International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: 2nd Chapter
Chapter 2: Dangerous trawling
Falmouth Coastguard Centre, Cornwall. March 1998.
Bullock had been on morning duty for almost three hours when the
first mayday call of the week came through on one of the emergency
radio channels. It was Wednesday, just past 09:00 and although the
weather was cold and rainy, there were no signs of a storm within
hundreds of miles south of the Cornish coast. Mayday! Mayday!
Help! Sinking! Maruxa! Maruxa
this is captain of Maruxa! Mayday
In broken English,
the captain of a Spanish fishing boat was hollering frantically into
his radio mike repeating over and over again the name of his vessel
and that it was sinking fast. Maruxa, this is Falmouth Coastguard.
We read you. As per procedures, Stans first reaction was
to check on the originating signals position and type it into
the rescue network system. The screen soon brought up the coordinates
and the satellite map locating the stricken vessels exact position.
Whilst maintaining conversation with the captain, registering further
information on its status, he sent out rescue requests to all shipping
in the area. The response was immediate. The nearest ship was the Saint
Vincent an 80 thousand ton container en route to Dublin from Miami
whilst another two other fishing vessels were some 20 miles further
away. Stan was about to ask the container to send out a rescue craft
when an unexpected answer came in from yet another ship in the vicinity.
Falmouth, this is Commander Sheppard from HMS Piper.
Maruxa distress noted, please confirm. Stan immediately
tuned in and responded on the two-way radio, affirmative Piper.
This is supervisor Stan Bullock, Commander, have you received all info?
Affirmative. Will advise once weve picked up the survivors.
Commander Sheppard went quiet for a few seconds and then added, please
advise all other shipping to restore normal routing. Stan acknowledged
then switched the output of the phone to the centres loudspeaker
to continue monitoring the rescue operation. As a last thought, he checked
on HMS Pipers position. It was within 5 miles of the
Maruxa. The British registered fifteen-foot trawler, based
in Vigo, Spain supposedly operating in the Irish Box fishing area had
reported an explosion in the engine room causing sufficient damage to
the vessels hull for water to pour into the area and two of the
adjoining compartments. By the time the British warship reached the
area, the Maruxa had sunk and its crew located adrift in
the vessels only lifeboat.
Stan smiled as he signed off yet another shipwreck salvage operation.
He knew that the Royal Navy had its own classified reasons for responding
to the distress call from the trawler and taking over the rescue operations
whilst avoiding further assistance from other ships in the area. His
experience had hinted at the suspicion that there was more to the sinking
of the Spanish trawler than a reported engine room fire. Caught
again! He thought, these sods will never learn.
Later that evening, Stan was playing his usual game of darts with a
couple of friends at the Cheshire Cat pub in one of the
side streets that led straight into the entrance to the arts college
when a group of students turned up for the evenings Karaoke session.
His fellow dart players, Robin Baker and Jerry Walton, worked at the
town hall and were members of the Cornish RNLI that operated the Falmouth
lifeboat. Guess the games over guys, the rockers brigade
has arrived, said Jerry. The pub usually held two evening sessions
of amateur would-be rockers per week, one on Wednesday that lasted a
couple of hours and the other on Saturday that extended till one a.m.
in the morning. Stan completed his throws and walked over to the bar
where the other two contestants were sipping their pints. The dartboard
was tucked away in one of the corners of the pub but well within range
of the limelight and noise of the mock up stage. Hear the Navy
sunk another Spanish trawler! said Robin smiling, spared
us a call out, right Stan? Stan looked sternly at his friend,
you know thats uncalled for! Illegal fishing is one thing
but human lives are another. Come off it Stan, you know
bloody well the bastards were screwing us yet again. Jerry chipped
in, what was the final outcome anyway, or are we again playing
the confidential bit? Stan explained that as far as the official
records were concerned, the mayday signal was taken care of as per normal
procedures and that the vessel unfortunately sank but that the crew
were all rescued and taken ashore, safe and sound. End of story!
