by Les Brown, USS Archerfish, 1952
USS ARCHERFISH SS311, GITMO, 1952.
It was 1952, Gitmo bay, one of the various operations which took us back there. I remember Castro was in the mountains somewhere, everyone was talking about him. We had an open Boat day (can't remember the reason) , there were several people who toured the boat. Some carried guns, and were ask to leave them top side. Seemed funny, but this was normal in those days, they looked younger than I at that time, scary.
During that trip, a group of us decided to go fishing, we were probably broke or bored. We could check out a boat at the base, it was about 20 feet long, typical launch type. Seems like they supplied the motorman, although I am not sure. I do know that they were not supposed to drink, so can't imagine one of our group taking on that thankless task, ha. I recall a few of those who signed on, they include, myself, Kelly Elkins, JD Kelley, Rob Robison and Poopsie Welsko. I believe there were several others because we could not have drank all of the Heineken that was aboard by ourselves. I know we had a case or more each, which was typical for the hot weather there. There was also some rum. Anyway you couldn't drink the water, everyone knows that.
We had supplied ourselves with ample food from the boat. There was lunch type meats (pony peter). Cheese's (bugie binder) and all the condiments we could steal from the galley. Thats a story in it's self, ha. What a wonderful clear hot day. We were in our dungarees , shorts and sandals, typical dress. This was not a lazy river. I am still checking to find out what river runs into Gitmo Bay. Please help if you know. I do know it it was a rather large river, rather green and yucky and lots of debris floating down.
Shove off, here we go, such excitement. Out of site of the docks, we tore into that beer with a vengeance. This was a necessity as there was no ice. I do know who forgot that or if it was not available or if we were even supposed to have beer aboard? I know we had some poles line etc because they were always in the way, ha. Come to think of it I don't remember bait. I supposed we were going to use our food? The river was pretty fast so the headway was not great. We were enjoying ourselves as sailors could, swapping tales cussing and stuff like that, all the while looking for a good fishing spot. I remember how beautiful and rugged the banks were overhanging trees , vines etc, you would think we were on the Amazon. Suffice to say the beer went fast, all afraid he wouldn't get his share, ha. I don't remember anyone swimming on his own, but of course some were ejected occasionally. This I didn't like , for who knows what was in that water, that would eat you also it slowed our progress up that river.
More drinking eating and goofing off, beer getting warm. All of a sudden a small gun boat appeared out of nowhere coming down river looked like a 20 mm on deck. MP's? Not our luck. This did not look good, machine guns and funny jungle dress. We were trying to hide the beer and act normal at the same time. Was this guerillas, we would soon know.
The helmsman of our boat idled down and they pulled up to our bow and hooked up. I think we just floated down river while they observed us and checked the boat out. We were questioned as to where we were going. Of course by now we were not even sure of where we came from and our beer was talking, I know they did not like our smart talk, plus they can't talk very good english and even Robs spanish could not help. Some how they accused us of trying to get to the Convent up stream. We didn't even know one existed. I know it seemed like an eternity while they talked, because I needed to Pee. Every time they waved the guns my way I thought I would wet my pants.
Eventually they turned us around, made loud guttural sounds and pointed down stream., then cut us loose. I remember laying down in the boat, still not sure of who they were. Boy, we flew down stream with that current. I also recall it was not long before we saw a big sign on the bank indicating that you could not go farther up the river the river. Dam, I don't remember that, no one seems to have seen it. Around the curves, out of sight, no gun fire, what a fun day. Lots of stories to tell the crew.
It was just as well, the beer was nearly gone, rum all gone, all sunburned. We were really glad to return from that river. Fortunately it was a much faster trip back. The only complaint was that we had not planned on enough beer, this we swore to remember on the next fishing trip. I often wonder if any of that group ever tried it again. As for me, I never wanted to see that place again, or a gun boat.
That is as I remember that trip, but of course I was drinking! Maybe Rob can embellish, he always was a good bull sh---er.
[Received this response to the story on 4/28/2004: Your correspondent Les Brown, in his delightful anecdote "Gitmo Fishing Trip", asked if anyone knew the name of the river flowing into Guantanamo Bay. The name of the river is actually Guantanamo River, unsurprisingly. I'd be grateful if you could pass this on to Mr Brown, along with my thanks for the anecdote. All the best, John Hopkin -- Ed.]
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