MARINE DAY TOLD BY AN OLD NAVY MARINE

On the occasion of the Day of Seafarer, in all honesty, I must admit that my desire and willingness to be a sailor is attached to my early years. These are years I remember with great joy. The arrival of some of the sailors returning from campaigns for over a year is celebrated with euphoria. Parties were organized at one of the bars in the village where I was born, where three musicians hired , Vermouth and wine ran on behalf of the home comers.

 

The first time I went to these parties I was about 13 years and decided without doubt to become a marine, to fulfill the dream of living those adventures and visit all the countries, see the geishas, learn about other cultures and make money. It was in the early sixties and Spain had economic dificulties.

 

 

My first experience as a sailor begins in 1965, the Day of Mercy. I left my village bound for Cartagena, where I embarked on the 27th of September on the oil tanker Biscay Guernica. Since that day, there were innumerable anecdotes and adventures I had during the 23-year career. I remember in February 1968, as a second officer embarked on one of the first trips made between Spain and the USSR, bound for Riga. Passing off the coast of Brest harbor we lost the governor under strong waves and rough seas we headed to the rocks. The French army intervened very quickly and saved us from an imminent death. Truth is that the attitude of the French authorities was commendable and assisted with great professionalism. Thanks to their rapid action, this dark day fortunately only resulted in three minor injuries. Among them was myself. I got burnt by a flare asking for help. Looking at it from a positive side, once in port, Carnival in Brest was celebrated and the days we spent were wonderful during the dock stay for repairs and finally we could continue to the destination.

 

Another unforgettable day for me was April 24, 1974, when I got to Lisbonas a captain on my first assignment with another Basque sailor. At dusk we observe some strange motions in the bars and the taxi drivers did not know why. On the 25th we were to take a plane to Madrid but had to return to the hotel. That day there was the uprising against the Salazar dictatorship with the following cessation of flights. During the trip from the hotel to the airport we watched some squads of soldiers running down a street but no shooting or control, thank god. We stayed in the hotel until the 26th and were on the first flight that day.

 

During my time as a marine, my three children were born. During the birth of my first child, I had another interesting anecdote when un boarding in Iran. I was retained at the airport having an expired passport, but not my bag which went to Madrid via Rome. These three days were quite unpleasant and incidents occurred with protesters burning flags of United Kingdom and the United States. When entering and leaving the Spanish embassy, protesters were everywhere. Thank god I got the passport the same day, but I suffered three controls in the Hotel along with other foreigners by the SAVAK. On the third day I arrived in Madrid with no money and I remember some marquis gentlemen who came to visit Mecca asked me which direction Mecca was oriented. They gave me money for a snack after praying. Finally, I retrieved the suitcase and I thank the taxi driver who took me to my village in Vizcaya where I paid the service. During the trip he invited me to eat at Burgos y Miranda del Ebro. Later in January the Shah left the country and in September the U.S. embassy was stormed.

 

I had the great fortune of working as Captain being 26 years old, under special circumstances, although being 27 years old, I officially took control of the MV Revere in September 1973. I Was in Burnside (USA) working for the company Ore Shipping CO. Undoubtedly the most dramatic moments were spent during being at anchor off the coast of Nigeria where there were frequent pirate attacks on ships. They stole money and belongings from the crews, killed and raped as happened to a ship’s owned by North Maritima. During those days we witnessed shooting between pirates and crew of two Japanese ships. We stood guard and kept lights illuminating the entire deck, but had no firearms but a machete. We only suffered two attempts of attack when they tried to climb the chain but failed. The sea has always been a lawless domain and it is even today for some areas to practice piracy.

 

During all these years, I sailed for companies from countries as diverse as Norway, Colombia, Peru, Angola, Panama, Liberia, and Singapore. In all types of boats such as car-carriers, bulk-carriers, general cargo, OBOS, etc.. In the crew I was often the only Spaniard.

 

After this period as Captain, I came to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria 28 years ago. I have also worked in companies linked to the maritime sector, becoming part-owner of a general cargo ship. Later, I started working with Zamakona Group in 1990.

 

I confess that I still frequently visit the docks and some boats arriving to the Port of Las Palmas. Since I arrived, the Port of Las Palmas has grown and improved in capacity and services. When I got here the base business for the workshops, suppliers etc was the fishing fleet. Today it has disappeared for various reasons, and the port has had to adapt to new challenges. Among them, no doubt is the offshore sector. Here is where it should be concentrated more effort in terms of facilities, professional expertise, machinery and equipment, training, etc.. Undoubtedly, the offshore sector will underpin development of the Port of Las Palmas for the next 25 years.

 

We’ve got to consider the Port of Las Palmas a world-class port.

 

The greatest happiness and luck to all seafarers.Capt. Rafael Arístegui

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