Aurora: Shipping Out in the late 1970s




Book Details

Language : English
Publication Date : 10/7/2008

Format : Softcover
Dimensions : 6x9
Page Count : 68
ISBN : 9781425173869

About the Book

Around the time of the Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua, the U.S.-flagged merchant ship S.S. Del Oro departs Tacoma, Washington, bound for ports in Central and South America. Some unmarked crates in one of the holds are to be delivered to the Del Oro’s first stop after the U.S.: Nicaragua.

The narrator, Oiler on the 8-12 watch in the engine room, had promised to smuggle a parrot from South America back to his girlfriend in Seattle, risking prison to impress a beautiful woman.

Against a backdrop of the collapsing dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza in Nicaragua, read how a merchant seaman combs through ports on the west coast of Latin America in search of a parrot, usually in the company of his rum-soaked shipmates.

This true story, set in 1979, shows the ambivalence of the Jimmy Carter administration toward Somoza and the Sandinista rebels, before Somoza’s flight to luxurious exile in Florida and the Reagan Administration’s later backing of the Contras. The story also shows to what lengths a man will go to keep the promise made to a woman he is courting.

As the S.S. Del Oro rolls on gentle swells, steaming down the west coast of the Americas at 18 knots, you will be introduced to life in the engine room on a steamship. Read what happens when the author finds a parrot for his girlfriend and tries to smuggle it to the U.S.

About the Author

John Merriam was an unlicensed seaman in the U.S. merchant marine for twelve years,
while working his way through college and law school. He caught his first ship in 1970, a freighter in New Orleans bound for Saigon with a load of tanks and trucks for ARVN (Army of the Republic of Viet Nam). All told, the author worked aboard 17 freighters and tankers in 12 different job classifications for the deck, engine and steward departments.

Other employment, before and during shipping out, included 19 full-time jobs in eight
states ranging from carpenter to cab driver, roustabout in the oil fields to factory worker on an assembly line, and almost 20 years part-time as a downhill ski instructor on weekends.

Mr. Merriam received a scholarship from the Seafarers International Union which paid
for his law school tuition. Passing the bar in 1982, he was associate and then partner at a small law firm in Seattle before starting his own firm in 1996. His first maritime case after law school was to sue Ronald Reagan for shutting down the system of Marine Hospitals (taken over by the U.S. Public Health Service Hospitals) in 1982. The case was appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court but ultimately failed.

Mr. Merriam now restricts his practice to representing individuals with maritime law
claims for wages or injury. He is a sole practitioner with an office at Seattle's Fishermen's Terminal.

The author lives with his wife, Kaye Walker, in Shoreline, Washington.