said Stan. Jerry was not convinced, Stan, weve been playing
this cat a mouse game for years with the Spaniards. Their own bloody
government supports all the tricks their fishing fleet gets up to whilst
ours sits with its finger up its bum waiting for the scrap heap! Yes
or no? Stan knew that they were both right, but he had a duty
to perform and whether or not he agreed, it was not up to him to comment
or discuss the ongoing rift between the United Kingdom and Spain over
different allotted fishing quotes and who was allowed to fish where
and when. The sinking of the Maruxa did hit a chord that
reminded Stan of his childhood and why he had decided to become a coastguard
officer rather than follow in the family footsteps of a fishing career.
Stan was born in Falmouth on the 15th of November 1966 and came from
a once proud and ancestral sea-fairing Cornish family. He was the eldest
of the Bullock household with two other sisters, Pam and Cynthia, four
and two years younger. His father Christopher, grandfather and two of
his uncles had all been long serving fishermen whilst his mother Francis,
ran one of the local fishmonger stores in the town centre. From an early
age his parents had taught him all about the sea from rowing and sailing
boats to the different types of fish and seafood caught and sold by
his family. As a child he spent hours scrambling along the rocky shores
and the beach, searching for crabs, cockles or clams, studying their
habitat, taking note of the seasonal changes that affected life along
the coast. He was fascinated by the tides and the behaviour of the sea
during the summer calms and the winters menacing storms. On weekends,
weather permitting, he would go out with his father in their dingy and
sail for hours around Falmouth harbour. During mid school breaks, and
despite his mothers reluctance Chris Bullock would occasionally
take Stan out to the allotted crabbing zone off the Cornish coast and
help him hall in the crab pots. Whenever his uncle Bart was in town,
enjoying long leaves after months aboard a trawler fishing in the Norwegian
Sea the family would set sail in his uncles ten-footer coasting
along the English Channel all the way to the Isle of Wight and back.
At school, Stan was active in sports, academically sound and popular
amongst his fellow students and teachers alike. Despite his young age,
hed made up his mind to follow in the family tradition. However,
when he turned ten years old, a tragedy occurred that would alter the
lives of the Bullock family and change the course of Stans life.
A couple of weeks after Easter, whilst his mother was about to close
her store, his father burst into the shop and cried out, Barts
up North! The bastards rammed his ship. Chris
was still wiping his face as he stuttered, he fell off the bridge
onto the deck
broke his back and cracked his skull. Young
Stan was standing behind his mother. Chris Bullock kept walking around
the shop with his hands tucked firmly in the back pockets of his jeans,
muttering obscenities over and over again, bastards, bloody bastards!
Francis Bullock looked round at Stan and said, go upstairs and
wait for us. Stan stood silent. Go on! She said. He
obeyed. She then went over to her husband who was now sitting on a stool
behind the counter. Standing behind, she slowly placed her arms around
him and began to cry. Hundreds of Cornish fishing families attended
the funeral to pay their respects to the Bullock family. Although life
returned to normal a sombre air had settled amongst the Falmouth community.
It was not until years later when Stan was approaching his eighteenth
birthday, readying himself for the outside world that his father once
again brought up the subject of his late uncle and the familys
Youll be finishing school in a few months time, and I know
weve never had a chance to talk about your future, but have you
given any thoughts as to what you wish to do? Chris felt a bit
sheepish as he muddled through the dreaded speech between a father and
son at the threshold of his offsprings manhood. The tragic event
years ago came back to mind. He went on, you know how we all suffered
with your Uncle Barts death
he couldnt find
the words. He was about to break down when he just burst out, I
pray to God, son that you never ever follow in our family footsteps.
Fishing is a deadly business that has only brought grief to our family!
A few seconds later Chris calmed down. He chose his words carefully
and began, for the first time, a serious discussion with his only son.
