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"Dash Me" A Year in the Life of a Cajun Boy Working in Nigeria, West Africa!
I worked as a mechanic at Hyster Forklift in New Orleans, Louisiana. A friend of my boss, “Mr Pat Horn”, came to see him when he was away from his job offshore (mostly) and onshore in Nigeria, West Africa. His name is Diano Pablo Vincent Martini. He was a character to say the least. He was short and stocky with a strong Italian accent, and came to America when his submarine surfaced in the Gulf of Mexico and was captured trying to buy fuel from a shrimp ship. Martini met his wife at his Plauche prison camp when she came to Italy to write to him regularly. He asked his boss, “Pat”, if he knew anyone who would be interested in working at Derrick Barge #11, located offshore in Nigeria, mainly in West Africa.
I was single and in my early twenties, so I said yes! The company I worked for was called “Oceanic Contractors” on the door of a building in downtown New Orleans, but the name of the company I signed with was called “J Ray McDermott.” They are a huge and perfectly run worldwide company. I had to undergo a series of painful shots and extensive medical examinations locally due to the new international medical records that were handed to me along with my passport. The nurse said, “Put your weight off this leg,” on my left, and she stuck a large needle behind me and said, “Put your weight off the other leg,” and put it on my leg. Stick it in the other cheek and the other half! It was an injection of “gamma globulin”. Man am I glad it ended! They also gave me some medicine that I had to take daily for a month before leaving to prevent me from contracting malaria. When I was there, I had to take the pills every day, and when I got home, I had to take them for three weeks.
It took about seven weeks to get on the plane to Nigeria.They staged a military coup and murdered the country’s leader there. It was a fancy airport with these big tubes taking people to and from several different directions. I went to the Meridian Hotel in Paris. Front desk she found a taxi driver at the desk who spoke a little English and the lady at the desk gave me a list of places I wanted to go to in French. After driving half a day to see all the sights, we finally arrived at the Eiffel Tower. I decided to climb all the winding stairs to the large deck. It was great fun! The next day, when I was walking around the shopping mall near the hotel, I got real “French fries” at McDonald’s! Then I ran into a blonde girl walking in the mall. Her name was “Stephanie”. I started talking to her. She was a whore!! rice field. There is a huge pink lip on the wall of the room and a bed in the shape of a heart. They have birthdays and toilets, we both washed up and you can imagine the rest.
The next day, I boarded a plane to take off for Nigeria. We landed in Accra, Ghana, West Africa and had to wait until nightfall to take off again and land in Nigeria. The airport was near Lagos, Nigeria. After getting off the plane, it was a mess because everyone had to run for their Air Nigeria flight! Then I got lucky and caught McDermott’s Widgeon plane trying to land in a river near his garden in Wari, Nigeria. It had a pontoon and landed in the waters of his Warri River at the J Ray McDermott yard. They took me to the hotel, it was shocking! They had a motel with skeleton key racks in every room and they were all the same! The view outside the window was a huge pile of garbage in the courtyard. After dark, all power was lost in the area. Now I know why there was a candle in a bottle with matches in the room! That night I took the mattress off the bed and put it in the foyer facing the door of the room and slept on it. That night someone tried to steal all my belongings in the room, but I was sleeping on my mattress. I’m glad the door opens to the inside!
The first time I went to the Derrick Barge (DB11), the captain named “Captain Wally Hebert” boarded a tug named “Gulf Wind”. It had just come from the United States and was on its way to a barge off the coast near the country of Angola (previously called the Belgian Congo). Russian gunboat, Cuban crew! They boarded and Captain Wally had a .22 caliber pistol. They took it and left. I got seasick like a dog. Stayed on the bunk and couldn’t wait to get off! We were working 18 hours a day, so it was very hard. When we finished laying the pipeline on the shore and took off north, we heard that someone had blown up the refinery. Listen! Anything can happen when you work in these third world toilets!
One day, the Nationals (local workers) boarded a tug named Gulf Wind and started a mutiny. They were disgusted by the camp boss (a Lebanese guy) who offered them bags of ‘gary’ (food eaten by the locals) full of weevils. They requisitioned the ship and put it back in the docks in Nigeria! Heading out with the tug ‘Gulfwind’ to pick up the pipe barge we laid, bring a large 12 volt battery and tools in case you need it to activate the anchor winch and lift the anchor. I rode in front of the barge and moved watching dolphins playing in the crystal clear blue waters! However, most barges had hydraulic starters. I even ran out of batteries. Yes, someone rowed deep into the dugout to steal the batteries to light the village huts.
