Tom taught me such a lot, I was a complete learner when it came to the ROV and its workings, but I was an experienced offshore worker and diver. And while my knowledge of what the Impresub divers were doing, wasn’t as important as what the ROV should be doing, Tom used me, to explain to him, what was happening diver wise, which gave me confidence in myself and in my ability to be an asset.
We both left the boat in Carmen, stayed in the worst hotel in the world. There was no water no air-conditioning and four people, one of them the receptionist, were asleep in hammocks in reception when we arrived at 10 PM.
Between one thing and another, I had made my mind up not to go back to Mexico.
I was hoping that the business venture with my brother would begin to bear fruit, and I had a fuzzy idea to apprentice myself to him, and become a carpenter.
However an increase to 250 dollars a day from Idrotec was enough to entice me back for a second trip.
I met Tom in the Marriott Hotel in Mexico city airport.
I was in the bar having a beer, reading every second or third word in that days Le Monde, which an Air France pilot had given me when he left, and listening to the Mariachi band.
Things were more relaxed this time through. The hotel was prepaid, dinner room and breakfast, also my salary for the previous forty-four days, 6 600.00 dollars, which at the time was almost the equivalent in Irish pounds, arrived into my bank about two weeks after I got home, relieving our seriously besieged financial situation.
Tom rushed in, red-faced and flustered, babbling about an attempted robbery with violence against him, somewhere in Mexico City.
I asked him why he didn’t come directly to the hotel; it’s a walk of some ten minutes only.
He told me that he didn’t know that the Marriott was in the airport, because the first time he came through in April, he went straight to the local flight to Carmen.
The taxi drivers/robbers/conmen congregate at the entrance gates, and pick on innocent travellers as they come through, looking around quizzically and obviously a little discombobulated. The police to patrol the airport conspicuously armed with pump action shotguns and being silver plated pistols, move on every so often, but they always come back, and they always find a victim.
I had seen them, but I had been through enough confusing and potentially perilous airports in Africa, to know that it is imperative to get through the initial wave of scammers, to the area of calm beyond to assess your surroundings without being confused by their clamour, their ‘scammer clamour’. So I waved them aside as I came through the first time, the last thing they want is somebody who knows, or look like they know, what they’re doing, so you just have to pretend that you do.
In that area of calm, I looked up to my left and saw the big sign for the Marriott, I was going to say that you can’t miss it, but obviously you can.
Tom fell for the taxi driver/robbers patter and was quickly directed to a car that looked a bit like taxi. He had told the driver that he wanted to go to the Marriott hotel at the airport, but the driver took him to some secluded laneway in Mexico city somewhere, where he produced a knife and presumably demanded Tom’s money and valuables, but luckily for Tom he was in the back seat with his bag, so he simply opened the door and ran towards a busy street close by.
His would be robber, was probably so startled by this sudden departure, that he didn’t pursue his would be victim.
Tom arrived safely at the busy street and flagged down a taxi, a real one which took him back to the airport.
It was not a pleasant thing to happen, tourists do get robbed and killed on a regular basis in Mexico. You have to be on your guard at all times.
I got Tom a beer, and he calmed down somewhat, calm enough to check-in and to take his bag to the room and come back down to join me for dinner and mariachi.
The next morning we flew to Carmen and straight out to the boat.
Nothing had changed on Umka; conditions were still appalling, so much so that shortly after our arrival back on board, the Italians asked me to write a letter in English to the overall contractor Pemex, detailing the vessels defects.
They figured that a letter in English would carry more clout than one in Italian or Spanish.
It didn’t take me long to do as they asked, and I wish that I had retained the original as it obviously carried the required authority.
However I then promptly became very ill with a gastrointestinal disease, probably dysentery and I missed a week’s (sort of) work and 15 kg.
I wasn’t by any stretch of imagination overweight, so losing so much turned me into a virtual skeleton.
The boat was called into Dos Bochas a port near Veracruz in Tabasco for an audit, and that’s where I came around.
A team of Americans came on board to assess the conditions and promptly declared the conditions unacceptable.
A new contractor Bimsa now entered the equation. We never found out who they were but I believe that they were overall responsible for our welfare, and they did not want anybody dying of food poisoning or deadly bacillus carried by cockroaches or fly’s.
Everything was shut down, and the diving, trenching and the ROV team’s, were relocated to the pretty little town of Paraiso, a scant kilometre and a bit up the narrow ribbon of tarmac, through the mangrove swamp.
One evening before I knew that the Spanish words Vipora, Peligroso and Caiman on the signs meant Danger, Snakes and Alligators. I decided to walk back to the boat as a way to build up my stamina again after my period of convalescence.
A pickup truck with several Mexican workers standing up in the back, stopped for me and insisted that I take a ride with them. They repeated over and over Peligroso and Vipora, gesturing with their hands waving motion, which I guessed to mean snakes, the snapping jaws indicated with two arms coming together forcibly, must mean crocodile or alligator, so Peligroso must mean some other beast that lives in swamps. It doesn’t, it means danger in Spanish.
Vipora, Viper, Caiman, Cayman and the South American alligator, I must have been pretty dense after my illness.
The TSS mentioned earlier, and as I had found out in the meantime, is a piece of equipment used to follow buried pipelines.
It is basically a magnetometer that picks up the magnetic signature of the steel pipe and illustrates it relative to the seabed, graphically on a waterfall display via a flip up screen in the shack.
‘Magnetometer’ ‘illustrated graphically’, ‘waterfall display’ ‘via a flip up screen‘; is this really me talking as if I knew or I’d always known what those things are for?
Of course I didn’t, but I was becoming literate in all things ROV.
One of the magnetic coils and several PCB’s in the electronics pod had burned out because they were left running on deck.
It wasn’t us, it happened on the day shift.
V.V the overall boss decided to send the coil back to Italy so that a replacement could be sent back to us.
The nearest DHL office was in a town called Villahermosa, about 60 km away.
He decided to hire a car in Paraiso and he asked me, would I take the damaged coil to the couriiers depot.
He knew that I had been busy learning Spanish with the exception of the words for snake danger and alligator, and he figured that I was the best bet because T only spoke Scottish and the rest only Italian.
I was flattered and I instantly agreed, even though I still wasn’t feeling very strong, but a chance to drive in Mexico, and see a bit of the countryside.
I knew that ‘Hermosa’ meant beautiful and villa, meant Pancho, no it meant town.
So I was guessing that it was a beautiful town.