SHORT STORY – Awash to the gunnels – By Geoff Burrowes

  — By Geoff Burrowes

I read recently that Jerry Gouveia has died. I thought he would live forever. He was a takouba, probobly the toughest man I ever knew and I have known some tough ones! Sam Driver, his Dad Dickie Driver, Stan Brock, Louis Orella and some of the Macushi and Wapishana vacqeros I had the pleasere to work with: Peter, Olaaf,  Lionel, Walter  and Chico, Cesar Gorinsky’s friend.

My enduring memory of Jerry is of him securely clutching a rugby ball, flying down the touchline, knees high, with a devil may care grin on his face.

What most people don’t know about Jerry was that he was an accomplished oarsman. Pure muscle and sinew, Jerry pulled much more than his weight on the oars! The story I’m about to tell you is about Max Jardim, Jerry and his brother Alvaro!       

The highlights of our rowing year were the two regattas that were held, pitting crews against one another and leaving the winning crew with bragging rights until the next regatta. There was also sailing done out in the sea, past the wide estuary of the Demerara River, off the coast, north of the Seawall.

Courageous crews battled the long Atlantic swells and one another to get across the finish line first. But for us rowers and our supporters, mainly wives and families the rowing was the thing. I’m not sure how the crews were picked but that regatta the odds heavily favoured Max Jardim’s boat. Max, a big powerful man, was the stroke of his boat, his three was Jerry, one of the most powerfull oarsmen, his two was Joey King and his bow was my cousin, Archie a big rawboned powerful boy. On paper a dynamite crew. Ours on the other hand was comparatively light. Alvaro, Jerry’s brother, who was tall and slim was our stroke, I was three, at 180 lbs., normally a power position, Ed Gordon was two and Brian Pairaudeau also tall and slim was bow.

Canadians call it trash talking, our term was not suitable for print but because of the two brothers there was plenty of it! Jerry crowed over the strength of their crew and Alvaro simply said “There’s many a slip twixt cup and lip, wait for the race!” But in truth there was no way we could have beaten that powerful crew. But Alvaro drilled us hard, practicing fast starts and swinging into the long, strong stroke that would allow us to coast along at speed, eating up the mile distance  before picking up the short, sharp, power strokes for the finish.

Tony Crum Ewing described a rowing race as starting with a hundred yard dash, running a mile and then finishing with another hundred yard dash. So to win we had to be severely fit, drilled to have our oars hit the water at the same time and drift up the slides together and again hit the waster together at the beginning of the stroke.  We did it right throughout the race our boat would skim along the water at top speed! So we practiced hard to beat the odds of a far more powerful crew!

And still Jerry and Alvaro taunted one another!

The day of the regatta dawned clear and bright – not a cloud in the blue sky but with a brisk wind!

We changed with the other crew in the dressing room and there was plenty of taunting going on between us, although our taunting had a hint of desperation in it!

The long, slim boats were being held next to the sloping dock, rocking quite a bit in the fresh swell. When we paddled out into the river we realized that the combination of the falling tide and the brisk wind had whipped the surface up and the chop was far worse than normal.

We started our races at the bulk sugar terminal loading dock which was a mile south of the club and finished with the rowdy support of the crowd at the clubhouse. As we headed up river for the start, by the time we reached the Guyana Airways Ramp at Ruimveldt the chop was threatening to swamp our boat and Alvaro advised the cox to row a very light stroke, which kept the bow high and saved the boat from being swamped. The falling tide and our light rate of stroke meant that we took a longer time than usual to reach the start and the taunting from the other boat burned our ears. Alvaro Gouveia, noting that Max’s much heavier crew was causing their boat to sit lower in the water than ours, sportingly offered to postpone the race, but Max’s crew, convinced of their own power, rejected the offer out of hand.

The starter’s launch pulled alongside, made sure that the boats were properly aligned and fired his starter’s pistol. We heard Max call for a rate of 20 quick strokes and his boat leapt ahead in the rough water and Alvaro again advised the cox to call for a light stroke. Max’s boat buried its nose in the rough  swell as they continued to pull ahead while we dropped way behind. Then, quite suddenly their boat began to come back to us! As we went past them at our light paddle we saw that they were up to their middles in the river, with the ends of the bow and stern cresting the waves. The river eventually swamped us as well but by that point we had an insurmountable lead and paddled gently down to the  finish line, across from the clubhouse to win the regatta and ensure bragging rights until the next regatta.

I remember that we were extremely gracious which some how didn’t seem to heal the disappointment of Max’s crew at the outcome of the race.

Wha’ fo’ do?


FROM: Editor: Guyanese Online

Dave Martins has written an article in Stabroek News on the passing of Jerry Gouveia. It has been attached in the COMMENTS of this entry.

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  • guyaneseonline  On 08/19/2021 at 2:57 am

    A Space That Can’t Be Filled
    By Dave Martins

    August 15, 2021
    Over the weekend Guyana said goodbye to one of its premier citizens. Jerry Gouveia
    , of Banks Jerry fame, who passed away suddenly recently. In every society, there are these special citizens living very special, even unique lives, whose exit leaves a space that is never filled by others, and he was certainly one of them.

    He came with gifts in different ways, a special one, unique

    Today the BSA in town, tomorrow Crabwood Creek,
    Crisscrossing all the land around, Lethem and so on
    The Gardens in the city, with the floating lily ponds
    They knew Gov in Aishalton, in Annai and beyond
    Aboard the faithful BSA he formed with them a bond
    Hunter one day, runner the next, and smiling through it all
    Straight as Wapishan arrow, bony frame and tall
    Always with a ready smile in city or in bush
    When you could do with a hand, you got that crucial push
    Never much for idle talk, now that is very true
    But when the problems piled up high, Gov knew just what to do.
    Hunting, fishing, track and field, and volleyball, oh my
    High diving, yes, and labass, all that was the guy
    In early days, St. Stanislaus, Brickdam was the place
    Football, high jump, 100 yards, always in the race.
    And then to work with PanAm Air, Atkinson Field, oh my
    Battling East Bank traffic, red dust in your eye
    He learned his way around the country, that was just his way
    And loyalty was part of him, part of him to stay.
    Through it all he did not change, if he was friends with you
    He always had the helpful hand, the bond just grew and grew
    He knew the ins and outs of life… the punches? He just rolled.
    He was both a simple man who often acted bold.
    And so though we may wish it did, time cannot be willed
    The space he left us may be something never ever filled.
    This man, he was a special one, indeed, a cut above;
    We look back now and can’t forget the one we knew as GOV.

    • geoffburrowes  On 08/21/2021 at 1:03 pm

      Wonderful tribute Dave!

  • Reggie Chee a tow  On 08/19/2021 at 7:23 am

    What a wonderful tale! It was a pleasure to read this yarn.Your memory is as sharp as ever,remembering all these intricate details of a great race. I extend my condolences on the passing of your friend. I used to read about him in the sport circles.

  • George Jardim  On 08/19/2021 at 7:24 pm

    Geoff, What a stunning commentary on a great time, enlivened by great people, every one of them. They were all a few years older than I was, so I could only look on in awe, but got to crew on the Snipes for the Sailing Club races. Thanks for the great article.

  • Alvaro Goveia  On 09/06/2021 at 9:50 am

    Thanks for these stories
    Alvaro Goveia

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