My watch was twelve to four, noon and midnight
twice a day.
Wheel-watch, bow-watch and standby broke four hours
eighty minutes at each station left me a little
time to play
my father’s four-string banjo, ignoring comments
Eighteen years old and bulletproof, made of rubber
I assumed that everyone would at least work
at my pace,
like when our sledgehammers for pounding rust would barely
make a dent
and the other deckhands yelled at me “slow down it’s
not a race”.
The “jitterbug” had steel teardrops mounted on a
driven by a motor loud enough to deafen
The Bos’n told me how and where to chip, dead certain
I was daft.
Apparently I proved his point when I learned, the hard way,
how he coached.
I’d chipped the section he’d laid out and moved onto the
Now my ears are ringing, my nose is bleeding and I’m crumpled
in a heap,
then my butt starts aching and I’m wonderin’ WHAT!, and why the
while the Bosun’s yelling WTF and should he throw my ass
into the deep.
I was learning that the way I was brought up, went against the
by the Union protocal. The Bosun’s yelling that I’m taking
from tomorrow’s planned production. I’m not supposed to
do that yet.
I’d been kicked in the butt, headfirst into a capstan, I think the Bosun
is a jerk.
Our deck cargo was train axels corraled by 2x10s then cabled to the
to keep them stationary when we ran into high seas. Alfalfa filled the
then our noses, throats and lungs when the empty holds were cleaned.
the next hold cuz the temp is one hundred ten degrees: so I’m dreaming
At sea the routine norm was mornings chipping paint and afternoons
duties til four and then my time off til midnight, then my watch would
One job was in a bos’ns’ chair undoing shackles with the mast against
high up enough to see the ships bow cleaving waves for dolphins
eye to eye with a pelican winging past with his catch still kicking
in his sack.
At moments like this the vastness and the glory of the ocean
has struck me dumb.
The ever changing glitter of the sun on living water, dancing
over and back
with the ships’ dip and roll I see across waves and into depths
I’ll never plumb.
Sometimes a storm would brace the ship with power not of man
and we would
have to change our routines to make it through the fury of
and valleys slowly climbed and descended while the wind did
what it could
to push you and the rain into stumbling on the decks
against the fountains
surging up and over the ships’ bow and bulworks. With that much
on deck, no watch can stand on the bow. Instead my watch is
on the bridge where
I watch for other ships’ lights. High above me the radar towers’
red light’s flashing.
To my delight the ladder up puts me in the crows’ nest. At first,
just stnding there
is close to God and magical but slippery with the rain and wind so I sit
on the perch
with my legs between the rails and glory in the magnificience. With the
roll the tower listed starboard and lee, so I hung over roiling water
with each lurch.
Side to side a slow ark through gusts of wind and rain, while lightening
sections of the blackened skies. My suspension over water boiling cold
hypothermia, while the pulse of the storm became my heartbeat,
my mortal self
let go and drowned in the divine and for those fragile moments I felt no
doubt, just freedom from me. But flashlights below said I had to
abort my shelf.
I climbed down into a fury made of man this time, they thought I’d
board or somehow left my post. My claim that the tower was the
look-out, fell on deaf and angry ears. My watch did not include a high
Regardless, my awe of natures’ might has shown me how quickly we’re
The morning brought us broken clouds then sunlight and calm waters
with a salt
crystal deposit over all the decks, rails, booms, masts, chains
and winch cables.
The sunlight set the salt crystals sparkling, magically gifting a world
Until the rains, our crystal ship would dazzel the mornings as long as
she was able.
The gift of natures’ yin and yang, her arbitrary push and pull,
or the whim of God,
has humbled me each time I remember and witness a storm.
My lesssons continue
with each storm in my life and sometimes I’m lucky that
the occasional odd
epiphony actually remain. Knowing that life given me, is also
residing within you
completes my connection. Our great grey mother the sea holds us
and our planet
together. While at the correct distance from the sun, we are enabled
and able to
acknowledge order beyond our making. Given my life, I haven’t
always planned it
but maybe, maybe when my time has come, I will be remembered as
a fable, too.