The Sea God…King…something (Jan 6)

After today’s transfer and demo flight and getting settled into my accommodations my mechanic and I fashioned a shelf for my bunk so that I could have a place for my laptop. The rest of the day was spent not doing much, as there was no need for flying. They closed the tower (observation and fish spotting) early in the afternoon as we transitioned high seas (no fishing operations allowed) into the Solomon fishing grounds.

I walk around the boat a lot without any real idea of where I’m going partly to kill time and partly to get out of my cabin and get some fresh air. On one of these walks I noticed they had spread out tarps and placed bowls and bowls of fresh fruit out on the main deck. They’d also wheeled a oil-drum BBQ out onto the deck also. It looked like we might be celebrating something. I snapped some photos of the spread but the centerpiece is most worth mentioning. At the center of all the fruit and soju and rice beer, was the severed head of a pig – on a plate. A delicacy in most Asian nations, it’s not a common dining table addition in the United States.

When the time came to go to the deck for what I thought would be a party for the Captains birthday or something like that I was surprised to see that the usual plates and food spread wasn’t there yet. The crew were standing back behind the Captain who had kicked off his sandals and walked up to the front of the spread. The Chief Engineer saw the confusion on my face I think because he made his way over to me and explained what was going on.

They were making an offering to the god of the sea (he might have said sea king though) and praying for many fish. The Captain knelt down onto the mat and bowed in front of the spread, and then took a silver bowl of Soju and splashed it from his fingers across the food and fruit. Then the XO and his officers all took the mat and did their prayer. Each of them flicked Soju from their fingers onto the boat, the deck, the net, and the food. This went on while all of the Korean fishermen did their thing. Everyone who did this placed money into the mouth and nostrils of the pigs head.

Once it was all done the cook and the XO scooped up two big bowls and moved the fruit into them, and together took all of the fruit to side of the boat AND TOSSED IT INTO THE SEA!@!#@$*&^)

I may have actually audibly gasped as I watched watermelons and pineapples and pears and apples topple into the ocean. The one thing I love most in this world at meal times, the fruit, had just been sacrificed like a virgin to a volcano, just bobbed and sank into the ocean as we steamed away at full speed from them.

The cook then sliced the nose off of the pig and gave it to one of the crewmen, he looked like a young guy so I’m thinking the youngest crewmember gets the pig nose? The XO reappeared with a bowl of rice, and he and his officers went to work tossing rice on the nets, the cable drums, the deck, the walls, the buoys, the net boat, the skiff, the speed boat. Later in the night I went up to check on the helicopter and sure enough, they’d riced that too. The boat was covered in grains of rice. After that is when the BBQ started. I was sent to my place in the Captains circle of officers. We get better food there, the cook mixed up a blend of rice and beef and noodles (RICE AND NOODLES!) into a delicious spicy sauce that we were all served. There were dumplings filled with a sweet cocoa paste (I think) and no shortage of BBQ steak slices. An assortment of Kimchi and side dishes was strewn about and more than one bottle of beer and soju made the rounds.

The Captain is a happy drinker, and he likes to drink with his crew. He went on to tell me that on his ship we eat and drink as one, as a family. Well this misfit family was able to put away a fair share of alcohol. The deck boss was calling his crew over one at a time and giving them shots of Soju and making them drink it in one gulp. Much to the joy of the officers as the young Indonesians tried to swallow big gulps of the Korean whisky.

The night went on into the dark as the embers of the BBQ were allowed to fade out into the darkness under the watch of crewmen who took turns rotating out to make sure the fire was out. The rest of the crew made their way to their rooms and passed out. I climbed the stairs up to my room on the upper deck and fetched my GPS and phone to send a few messages to family before also curling up and passing out for the night.

I hope the Sea God King is pleased. He has my fruit.

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