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'It was just me one and God'

Rocky Point fisherman recalls how the sea took his crew one by one

BY JOVANEY ASHMAN
Sunday Observer writer
jovaney.ashman@gmail.com

Sunday, August 13, 2017

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Many thoughts ran through Laston Campbell's mind as he clung to the bow of the boat in which he and three other fishermen from Rocky Point in Clarendon went to sea last Tuesday night.

Hungry, cold, scared and hanging on for dear life after the boat capsized, Campbell said he wondered if he would be attacked by sharks, or whether he would be swallowed by the sea, like his three colleagues.

“It was just me and my King,” Campbell told the Jamaica Observer on Thursday, still shaken by the harrowing experience.

The 38-year-old fisherman said he was not familiar with the members of the crew. In fact, he only knew the captain of the boat as “Navi”; another man as “Segree”; and the only information he had about the third man was that he was 21 years old.

According to Campbell, the four had left Rocky Point about 10:00 pm for Pedro Cay to purchase fish, lobster and conch.

Their mission accomplished, they were on their way back to the mainland when the waves became angry. Within 15 minutes the boat was flooded and started sinking.

Their natural instinct of self-preservation kicked in and the four men climbed onto the fish box as it started drifting away from the boat.

“The four of was on the box, but it overturned. Then the captain said 'let us swim out to the boat', but I say to him that we couldn't swim out to the boat because it was too far, because the box was going so and we a go so in [the] opposite direction,” Campbell recounted on the Rocky Point beach while pointing out to the sea.

But the weight of the men caused the fish box to upend, dumping the 21-year-old into the sea.

“When the box kin us over so, all I can hear is when the little youth bawl out fi help and den yuh know seh ah gone him gone,” Campbell told the Sunday Observer.

At that point the captain decided to swim out to the boat, but Campbell explained that he and Segree decided to climb back onto the fish box. However, they were again plunged into sea.

“Is only one thing that come inna my mind, was dat mi need to swim out to the boat, even if mi drown and shark eat mi. So mi tek time fi paddle galang,” Cambell related.

“As wi a swim along mi hear the next youth back a mi a cry out fi help. “Help! Help! Help!” So, when time mi reach to the boat the captain say 'hey, you alright?' and mi say 'yes', and mi hold on to di rope and den mi seh, 'Segree!' Mi call him bout tree time and mi no hear nutten, so mi know seh a gone him gone,” Campbell said, his pain at the memory obvious.

When the Sunday Observer asked if they were equipped with life jackets, Campbell said he was the only one who was wearing one, and only he and the captain knew how to swim... a little.

With Segree gone, Campbell and the captain were now hanging onto the rope attached to the boat, which was now vertical in the water, its bow protruding slightly out of the sea.

“So me and him. And wi a fight and fight [to hold on] and mi slowly let go off the rope attached to the anchor and the anchor hitch. So mi seh the boat give mi a little relax, but water is still my problem because when the boat go down, the water weh it come wid cover mi. So, when you see mi come up and let out water outta my nose and anywhere else, mi know seh a same ting him a meet to,” said Campbell.

According to the fisherman, after about what seemed to be an hour of struggle, the captain expressed doubt that they were going to survive.

“I was not in the whole heap of talking and I seh 'Navi, hold on tighter no man.' But he wasn't. When mi look, a Navi a galang inna di water. A tiad him hand get tiad, and den him disappear. It was just me one and God left,” Campbell said, adding that at that stage his feet and hands were getting tired and he did not have much confidence that his life jacket was going to prevent him from drowning.

“Mi look and seh, fi mi time a come, but den I see a piece of the anchor and throw it over the bow head and tie it around. But I decided that I was not going to tie myself to it because if the boat go out in the deep it is going to bring me,” said Campbell.

At that point the fisherman started praying, but his situation became even more dire.

“I find that the boat give mi a terrible spin, and mi a wonder what kind of spin that, if a shark a mek the boat spin so. But when mi find out, mi anchor rope buss off, and then mi say yes, a gone mi gone for the deep,” said Campbell.

“Then I realised that if I stayed where I was, I was going to die. So I climbed up on the bow and fight it. But di iron (the boat's ring) on the bow was squeezing mi to death, and every time it squeeze mi, mi tek time and mi shift so, and me shift so. At one time mi seh mi a leggo now,” he related.

He spent the rest of the night on top of the boat as it bobbed in the turbulent sea.

He started to lose track of time, but Campbell believes that God saved his life and told him that “it was not my time yet”.

“The power weh Father give mi, it not allowing mi fi let go. And Father give mi a vision like seh mi deh pon di land. No matter how much time di water come and cover mi and mi come back up, mi have a vision seh you know seh you a go live,” he told the Sunday Observer.

“All mi a do is pray seh shark no attack mi and the boat no drift out to the deep; but Father mek the current move so slowly.”

About 6:00 am on Wednesday, a group of fishermen going out found Campbell. He is convinced that it was God who sent them, as if they had gone a mile off they would not have seen or heard him shouting for help.

He said he was overcome with happiness and shed tears. “Pure joy, like somebody handed me a lifeline.

“The shouting weh mi a mek, mi tell you, mi mek some shouting. But to how the boat was coming, because the boat move so fast, mi a seh dem nuh see mi,” Campbell said as he repeated sotto voce “it was not an easy road”.

When they got back to Rocky Point, Campbell said he was greeted by a large crowd of people cheering and crying with relief that he was saved. His son and daughter, he said, were also happy that he was rescued and were speechless.

During the interview, people on the beach were heard saying they were happy that Campbell was rescued, even as they lamented the fact that the community has, over the years, lost many fishermen to the sea.

Asked if he intends to return to the sea, Campbell said yes, but not immediately.

“I am not scared of the sea,” he said. “I could have gone on in a truck and maybe I would crash and die. But I'm going back to sea as this my livelihood, for now.”

He encouraged other fishermen to be vigilant when they go to sea and use a life jacket.

Campbell, who is not religious, said that today he will be sharing his testimony with the local church about how God saved his life.

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