Its time you understood how we felt when
my brother died up north, in the Atlantic and how and why
he died. Did you know he was involved in a war? He saw the look
of bewilderment on Stans face. Yes! A war! Would you believe
it? Chris Bullock went over to a cupboard and from the bottom
drawer pulled out a brown folder. He opened it, took out and placed
a number of press cuttings on the table. They dated back to 1976. He
began to shuffle through them until he found the one he was looking
for. It was the front page of the Daily Telegraph. It read: FIRST
CASUALTY IN THE COD WARS.
The infamous wars also known as the wars of territorial waters
were a series of confrontations between the United Kingdom and Iceland
that started back in the 1950s and continued until the 1970s. They all
began because of unilateral decisions taken by the Icelandic government
over fishing rights in their territorial waters in the Atlantic Ocean
thus accusing the British fishing fleet of poaching whenever
a trawler attempted to invade the area. Britain on the other
hand, regarded the ocean as a free for all and Icelands
laws as illegal. With the protection of the British Navy, the British
fleet continued to fish causing serious scuffles such as the ramming
of ships, firing of near miss warning shots plus sabotaging fishing
nets by both sides in the conflict. Despite the intervention of the
international bodies such as the Court of Justice in The Hague and NATO,
as wells as two attempts at reaching a peaceful settlement, the wars
continued. The crunch came in May, 1976 when a British trawler, the
Pimpernel was avoiding the gunfire from an Icelandic warship,
the Agar that she accidentally crossed the bows of a tugboat,
the Odina that in turn was trying to snap the Pimpernels
nets. Bart Bullock was on the bridge busily trying to distract the warship
when he suddenly sighted the Odina about fifty yards off
the port bow on a direct collision course. He rushed out onto the deck
frantically waving his hands at the oncoming vessel. It was too late.
He tried to go back into the bridge to warn the rest of the crew but
slipped and fell down the stairs to the lower deck. The Pimpernel
survived the ramming and was eventually towed to port. Bart Bullock
died two days later in an Icelandic hospital. That was the last event
of the war as Iceland eventually achieved its goal; the confirmation
of a 200 mile exclusion zone for foreign fishing vessels. It was not
the last of Britains fishing woes.
Muros fishing village, Galicia. May 1998
Percy Robertson and Nigel McNeill were in the shed next to the beachside
bungalow, a couple of miles inland from the coastal town of Muros, busily
washing down all the diving gear after another unsuccessful dive off
the coast of Galicia. They were part of a team from the deep-sea diving
company, St. Edmond Explorers Ltd. in search of a WWII German U-boat
scuttled in November 1944 and supposedly still in an intact condition.
The company had been given an eight-month contract by a German firm
that in turn had obtained all the permits from the Spanish Navy to find
the submarine. The permits expired at the end of October.
The records given to the divers had traced the loss thanks to personal
exerts and documents from an historical institution in Dusseldorf that
supposedly confirmed the wreck of U-532 within a few miles off
the coast of Northwest Spain. According to the Germans no cross-reference
was ever found from any British equivalent records at the Admiraltys
wartime archives, suggesting that no battle engagement or enemy casualties
had been reported on that specific date of the war. The Germans were
interested in salvaging a unique maritime relic in apparent mint
condition to be restored as a museum piece and another historical reminder
of the Second World War. The suspected coordinates of the location extended
along approximately fifty miles of coastline. Like looking for
mackerel in a sea full of cod! Nigel had muttered when the deal
was signed by all parties in Madrid, but the moneys good!
Eric Fuller, another member of the team was inside the bungalow preparing
the evening meal when Percy walked in and placed a small piece of broken
crockery on the kitchen table. Percy; take a look at this. I found
it just before we surfaced. What do you think? Eric turned the
gas cooker down and placed the lid back on the pot full of boiling cabbage.
He wiped his hands with a paper towel and without a word walked over
to the table. Nigel had also finished with the daily equipment mop up
and was standing alongside the other end of the table. Eric picked up
the relic, looked it over for a few seconds and said, about XVIII
century Id say. Definitely Spanish. He smiled, placed it
back on the table and went back to his culinary chores. Eric looked
at his watch. It was just past eight oclock. Bernie should
be back soon. He once again picked up the relic, placed it to
his lips and gently kissed it, I guess he was right after all!
