From Violet Louisiana to the shipyard in Bayonne New Jersey, a 42 year old 960-foot ro-ro ship, fourteen days. Crew flies in Wednesday and the madhouse begins. The steward is ready to quit, the second engineer maybe had a stroke, the new captain has his own set of rules, half the new crew are green and the other half greener still. Lash everything down, secure the watertight doors, set the watch routine, and cast off into the Mississippi River, starting downstream, only to anchor up 15 miles further with an engine problem. New part arrives on a launch at midnight, we lift it aboard, and by dawn we’re off again. Everything held together with hope and wire, the engineers madly finding solutions, the rest of us steering and cleaning and lashing, crossing the Gulf, coming around Florida, then heading out into the Atlantic to burn our heavy fuel oil far from land, day after day doing donuts on the broad reach, back and forth. Hours – days – replacing the ballast water, pumping and sounding tanks and pumping again. The new steward’s assistant misbehaves with the cook and assistant cook, misbehaves badly, and is sent to swab decks far below for the balance of the trip. His name becomes Creepy. One sailor becomes sickened in the holds and goes to his room, another runs out of smokes and becomes insufferable, the food starts to run out, the milk goes, and the wind begins to blow. The big ship rolls and pounds, lashings shift and slide, nobody sleeps, the gale rages, the big crane hooks forward come loose and swing like death, one of the anchors breaks, the toilets stop flushing and the hot water system dies. No one is happy.
Now, finally, at anchor in New York, the bright skyline teasing, waiting for dry dock, everyone stumbling with fatigue, Creepy slinking the halls, the steward muttering, and the captain barking impossible orders everyone ignores. But we are on the hook, in the Hudson, safe, and arrived.
Life is good.