Departed Puerto Deseado

Position: 10 miles south of Puerto Deseado
Course: South, Speed 5 knots
Wind: West sou'west, F4 moderate breeze
Weather: sunny,.cool

Scene: Prefectura's office, Puerto Deseado.
Time: 08.30 this morning.

I wait as patiently as I can while the headman sat solidly behind his chipped laminex veneered desk scrutinizing the piece of paper his staff had filled out a few days before. I do not know what he expects to see, as he diligently perused the document, as if with continued staring something might leap out at him and justify his existence. He maintained the resigned exasperated air of dignified authority, patiently waiting for his many incompetent peons who surround him to do his bidding and eventually, just maybe, get something right. Why, while I was there he even showed a junior officer how to use a rubber stamp correctly - his way.

One officer sat at the right side of the headman's desk foraging thorugh a drawer for the right rubber stamp for various bits of paper, another sat on the left writing laboriously in a large lined book, its pages also covered in many official looking stamps. Another stood behind the boss doing nothing but smiling occasionally, perhaps waiting to be sent on a mission. And yet another sat at an antiquated looking computer, as best I could make out he was watching the news. .And on one side of the small room an ancient Sailor VHF radio tuned to channel 72 stood silent on top of a chest of drawers, an am/fm radio in turn sat on top of it, blaring out some non-descript music. I stood in the middle feeling like I was at a courts martial, surrounded by pistol packing paper pushers!, with a guilty verdict a foregone conclusion.

I am trying to recollect a worse example of bureaucracy that I have experienced but none come to mind. Men in khaki uniforms come in and out carrying folders and books covered in red paper, perhaps to emphasize their importance. It seemed my particular piece of paper had encountered a problem, they need to make some copies for the departure procedures. It was exactly the same form with the same information on it as the entry form but with a different box crossed at the top right hand corner. They had no blank forms. A Lieutenant Commander printed one out from the computer and then disappeared for 10 minutes accompanied by a Sub-lieutanant, presumably he went to a shop to get some photocopies there being no photocopier in sight. When he returned the boss, who in the meantime I had discovered was a four ring Captain equivalent, transcribed all the information from the entry form onto the departure form, occasionally pausing to ask me a few searching questions.

"Do you have a safety certrificate?"

"No."

"Any document?"

"No."

I show him Sylph's ship registraion papers aagin and explain that Australia does not require safety certificates for non-commercial craft, and in any event seeing as I had left Australia eight years ago such a piece of paper would be worthless by now. I was growing increasingly frustrated as I wanted to leave with slack high water, but knew any expression of impatience was only going to slow things down even further. I swallowed and smiled. Eventually the Captain accepted that he wasn't going to get any more pieces of paper from me and continued meticulously transcribing the form. Once he had completed this first copy he vacated his chair and had a junior officer sit at his desk and transcribe another copy. Carbon paper presumably would have meant a few lost jobs n this outfit. Thoughts of Dickens's Circumlocution Office from "Little Dorrit" sprang to mind, a public service office whose job it was to ensure that nothing got done. The only thing missing was the bits of red tape wrapped around their red papered binders.

But, unlike the Circumlocution Office, it was all eventually done and I was allowed to go. We were running a little late for the tide but it just meant that we would have a bit of extra push out the harbour.

Once underway we swung by Jenny to a collect a chart of San Julian I had leant them and then with the wind behind us and a fair tide we left Puerto Deseado receding in our wake.

Now we have rounded Isla Pinguino and are punching our way into a moderate head wind and sea.

All is well.

?

Bob Cat:

Having slept on the idea of a mutiny I have come to the conclusion ithat it sounds a bit too much like work, and perhaps wouldn't change thngs very much in any case. Capitan Bob Cat, feline felon of the south seas will bide his time for now, and in any event I suspect Miss Mary might not approve of the idea, perhaps a job for a younger feline. As I have said before never make any life changing decision, or any decison for that matter, without having first had a good sleep on it.

All that profound deep sleeping has left me in need of a little light hearted nap . . . zzz zzz.