Bank Line recall…

South America bound….

For many regular, or even casual visits to South American ports, our young seafarer would feel the pulse quicken when the itinery was announced.  The music, the mystery, the girls, and the sheer excitement and exuberance  of the  anticipated visit dominated. The big cities, Buenos Aries, Montevideo and more held out wildly imaginable prospects, and the smaller loading and discharging ports all around the coasts had their own intimate charm.  Less variety perhaps, but often they offered quirky fun with piano bars, impromptu singing, friendly girls, and more, much more.

Picture This:    A sunny morning.   The loaded ship with a pilot on board is slowly moving through the brown sluggish  water of the mighty River Plate with a low strip of land on the horizon ahead. Outward-bound vessels are gingerly passing on their way to the open sea .  The mood is upbeat. The bridge teams wave to each other.

Soon, the ship is berthed and the stevedores arrive.  The pace of life is noticeably slower than expected, and this is confirmed on the first shore trip, when families are surprisingly seen eating meals and relaxing, well after midnight.  The city starts to buzz and most bars and restaurants have a tango band, giving out a magic ambiance to appreciative visitors and locals alike.  Near the docks, the bars are noticeably more wild and unpredictable. The music louder.  Many ‘girls of the night’ are working the floor like enticing vultures.  They drift in and out, and it’s  near to paradise for any randy seamen!  Up in the city centre, outside tables are near full, and the famous ‘ beefsteak de lomo’ is a favourite dish accompanied by heady local red wine.

Later, the ship visits out of the way grain loading ports, where the pace of life is amazingly slower still.   Work is desultory and the port stay extended, leading our young seaman to worry about the cash he can draw.  No thought here for the ship owner. The bars ashore are numerous, and most have ancient pianos playing nightly and some are strangely situated on a platform elevated above the floor, possibly to avoid troublemakers.  The lady pianist takes requests, but only for music! The night wears on and dawn breaks.  South America has left it’s mark.

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