They all burst out laughing.
One of the Germans had handed the British team a sealed envelope in
Madrid that contained another map of the area. It had extra
information; with more exact coordinates.
A peculiar transfer took place in Spain once democracy had settled down
after Francos death in 1975. The long-standing civil guards, the
police section of the armed forces took over the centuries old costal
surveillance from the Spanish Navy. They were equipped with helicopters
and coastguard vessels; specially trained guards in maritime law were
stationed and spread along the Spanish coastline. Whereas the navy was
ultimately confined to activity in support of national defence in international
waters, the civil guards responsibility was more concerned with
criminal activity within the shores of the country. Once again, the
200-mile limit came into play and formed part of the overall judiciary
system of Spain. There was however a grey area in the civil sector involving
commercial and contractual activity that overlapped national and international
boundaries. The navy could issue work and other commercial permits but
could not enforce the law. St. Edmond Explorers contract fell
between the cracks. There was a clear definition of responsibilities
when it came to the war on drugs. The civil guards of Spain were in
full command. Twenty four year old Corporal Sergio Quiroga was one of
After graduation as a young officer his mentors had recommended he be
seconded to an intelligence unit due to his sharp brain that complemented
a unique skill of computer programming. He was eventually based at their
headquarters in the famous city of Santiago de Compostela, heart of
the regional government of Galicia and assigned administrative work
investigating and recording all drug dealing activities in the region.
Ever since the early days of the Franco regime, following the end of
the Spanish Civil War in 1939, Galicia had emerged as a smugglers haven
for prohibited contraband products such as tobacco and coffee not forgetting
the extra food supplies that bypassed the ration system
enforced in Spain at the time. The river Mino divides Spain from Portugal
in the North-western part of the Iberian Peninsula and all along its
banks dozens of smugglers operated on either side of the rivers
border with hardly any hindrance from the authorities that were too
busy trying to control the citizens of the newborn dictatorship. The
illicit trading continued through the fifties, sixties and seventies
until eventually democracy took over. After the death of the Generalissimo
Franco, a new constitution was designed and approved by a transition
government lead by President Adolfo Suarez and by 1982 elections were
held heralding in a new era freedom and liberty for all Spaniards. Hashish
traders took over from the cigarette mob and cocaine and heroine from
the coffee bandits. The stakes were now at a higher level as Spain graduated
into the European network of drug users, peddlers and pushers. Galicia
became the gateway to the rest of the continent particularly for the
cocaine barons of Colombia. Corporal Sergio Quiroga was an expert on
the criminal set up on both sides of the Atlantic.
For the past three years he had built his own comprehensive database
including a sophisticated cross-referencing network of all criminal
activities involving drugs dating back to the early 80s that had
any connection with Galicia. Apart from the names and details of the
known gangs, his system recorded all uncovered transport routes, map
locations, types of craft, concealment methods, dates and above all
a good communications linking system with other national, international
and European law enforcement drug administrations. Sergio could pull
the file on any drug baron caught and convicted within the Spanish autonomy
and trace and crisscross the criminals roots from the actual cocaine
plantation involved to the confiscated batch as well as the date of
his sons graduation.
Sergio however was bored. Computer games had little live action to offer
and he dreamt for an opportunity to chase the criminals first hand.
His superiors had considered him as too valuable to be wasted on patrols
or other hands on activities chasing bandits. He was still
a bachelor and lived with his widowed mother. He was not into outdoor
activities other than his pride and passion that was his 500cc Honda
motorbike. He was a dedicated law enforcement agent and his main interest
was always his work. Yet he nevertheless kept on trying for more action
within the force.
Has my request for a transfer come through, Sonia? Sonia
said nothing. Has anybody seen any papers from HQ about me?
he shouted across the office. You only sent it a couple of months
ago! You know how long these things take, said Sonia who continued
with her PC. Youve go a hope! She mumbled to herself.
