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Friday, October 30, 2009

Non sequiturs in limbo

0700/30 position 0348 02128 trip 91/24
What a bloody awful night! Total living but physically demanding, utterly frustrating and on balance, bloody awful. I'll try to write a bit more later.
Imagine if you can the almost unimaginable - we're more or less becalmed here in our tired old workhorse but we do have an engine and we can, if there is any, go to windward. We have food and a watermaker. Less that 200 years ago in this same bit of ocean there would have been slave ships similarly becalmed with their lower decks crammed with people chained to the decks and hosed out when the stench got to be too much for the crew. Not enough water, starvation rations, salt water ulcers, chafe, no sanitary arrangements of any kind, sheer uncomprehending fear and misery, confined and condemned. The dead thrown overboard and floating beside the ships, unrecorded and ignored. Just loss of profit. Looking at the weather system we are under, it doesn't seem to be moving very fast, if at all - there was a pale moon for a short time and the clouds were not moving past it - the slavers could have been stuck here for days or weeks with cargoes of the slowly dying. Voltaire wrote that the one armed, one legged slave said to Candide and Pangloss 'This is the price we pay so you can have sugar on your tables...'

And staying with the sombre, Torquemada and the Spanish Inquisitors had it both ways. If you were called to testify, there must have been a reason so you were guilty by implication and a candidate for the disemboweller and if you refused to testify, there must have been something you were hiding so equally guilty. Oversimplified of course, but our particular Examiner is in the same logical frame. We are fair game - the sea is serenely, imperiously, unforgivingly indifferent to anyone who is out on it so we must be silly enough to be expecting that She the Examiner will do her worst. Reminded of all this when reading the story of the 1755 Lisbon earthquake and fire (Paice, Edward, Wrath of God, Quercus, London 2008). A fascinating story, with the Inquisition prominent. And don't miss the grisly tale of the public executions of the Tavora family (not by the Inquisition as it happened, but at the orders of the King, through the Marquess de Pombal). We were given by a friend an even more ghastly version than the one in the book.

The Examiner has cosseted and coddled us so far on this trip and we can't really complain that we are stuck here in some rather unpleasant conditions. But it ain't much fun. This middle watch again.