The Sinking

“Poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.” ― Leonardo da Vinci

“Poet doesn’t write poetry, poetry writes the poet.” –Abhijit Naskar

“Poetry might be defined as the clear expression of mixed feelings.” —W.H. Auden

I’m sure my writing falls somewhere in W. H. Auden’s description: A “clear expression of mixed feelings.” Therefore, I’m going to say that what I write is sort of like stories written in prose. The following one describes my perception of an unusual event that happened one night many years ago on the sea.

The Sinking

We left port shortly after midnight on a clear, fine morning,
Not thinking calamity was waiting to befall us without warning.
But that’s often the way for those who follow the sea,
Things happen, and sometimes, it seems, they’re simply meant to be.

There were two boats accompanying one another,
One owned by my captain, the other by his brother.
We were astern of his brother who was leading the way
To the fishing grounds where we expected a prosperous day.

The ol’ familiar lighthouse gave off a sense of security as it flashed its light
Dependently guiding mariners home all through the night.
We rounded Boar’s Head and the captain set our course to the west.
The fishing grounds lie more than two hours away so I decided to rest.

Being the engineer the engine room was my place of choice,
It was warm and cozy and the powerful diesel was reassuring with its noise.
It was a very familiar roar, one I knew so well, steady and deep,
It mixed well with the early morning, and I was soon fast asleep.

In a short time my sleep was interrupted in a most unexpected way.
Something unusual was about to happen on this January day.
The steady roar of the diesel which was keeping me asleep,
Suddenly stopped as it slowed down quickly and steep.

The transmission shifted into reverse and the diesel climbed back to full speed,
I jumped quickly from my sleeping position thinking this was unusual indeed.
I was trying to clear away the sleep with many thoughts to sort,
When the boat suddenly and unexpectedly took a deep roll to port.

I quickly climbed the steep stairs which led to the deck and the night,
In a hurry to discover what could be causing such an unusual plight.
When I rounded the wheelhouse, which was aft, a unique sight appeared.
Another vessel’s bow had pushed to the hatch coamings, which seemed so weird.

The other vessel had hit us straight on, amidships, steaming at full speed,
It was not difficult to realize the damage done to our boat was fatal, indeed.
Our captain’s experience told him the boat’s condition was beyond repair at sea,
He issued the order to abandon ship which we followed immediately.

The captain of the other boat had left charge of the wheelhouse to his mate,
Who had stayed up the night before until it was very late.
It was before the days of autopilots and the mate had fallen asleep,
Which left no one at the helm as the boat continued full speed over the briny deep.

As it approached us at full speed our captain initially watched without concern,
He watched and expected to see a green light indicating it would pass astern.
But the oncoming vessel continued to show both red and green,
Indicating something wasn’t right; for when in close both shouldn’t be seen.

Our captain then realized we were in a dangerous situation and made a decision
Which he thought was the only one that would avoid a collision.
Thinking the other captain saw us and was attempting to pass across our bow,
He decided to stop dead in the water hoping he would miss us somehow.

But that was not to be; he shifted into reverse and opened the diesel wide,
Once again trying to avoid the inevitable as the pilotless boat hit us broadside.
It hit at top speed still under power and cut through the side and deck like a knife.
How that pilotless boat found and rammed us has caused wonder most of my life.

We abandoned the sinking vessel and were taken aboard the other boat.
Whose damage was above the water line, and therefore was able to stay afloat.
It was a depressing experience to watch our temporary home and workplace
Settle deeper in the water with each passing moment as it lost the race.

Nothing fills a seaman’s heart with sadness more than a boat losing a fight with the sea.
Not only sadness but sort of a preview of that which could, at any moment, be.
It seemed that the boat couldn’t accept what was happening and fought to stay afloat.
For the lights were still on, the diesel still running and the radar still keeping a lookout.

That’s the way it remained until the stern went under with a gush of air bubbles and foam.
The bow raised high up as if wanting us to remember our temporary home.
And then it dove straight toward the bottom leaving a whirlpool to mark the sight,
The thing I remember most is, as it dove into the deep I could still see the stern light.


Thank you for visiting this site. I am truly grateful.

“Love is your safety. Fear does not exist. Identify with love, and you are safe. Identify with love, and you are home. Identify with love, and find your Self.” –ACIM

“Veganism is believing that an animal’s life is worth more than a sandwich. That’s it! That’s how simple it is.” –The Spiritual Vegan

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