You would think that after such a long time at sea – coming up on forty odd years, I reckon – I’d have found my sea legs. No such luck. Don’t get me wrong fella, I love the ocean; splendor, majesty, unpredictability…even its terror has an allure. For whatever reason, however, my body has never adjusted to its motion, its rhythm, its embrace.
Why did I persist in this vocation? To tell the truth, many’s the time that yours truly wondered that exact same thing… Particularly as I retch onto my own legs or endeavour to clean up the vomit stains after an especially strong gale. This’ll sound right queer…but I suspect that there’s a part of me that’s addicted to the sensation of queasiness. Makes not a jot of sense, I know. How else am I to explain the unique euphoria rushing through my veins whenever a storm breaks off our bows?
My condition meant that I could never make Captain – far cop, ain’t the type anyway – so I rose to First Mate of the Scarlet Phrike. The officer commanding was a nautically shrewd fellow, let me make that clear. Clear as the Weddell. Mark me well, what was to transpire the night of the hurricane was in no way attributable to any failing on his part. The boss was a savvy, calm and responsible sailor, and the fact that any of his seamen are alive today is in no small measure a result of his courage and leadership.
We were in stable condition, a few swells but nothing that could even make my fragile innards rebel…until that first wave struck. I don’t have time for tizzies about labels, you can call it a rogue wave or not, makes no odds to me…but this was something the like of which I’d never experienced. Not in more than four decades. I never saw it coming, never heard no warning from the lookouts before it careened into our port side. We began to yaw immediately, erratically, totally adrift. Lucky enough to be belowdecks at the time of impact, I scurried to my station at the bridge…only to find all the windows blown out and the navigation equipment completely wrecked by the broadside. Our communications too had been knocked out – we didn’t even have any means of contacting the engine room!
That was when it got bad.
Solidarity, brothers & sisters… ⚓