The Captain’s Log Book 39
Puerto Pesquero Artisenal, Esmeraldas, Ecuador:
Sunday, June 20, 2020
00º59´184´´ North, 079º38´787´´ West


The Miracle of Burocracy
The captain is back on board. For over a year, the ship has been moored right in the middle of a small fishing port in Ecuador. Azart is by far the largest ship. The russian Pasha has been the lonely guardian. In the very beginning our Surinamese director Tolin Alexander had come to make a theater show about the pride of the province: marimba. When we started the conversations with the Municipality and with the actors and musicians the pandemic broke loose. In a few days the Fools turned from welcome guests into pariahs. No island in the Pacific would be willing to receive them. Basically, that marked the end of a journey that had continued for 32 years. Tolin remained a prisoner of the ship for four months before he could return to his country. And soon after the captain had an emergency surgery in which a fist-sized tumor was removed from his spine. From now on he’ll drive a wheelchair if he has to walk more than a hundred meters. No more travels. Finita La Commedia.

The captain is back on board after ten months of medical treatment. Never before had he left his ship for more than ten days. A fine job awaits him. The ship is to be given as a gift to the theater group “Humor & Life” who in the meantime managed to have the city of Manta fully embrace the project. For thirty yearshe ship gets 2000 on loan to set up the ship as a theater. Next to it stands the tribune and some old containers as an office. First they planned the ship at the very end of the beach. I actually liked this spot in the lost corner the best. But after a few months of reflection, the department of public works came up with the brilliant idea to use the ship as a magnet to develop the entire beach that in its present state is fairly shabby. That’s a miracle! The ship is to become the catalyst to boost the beach as a tourist and cultural destination. This would serve the community of fishermen in the hamlet of San Mateo as well as the inhabitants of the city itself, six kilometers away. There’s a neat end loop planned for the bus and a parking lot for the cars and for the small fishing boats. There will be a boulevard with trees, bars and restaurants. I wonder if the city will be able to realise these plans in the coming ten years or so but one thing but one thing seems to be certain: the ship will rise as a gigantic sculpture on the beach, as big as a stranded whale. Finally, the vessel reveals her full dimensions we always kept hidden from the public. The show must go on.

Meanwhile, our friends from the theater group have spoken to an impressive crowd of officials and lawyers. The provincial “House of Culture” is also most enthusiastic. They lost two thousand theater seats during the earthquake of 2016. Next week the long-awaited skipper will head to the city himself to make a kind of small triumphal procession, preferably without his wheelbarrow. In his suitcases he brought 17 kilos or 28 copies of his photo book “Ship of Fools”, to be used as a passport, each copie earmarked with a designated name and dedication. One of the challenges is to muster enough strength to pull the 180-ton ship 130 meters up the beach. A small dutch company specialized in ship stability made the design for this. Pray the province send its most powerful bulldozers to Manta. Or else, let the Ecuadorian navy do the job. In the end, it’s a national affair. All the world is a stage.

Negotiations are also taking place in the port of Esmeraldas. After more than a year, they suddenly remembered the existence of the ship. Since our shipping agent died of Covid they had to beg me to tell me since when we’re in port. They threaten huge fines on harbor dues that no one said existed. In fact, they have put an embargo on the ship for not being seaworthy. We may neither stay nor sail. With this riddle they came up and this riddle they must solve themselves. They actually informed the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management about the seizure. The next issue is whether import tax should be paid on the importation of the ship and tribune. I’ll speak to these Navy officials from my pram, to emphasize the seriousness of the matter It’s high time the captain gets back on board. A peremtory job awaits him. Navigare necesse est. A ship must sail.