Noilly Prattle: Looking Back: 17 – a little light brothel hopping

Monday, February 10, 2014

Looking Back: 17 – a little light brothel hopping

     When the excitement of the shark episode during the “swim call” had died down, the Kassy got underway heading for a liberty call at Funchal, Madeira. This period, although unknown and unimaginable to the crew, was the calm before the storm of the Cuban Missile Crisis that began just a few short days after the flight of the Sigma 7 orbital craft. But, calms are to be enjoyed and storms are to be survived and Funchal was squarely in the calm of beautiful October weather and an exotic, to us at least, port of call.

Funchal, Madeira

       Madeira is an island in the Atlantic Ocean about 500 miles west of Casablanca, Morocco and 400 miles north of the Canary Islands. It is an autonomous region of Portugal, famous for its wines; the language is Portuguese. It is said to be named for the wild fennel that grew there when first inhabited by settlers from the mainland.

       These, however, are not the kinds of information that interest sailors bound for a day or two of liberty, better known or thought of as carousing. Consequently, the main thing I remember about Funchal was doing “shore patrol” duty, which means that I, along with a few others, was a kind of designated cop on the beat. In pairs, we had to patrol the places where the other crew members tended to congregate for rest and recreation to see to it that things didn't get out of hand.

the waterfront area of Funchal
       Truth be told, we didn't really take our shore patrol duty very seriously, although we, of course, were supposed to. If you have been a sailor or, for that matter, any other type of military person, you will know that liberty, for the most part, doesn't entail going to church or seeing the local monuments and points of historical interest, especially if your only in town for a day or two before steaming off again. Nope. The sailors nose is unerring in finding the local watering holes, inexpensive eateries and working girls. Such an environment is an invitation to trouble, excessive drinking and fights. Thus, the need for a shore patrol whenever a ship pulls into a port of call for liberty.

typical back streets with bars and brothels
       Funchal proved to be such an easy-going town with a typically Latinesque mañana (amanhã in Portuguese) atmosphere that shore patrol duty proved to be rather easy. In fact, my partner and I were so relaxed, that we would go from bar to bar and brothel to brothel (usually both combined into one establishment), make sure that all was under control and no tempers were flaring, and then spend some time hanging around, surreptitiously sipping a little Madeira wine here and there with the ladies sitting on our laps and running their fingers through our hair, etc., and then move on to the next and do the same, thus passing a very pleasant evening in spite of being on abhorred “shore patrol duty”.

       All good and lovely things eventually come to an end and after a much too brief liberty call at Funchal, Madeira (the wine is excellent, by the way) we set sail once again bound west across the Atlantic to return to Jacksonville and a very heavy sense of crisis and tension in the October air of 1962.

To be continued...

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