Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A perfect storm, August 1992

The boat left the dock at mid day
We were headed for the waters
That lie a long way from here
Three days travel at best
The radio told the weather
As well as the sky
Our bones, memory and faith
Shoals between us and freedom
Had stories and wrecks to to speak of
The ribs of a ghost lay with waves licking
Lapping at a once noble hull
Three hours and many hazards
Were between our position and safety
The open ocean
I had learned respect for her
I had been taught to stand in awe
She would shrug us off
A leviathan, a wretched wench
With a score to settle
For those who would meddle
With the ways of the Mother
The ropes were secured, the hatches tied
Phone calls made in earnest
An innocence lost but not let on
This voyage could be the last
We all knew it would not be so
Returning to the bars and streets and homes
Yes home, is the place you recalled
At time like these
The shelter of others diminished off the stern
As we travelled away
Birds in the trees and rocks on the shore
Gave way to gulls and waves of the sea
Albatross, mist and the need to be free
Diesel, salt, bacon and rust
Fill the air and our nostrils
The roll of the sea took hold of the boat
Tossing, pitching, ploughing, turning
The gear was readied as we moved out
Past the 1,000 fathom shelf
Out here, decisions are made with acumen
Accuracy and precision
There was no way to turn back
Once we reached this far
The sight of terra disappeared yesterday
The grounds we'll find tomorrow
The side band radio squawked and belched
Occasionally, Eventfully
We idled down as the shaft caused static
Reports from our fellow fishers
Received consideration and mathematics
As charts and thoughts were measured
Protractors and rulers and compass
Trepidation and experience
In collaboration to make a decision
We steered south, toward the North Island
The night was spent by dividing time
Wheel watches, 2 hours each
The moonlight glistened on the surface
Cold, crisp northwesterly wind
I always loved a NW wind
Deceitful in it's lack of rain
Creative in our activities, the days were long
The engine stayed at a steady RPM
As the third day darkened
The waves began to smash into our house
with force and determination
The boat began that pitch and yaw
Crested the tips of waves like an old man
The engine revved, rising as she reached the peak
And dove into the next
The water exploded and filled the bow
The anchor winch and chain disappeared for a time
The rusty metal clanking as it faced the assault
The voices on the radio became more expletive
As the onslaught escalated
So-and-so was in trouble with this or that
Anxiety found it's cruel way into our reluctant minds
By now we were 3 days from harbour
A place that was on all our minds now
As the hours passed and the wind reached hurricane force
Things started to come apart
Lines snapped, things were lost
Still, we refused to break out the survival suits
Every sailor knows this is failure
And we were a long way from failure
We still had the luxury of windows in the wheelhouse
We heard on the radio that so-and-so no longer does
The seas grew so mountainous
That we lost sight of the horizon
The boat idled for 2 days
Smashed by waves
It had been almost a week since we left
And as hastily as the storm had come
It disappeared
And left us ravaged
I never saw any of the crew weep
But I know we all did
The forecast had changed radically
Though we felt as though we had survived a war
There was still fishing to be done
We dropped the gear into the water
And spent the next two weeks filling the hold

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