DB11 had a Medic who had a small portable house under the helipad. He had huge bottles of prescription drugs from overseas, mostly from England. Previously, he got “cement pills” and “dynamite pills”. Camp bosses and food were cheap and subpar! They still had hairs on their bacon slices! It was nothing like working offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. They had great food there! The guy I worked with ‘Jerry’ was addicted to ‘Durbon’ pain relievers. He had hundreds of them! Whatever is wrong with you he will say: “You want Darbon” He was always out of it.
Returned to McDermott Yards, Nigeria for two months to convert gantry crane slewing gear from steam drive to electric drive. There were a few restaurants near Wari that I used to go to often, but the escargot was delicious, and I didn’t expect to be able to eat snails, but it was really delicious! Another time we were back in the garden. They had a large crowd of people walking towards this place where they had executed people. Don’t you have any?” We said no, and he took out his billy club, beat all the people out of the way, and brought us right in front of us to see ! He said no pictures and we went along with it. They shot a man and a woman tied to his two large poles with the Wali River in the background. they both shot at the same time. One of them he stole a watch and the other his 8 naira (8 naira was about $12 at the time). Death Penalty is the name of the game. It was unreal. I used to say, ‘One more dollar today, another Naira tonight’. Another time, when I was in a taxi coming back to the gardens at night, I was stopped by the police (they are dressed in his AR15 camouflage) for murdering a man on the beach. Arrested I had his $112.00. If a taxi driver was wrecked, the police would get him out of the car and beat him on the spot! These are the most crooked people I have ever seen!
Another time I went to a local bar with another engineer. As soon as we sat down there were 4 of her 5 girls above us wearing various colored wigs, blondes, redheads etc. Go to the hotel with them! unrealistic! Just outside McDermott Gate was a prostitute’s house called the “Block House”. It was always open to visitors and there were many girls there.
I took a truck to go swimming to this magnificent place. There was me, the rigger, the welder. Get on there and cut up some fresh pineapple. I was singing to myself all the time. We were driving through rubber tree plantations! The river was a spring, with drinkable fresh water springing up from the ground, and somewhere it flowed into a murky river. Met the chief who owned the land when we were there. He was really nice. I took a picture of him and took some pictures of the place. Here’s a picture of me paddling a small dugout with paddle wood in crystal clear spring water!
When I first left Nigeria, there was someone who carried my luggage to the airport, and someone in line said, “Dash Me, Dash Me.” Look at your luggage again! We say “Dash Me” everywhere in Nigeria. The name of this story is Hense. After about 6 months I had to go home for a week and have my affected wisdom tooth removed. I did it in the dentist’s chair and I was happy when it was over! When we were flying abroad, we made a listening device out of pen and funnel paper so we didn’t have to pay for headphones so we could hear the movies they were showing. . Just raise the armrest! Said the captain of his boat, an elderly Cajun who was sitting next to me when the jet landed. The jet blew a tire on landing and the tire debris was flying near the window! The pilot tilted the plane and landed safely!
I caught McDermott Widgeon in Lagos, the “Capital of Nigeria” and flew to a secluded airstrip. He dropped me off and said he would be back in a few hours. As for Warri’s other things in his McDermott garden, he never came back!I later found and saw a wrecked plane, but when we landed the plane in the Warri River, he was down I forgot to pump the landing wheels. No one was killed! Thank God he was really devastated. The plane was ruined, he left me in the bush, and all I had to spend the night with were sheets, which the locals brought for me. That night I fell asleep and when I woke up the sheets were away from my face. My face was covered in all sorts of bites and births, mostly by mosquitoes. , a British ‘Bristow’ chopper picked me up and flew me to a helipad near DB11 where a boat could pick me up. Take me to the derrick barge. As the chopper took off the tail rotor the chopper made a slow downward spiral towards the Atlantic!!!! Picked it up and put it on the helipad for later repairs??
After completing my one-year contract, I flew to Brussels, Belgium to pick up my bonus check on the way home. Interesting town! After I got home, I fell in love with a local girl.I was on Lakeshore Drive at night in New Orleans.I was making out in the car.Bright red and sweating profusely. , turned out to have malaria !!! Not funny. They put me in Mercy Hospital, brought 4 pills in a little white cup to take 2 hours, and handed me a bottle of pills when I checked in! Did you talk about I think it was because I was sitting in a hospital bed when a lawyer called me. We sued McDermott under the “Jones Act.” When I left the hospital, they gave me back the bottle of pills.
All this talk is true and this one year deal with J Ray McDermott has been the most event filled and exciting trip I have ever been on! ! !
Robert P. Berteau Sr.
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