At that moment, Colonel Pedro Lobeira walked out of his office, saw
that Sergio was standing opposite his secretary and quickly asked, Sergio,
can you dig into that toy of yours a see if you can find this name.
His boss handed him a scribbled note with St. Edmond Explorers Ltd.
written on it. The Colonel walked back into his office. Once again Sergios
inquisitive mind took over.
The Cheshire Cat, Falmouth. May 1998.
Apart from the fishing industry, Falmouth is also famous for its artistic
community. The Falmouth College of Arts attracts young budding artists
from around Britain and the world. Active and retired painters, writers
and music lovers added to the college teaching staff help pave the way
for future illustrious and famous personages. Over 1500 students pass
through the college each year and although the main curriculum is based
on the arts, there are other sideline courses for mature students wishing
to improve on their own particular professional skills.
Stan was about to leave the pub when he caught sight of a new amateur
singer having a go at hollering rock noises at the crowd as the Karaoke
session was gaining momentum. She had a unique and mellow voice, just
the right tone and level. Abba! Stan muttered to himself.
He walked back to the counter and raising his voice above the cacophony
called across at the barman, whos that, Bernie? Havent
seen her around here before? Bernie continued to pour another
pint for a customer and then looked across at the stage. The female
singer was a tall long-haired blonde in her late twenties, dressed in
loose light blue slacks, flat black sneakers and a white t-shirt with
an imprint of a large early century steam vessel with SOS written below
and above the liner. Still pouring, Bernie answered, sorry; never
seen her before; must be another student from the college. Stan
continued to stare and listen. After the usual clapping died down, the
young woman stepped down and walked over to a corner of the pub, joining
another bunch of students that were all seated round a large wooden
table laden with beer mugs. A young woman jumped up and hugged the singer
whilst the three lads just smiled and continued clapping. Stan couldnt
resist the temptation. He walked over to the group and introduced himself,
eyes fixed on the young blond. Im Stan Bullock from the
local Coastguard station; I presume you are all from the college!
There were smiling nods from most of them. The blonde woman said nothing.
I give a lecture on maritime safety once a week. I dont
think Ive come across your class yet? He suddenly realised
he was jumping the gun, what are you all studying by the way?
Were all doing a MA in Creative Advertising, said
one of the lads. Its the future. Oh! Im Jim Stanbrook,
said another offering a handshake. Stan, still trying to attract the
young singers attention continued, sounds fascinating. Mind
if I join you? he suddenly realised that he didnt have a
drink, anybody for a refill? The young singer spoke out,
Id like a tomato juice please. Her accent was foreign.
Stan recognised it immediately, youre Spanish, arent
you? And what were you christened as? She just stared; didnt
understand the verbal twist. Sorry! What is your name? She
finally smiled and added, Im Yolanda Mauro. Yes Im
Spanish and come from a city called Vigo. I dont suppose youve
heard of it. Stan froze. His mind wandered back to the months
and years of struggle involving the Spanish fishing fleets. Most came
from Yolandas home area. He stared at her, and then slowly answered,
I know of Vigo; and all the other ports around the area.
Stan turned around and walked back towards the bar.
G. Skinner. August, 2009.
jameskinner at cemiga.es
ONE OF PURPLE MAIDEN
Purple Maiden - - Chapter Three - Wrong Wreck
MV Franconia, off the Cies Islands, Galicia. June 1999.
He couldnt research further into the actual U-boat without going
back to the Navy and that would mean going above his boss head.
Whos really behind this anyway? he thought.
The Goa File
Extract from his novel about the Falkland's War
The Goa File Part
The CIA connection
Published in full by Cyberwit December 2006
The Purim Code
USA has blown your cover. Your position at risk. Return to base immediately
all rights reserved - all comments are the writers' own responsibility
- no liability accepted by hackwriters.com or affiliates.