Posted by: guinness222 | March 6, 2017

” The Captain is the CAPTAIN,….believe it,… it is your best, and only salvation, at Sea ….besides God and miracles!!

A few weeks ago I was watching 60 minutes, and they were doing a follow-up story on the “El Faro”, a cargo ship that sunk off the Bahama’s  during Hurricane Joaquin in 2012 (??).

After several years have gone by since the sinking and the loss of all 43 souls on board the voice recorder was found, and has been recovered and analyzed. It shows the Captain stayed with the Ship and was trying to help the helmsman get off when all radio communication ceased.  He obviously knew they were doomed but did what every Captain of a seafaring vessel was charged with as long as history and communications have existed! He went down with his ship!

Most of you ask WHY? That’s stupid!

In a single word  to answer,….WRONG!!!

Let me tell you about the sea, the ships, and the “Captains”, ….and why the only stupid one on a ship is someone who offers a “better solution” than the Captain, or try’s to out think the Captain. It will only get you one thing,…..your own demise. As in the El Faro, it documented the Captain still on the bridge trying to help a helmsman to get off the ship before what he already knew too well was the only ending available to the Ship, himself and that crewman, and anyone else that could not clear the area of the ship successfully!

Read and research a little and see how many Captains went down with their ship, going back as far as we can document this. It is called the “Code of the Sea”. It’s not specifically written anywhere, BUT if you ever find yourself at sea and your living I guarantee you learn it quickly!

Captains come in all sizes, shapes, appearance, educations, and yes experience. They are not all the gigantic cruise ship, well dressed, well manicured, well educated and politically obligated folks whom everyone thinks is a “real nice guy”! Yes it is part of the Captains persona if you a cruise boat Captain,…….BUT first and foremost you are the CAPTAIN!

But it is equally true, as Captain Smith of the RMS Titanic aptly demonstrated on April 15, 1912 in the North Atlantic Ocean. (I have traversed the North Atlantic in the spring on a US Navy Aircraft Carrier,….and I will attest to it being a dicey experience, where even the most ardent atheists demonstrate the ability to pray fervently!! If you’ve not seen a big ship, like a cruise ship, or aircraft carrier up close I recommend you do it. They are awesomely big at the pier! But again I will testify, it is like riding a wine cork, in the angry sea, when your first meet with “the weather” ,…..and you will pray too. (Understand the Cruise Boat Captain is paid , and is supposed to direct things so you never really experience  the “angst” as a land lubber! But even good Captains are human! However do not doubt for a second that the Captain is your only real hope to survive and get ashore, dry, happy and thankful. But for those of you who have had a “lousy cruise” because of seas or the weather,don’t blame the Captain. Right wrong happy or sad you’re home,…rather than the other alternative.

The reason I wrote wrote about this topic is multiple, not just my service in the U.S. Navy, but primarily my friendships with MANY different Captains and their serious nature when it comes to the sea, and the responsibilities that they feel and TOTALLY understand they have for the lives and safety of their crews, passengers, and friends,and bringing the boat home in one piece.

A good friend was a New England Lobsterman, as a friend I helped him where I could with the time I could give him as he started his career. I was the guy sitting on the stern of the 13′ Boston Whaler hauling 25 -30 lobster traps at a time, with only 2 (TWO) inches over the gunnel (The distance from the edge of the Upper level of the boat to the ocean!) Were we “overloaded”?,… hell yes, but it was the most effective way for us to deploy the lobster traps. The boat was new, and sound, the motor was new, and sound and George, my friend was definitely Captain Material. He took the responsibility for his equipment, his crew, and his  obligations.

Over the years I spent Saturday’s or Sundays working as his “sternman” allowing his regular sternman a day off. (Another act of reality for a good Captain). A “sternman” is responsible for 1) loading all the bait on the boat, being sure all the necessary gear is ready and available as needed for the trip. Then during the trip wrestling the 90 pound individual lobster traps, (fished in trolls of 6-8 strung together with about 60 -70 feet of rope between them) from the “starboard”, or right Side of the boat, down the entire right side length, or rail, across the back (stern) and up the left rail, or Port side) while the Captain was still pulling them up and shoving them “down the line”. Multiply 6, or 8 traps with 80 feet of rope from the “cute little colored bobbers” to the first trap, the 30 feet of rope holding each one to the next one in the trawl and another 80 feet of line and another “buoy” at he end!

As a “sternman”, it was your job to , open the traps, pull the “bugs(lobsters) measure them to be sure they are of “legal length” and throw the legal back  in a “keeper” tank , or bin. The rest went back to grow some more. All the time you are kicking coils of rope at your feet from the first buoy to the last and every lobster trap between them!  When the last trap is pulled and put o the rail the Captain will yell “clear?”, the Sternman yells “Aye”, and the Captain leave the wheel and winch on the starboard side, crosses to the port side, yells “Bouy Away” and throws the first bouy and 8 feet of line in the water, which pulls the first “Pot” or lobster trap over, then all the rope to the second, third trap, etc, until the are all safely back settling in the sea, til the next time you pull them. If you screw up and a line wraps around your foot, your on a fast track to drowning with a line wrapped around your leg. (If you ever do it, carry  a VERY SHARP knife in a holster around your thigh or calf, JUST IN CASE, otherwise you may be  “TOAST” with 450 pounds plus pulling you into the ocean with no regrets!

I have met several “Commercial Fishing Boat Captains”, (as opposed to “Charter Fishing Boat Captains” who go out for four or eight hour cruises with passengers hoping to land  a great “prize” fish, or a “bunch of fish” to brag about to their friends back home.

Commercial Fishermen will generally go out for 3-10 days at a time, depending on the weather, the Distributors  need for fish, and what the market will bear to maximize earnings for everyone. They work as long and as hard as it takes to make their assigned poundage (quotas) from the “Brokers” ashore who buy the entire load and distribute it to wholesalers, retailers, and whatever other “markets” they have who will pay the best prices.

(N.B. The government has an “Observer Program” where government observers have the right to call and say “We’re going out with you next trip.”. Ostensively to observe the type size and amounts of fish caught. Even commercial fishermen have “Quotas” and fish they are outlawed from catching based on the Federal Regulations. Frankly I disagree with Federal intervention totally. Fishermen are VERY SMART people, and understand if they over fish an area, as foreign vessels have done in our waters for years, or catch endangered species,….well they are out of business! And I have never met a stupid commercial fishermen or stupid Captain in my life!!)

But every deck hand, or non-Captain knows their lives, their income, and their job depend on the Captain, and the sound decisions he makes as “The Captain”!

Rule #1 The Captain is the ONLY Boss aboard.

Rule #2 Refer to Rule number 1.

-30-

 

 

 

 

 


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