One Year Later

A year ago I was on a tug anchored in the north river having a shitty day. We had headed to anchorage just south of the GW to ride out weather for a few days with our loaded barge before heading off to New Haven I think. Dropping anchor just as the tide turned I got sideways to the wind vs tide chop and ended up getting us beaten around in the notch quite badly. I tried to back down quickly and then give the boat a shot ahead to straighten out and at that point probably very nearly broke the push gear. Inexperience at its worst, and a lesson I haven’t forgotten.

Of course several thousand miles south of me, 33 mariner’s, had earlier in the morning likely abandoned ship into a hurricane. I was having a bad day, they had their worst, and last day. I spent the next few days glued to news reports of the search, the entire time knowing the inevitable outcome of these situations. It’s a fact of life in our trade, one that never changes, never gets less cruel, and we all say will never happen to me.

One year later as another hurricane, this one a class five, barrels through the Caribbean. As hundreds of sailors have been stranded on anchored ships by Hanjin’s bankruptcy, some running out of food. As in the northeast the home heating oil season gears up, and the Cape Cod Canal once again proves it worth. Please take a moment to remember where 90% of your stuff comes from. Remember that it is people, flesh and blood people, of all races and nationalities. Working away from comfort, safe harbor, and home. Some for a livable wage, and others in near slave like conditions. They make it possible to live our lives of modern convenience.

Until someone writes a song for all of them, and for the El Faro 33, listen to this song about another crew lost, and take a moment to remember them too.

About newenglandwaterman

1600 Master Near Coastal, Master of Towing Vessels, and a whole binder full of other pieces of paper. You can find me at the controls, hooked up and hard over, when I'm not at home playing with the dogs
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2 Responses to One Year Later

  1. Tad Arnold says:

    Well said, Ben.

    It all boils down to choices.
    Go, or stay at anchor….. run for a hurricane hole, or keep going, all choices.

    In El Faro’s case, they had a choice of a safe route, go west of the Bahamas, or go east of the Bahamas.
    Obviously, they made the wrong choice. The lesson here is: ALWAYS make the safest choice…regardless of external pressure.

    Stay safe out there….. Tad

  2. captbbrucato says:

    My crew and I were bound for New York on the back side of Joaquin, we dragged our feet across the gulf and Florida straits until it looked safe to proceed. The beast took so long to turn that we held the option of heading west against the stream to get away if necessary. Instead it turned enough that we were able to proceed. We took a solid beating and took it slow from Cape Canaveral to Hatteras. We heard the El Faro was missing as we beat our way home. We had seen her in Jax Port on our last trip. A very sad day for all of us.

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