I enjoyed break-ups far more than an adult responsible for millions of dollars’ worth of cargo and more importantly, men’s lives, should. There’s no drug like adrenaline…

  • Break-Up In The Sounds

    Underway’s the only way
    a tramping boat can earn its pay
    Can’t stay tied up on a stormy day
    in a harbor calm and quiet
    Though it’s often prudent to delay
    Our captain says “Boys, let’s try it.”

    And so we find ourselves westbound
    Bouncing across the rolling sound
    Man-high waves toss the tow around,
    smear the windows with salty rime
    At a toddler’s crawl the sun drifts down
    adrenaline rushes slow down time

    There goes a wire, with a spark and a popping!
    Once one goes, with the barges still hopping
    the seaward lashings part, only safety lines stopping
    the tow from falling apart, and ruining our day
    The crew’s work is dangerous, but their frenetic coping
    may keep us together; safe water’s a mile away

    The waters have calmed, and so have we
    Horn Island is blocking the worst of the sea
    We dry and debrief over mugs of hot coffee
    Petit Bois Pass now behind us, first rough patch of three
    Let’s now throw new rigging, replace each broken wire
    Underway’s the only way, or go home and retire.

4 responses to this post.

  1. Excellent ‘sea-shanty’. I esp love hearing it from you, who knows where-of you speak.
    (Not like Melville, who mebbe saw a baby whale at Sea-World once.)
    Ok, I need to Google him. For now, I’ll stick with calling out Drumpf’s feigned sympathy with veterans, or coal miners, or basically anyone real.
    (trying to play catch-up here: how come the wire’s breaking makes a spark?
    And as to adrenaline: perhaps the part I miss the most of building a house a week for 20 years is the ‘noble-savage bravado’ we sweaty hammer-heroes’ shined-on’ to anyone watching in disbelief. A toss-up, but it was arguably as much ‘on-stage’ as playing the Coliseum.
    So, where do ‘detached’ captains go to re-live the thrill of an ‘orphaned’ tow?


    • I will answer your last question by E-mail.
      “Wires”, as we called them, are inch-wide cables, made up of steel strands wrapped around a length of line composed of some organic fiber such as sisal or jute. As the wire is stretched, either by deliberate tightening with a ratchet or tension caused by rough seas, the strands of steel wrap tighter around the core and each other, each making its fellow stronger.
      That is a lot of pressure, sometimes the core will start smoking. And when the wire parts, the whiplash is so fast as to be invisible. I guess the friction causes the spark, sometimes the wire hitting the steel deck can do it.


  2. Yeah, I, too kinda suspected, since we haven’t seen pix from below the waist since that shoals incident.
    Seriously, for me, terminally scared of water over my head, he’s a hero just for going ‘out there’, where, we all know ‘there be demons’. And guiding the ‘forgotten’ maritime portion of our nation’s wealth through monster-fields no less frightening than back in Capt’n Cook’s day is a job I’ll leave to the pros.


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