, my chopsticks slipping across the grey bone of the chicken leg and my spoon not doing any good keeping the meat in place – where the hell was the rest of the chicken meat? I know for a fact we hadn’t eaten it, and it wasn’t in the soup. Looking around, we’ve got a crew of 25 or so guys, all fighting for morsels of meat, that’s a half dozen chickens right? Where the hell are the chunks? Korean caste system strikes its first blow. It wasn’t until this moment that I realized I was in the bottom end of a hierarchy I was never meant to be on top of. The officers were eating at their own table, and not from the community food stock. The cook – that plump Korean man who would smoke in the kitchen as much as cook – was scurrying about bringing the officers plates of meat. Chunks. Well isn’t that neat. I’m only your helicopter pilot fella, don’t you think maybe you should spare a guy some chicken? Before he kills you for not giving him some chicken?
The next morning I observed the same thing. We got fried eggs and rice, the officers got eggs made to order and more strips of white chicken meat. I’d figured it out now. This is why the cook freaked out when I sat at that table once. You see the galley was full and the first officer (Riker) called me to sit at their table. “Pilot!”
As soon as I sat down and began to pick bits of sides off of the dishes on the Captains Table the cook came running across the galley –small as it may be it seemed like he had plenty of room to build up speed- “No, no. You wait.” The cook said quietly, and then took my plate and utensils away from me. I couldn’t help but feel as if I’d just been put on time out. He took my plate around to the various tables with the crew at them and loaded it up with sides from the lower caste dishes and then brought it back to me. I couldn’t complain – it was Korean food at either table so it all tastes the same to me, on the up side – I had the only waiter on the ship delivering my food!
“There is no freedom like the freedom one gains in isolation from distraction.” – Nick Henderson
It’s interesting, I’ve only been on the open ocean for a few days now. Endless sea as far as you can look in any direction. The extent of my activities are contained to a small box I call my bunk. I can study, sleep, watch movies, play a game, and that’s about it. There is something very calming about sitting on top of this fishing boat looking out at the horizon, no land in sight no matter which direction you look. People are always trying to one up each other on who has the best sunsets, Florida, Tahiti, Fiji, wherever you think it is – you’re wrong. There is no sunset like that on the high sea. I’ve never seen the sky come to life in such a spectacle of oranges and reds, the clouds and ocean working in unison to filter rays this way and that. My routine is shaping up out here and I find now that a lot of my time is spent not doing much of anything – looking and thinking, and writing. I feel as though I understand better now why the ocean has been the subject of so many great works of writing and I am compelled to read them now, because I think I’ll relate more to the stories.
We had a bit of excitement today though, my first training flight was today – talk about being tossed into the fire and expected to make it work. There is no landing zone except the boat deck – so I don’t have much choice but to land. Thank god I’ve got Jose in the cockpit with me to actually get the helicopter onto the deck. I can take off and fly no problem, it’s landing on a moving boat in a crosswind that is tricky. We did that for about half an hour before hitting the high seas (which I guess we hadn’t been on – could have fooled me) and it would seem that we aren’t allowed to fish or fly in the high sea zone. Something about Air Piracy – which IS A THING. I didn’t know. But I think if I’m ever down on my luck I think I’m gonna Jack Sparrow in a Huey around the Caribbean.
We also stumbled across a, and I’m not sure on the pronunciation let-alone the spelling on this, payow(sp?). Anyways that’s how they say it if you use the hooked on phonics approach to sounding out words. Lots of shouting “Payow! Payow!” And then sure enough, a log floating in the water with some buoys with a GPS beacon attached to it plops over the swell of the ocean and they maneuver the Caribe to it. The crew hooked the log, pulled it in, and attached their own beacon to it. I think we will be back here. I think. That’s assuming that another crew doesn’t find our newly tagged Payow and put their beacon on it instead of ours.
Tonight, at about 1am we are linking up with a cargo ship, I’m going to be fast asleep when that happens but I placed my order with one of the Korean guys for a case of water and a case of Orange juice. I can’t wait for the orange juice. I haven’t had so much as a single ounce of fruit since leaving the port in Suva – I had no idea I was going to need it. Tomorrow morning is gonna be AWESOME. $20 got me a case of water and a case of OJ. I could have also bought beer, chocolate, an assotment of juices, and a bunch of stuff that forced English and hand gestures couldn’t get through. So I just ordered what I recognized. And I didn’t need chocolate or beer. I’m a bit bummed that it is happening at 1am because I need my sleep but I would like to see the process happen. We’re picking up JET-A for the 500 too, and fuel for the Caribe and I can only assume food for the kitchen. Man, I hope he gets enough chicken to feed us all this time.
Update: Dinner tonight was awesome, huge slices of duck and pork. Cook must have known I was complaining silently in my thoughts and here.