Part 91: Alone – All the Men In the Sea
Colder & Colder
Luis huddled with four other men three-quarters of the way up the A-frame. One fellow was about 10 feet below them, and the other nine were mostly in small groups above them or on the platform. As the night wore on, the men got colder and colder. They tried crouching together to get a little warmth, but beyond giving each other some reassurance that they weren’t alone, this seemed to do little good.
Strands of Rope
Many of them feared that if they fell asleep they would lose their grip and that their safety lines, simply old bits of manila cordage, would unravel or break. In some cases two men had shared a piece of rope by dividing the strands, and they were particularly worried. Luis and an older fellow next to him woke each other when either of them slumped into unconsciousness. The agony of trying to stay awake all the time added considerably to the litany of their miseries—cold, hunger, aches, salt-stung eyes, and open cuts.
Finally, dawn came and revealed an empty sea. Not a ship, not a plane. Well, soon there would be a rescue boat for them, right? Their bosses had to know there were so many of them missing, yes? The older crewman next to Luis, a man from Tuxla, tried to reassure him. Luis felt a fear and a despair that he had never known. He didn’t think that he could hang on much longer. He and all the others kept moving and changing positions slightly to ease cramped and sore muscles and to spread the pain of the particular part of an arm or leg that was pressed into or over a steel girder. But nothing they could do really gave them any relief.
Food & Hot Coffee
Shortly after dawn they heard a plane. Fifteen faces scanned the skies for their rescuer. Then to the east they saw it, a big, fat-bodied, four-engine patrol plane. One guy thought it was the Mexican Air Force. Another said no, it was the American Coast Guard, and sure enough, someone else said they could see a star on it—so it had to be the Coast Guard. It was patrolling back and forth only a few hundred feet above the water. Obviously it was looking for them. Soon it would see them and they would be rescued and there would be food and hot coffee and beds and warmth.
Their spirits rose…