The Law of the Sea

Nature, at best, is neutral it is often said.  The sea, even less so.  I have been through storms in the Atlantic and Mediterranean and have seen high seas in the Pacific as well as standing on that great ocean’s eastern shores and witnessed  strong fury that actually pales in comparison to some of nature’s real efforts. But one thing I have learned is to give Davey Jones his due and not venture out where there be dangerous waters.  Now, most of my experience was on the ample hulls of large, grey steel apartment houses, with airports conveniently located on the roof.  At actual displacement of around 100,000 tons and most measuring over 1,000 feet in length, the fact that we took rolls and damage made me a true believer in our real place in the scheme of all things aquatic.

We sometimes forget that for centuries upon centuries, humans have ventured forth upon the waters on vessels much smaller, more frail and even more at the mercy of the seas.  This morning, a recreation of one of the most well-known vessels of the 19th Century and those who remain on her, stands in deep peril off our shores as Hurricane Sandy churns the deep enroute to landfall:

HMS Bounty Crew Abandons Ship

For them, and all who venture forth, let us join in the Breton Fisherman’s Prayer:

Dear God, be good to me;
The sea is so wide,
And my boat is so small.

May they all come to shore in one piece.


Filed under Faith, Shipmates, Ships and the Sea

10 responses to “The Law of the Sea

  1. Old AF Sarge

    Prayers for “those in peril on the sea.”

  2. Bill Brandt

    In New England there are homes with “widow’s walks” where wives would walk – looking at the ocean, hoping their fishermen husbands could come back.

    If the sea can be scary on a Nimitz-class ship think what it would be like on a fishing boat – or a life raft.

    True fury.

  3. Grumpy

    Bill Brandt, you don’t need to go to sea to be concerned about some old “Sea-Hag” by the name of Sandy. Both parts of my family, maternal and paternal come from New Jersey. In the community, where I now live, there are some old homes with your famous “widow’s walk”. I’ve read my paternal grandfather’s navigation manual written in the later 1800s. There was an entry, “The Ship’s Capt. was to navigate off of the one light that would be left on, on the one house on Absecum Island, the name was later changed to Absecon Island, now more commonly known as Atlantic City, NJ. Some land developers connected seven islands and started to build houses and cities on Absecon Island. Mama Nature tolerated this to a point and then, put her foot down. She took 4 blocks and washed them and their houses out to sea. Mama Nature is nobody to mess with. The house that I now live in was built on one of the highest places in the County. The block that I live in has never flooded for over 400 years.

    • Bill Brandt

      Grumpy – I don’t think we on the left coast have been subject to the kind of storms that you on the Eastern Seaboard have endured. Well, Tsunamis exempted. You guys don’t seem to get those.

      I remember 1964 – with the Alaska Earthquake – hearing the warning on the radio when the Tsumani would hit – in the # of hours – Crescent City – right near the Oregon Boarder, really got it.

      Of course it didn’t have gale force winds.

      I think the ultimate in destruction from a hurricane has to have been Galveston TX – early 1900s. Best estimate was that 6,000 lost their lives when the ocean just swallowed the city.

      And Galveston was Texas’ seaport – I don’t think it ever really recovered. Houston, about 60 miles away, built a deep water channel for the ships to come in (and have some protection).

      Mongo – Grumpy – I think for seafarers to live to retirement though the early 1900s was the exception and not the rule.

      During my scuba diving days a dive-master told me “You can’t fight Mother Ocean” – that advice may have saved my life a couple of times after getting stuck in some treacherous current.

      When she is angry the best you can hope is that she doesn’t focus her whole attention on you .

      And in thinking about this reminds me what a tremendous responsibility a captain has for his ship and crew. Like aircraft deciding where you should go and even if you should go.

      I think – over the centuries – of the sheer terror some faced during their last moments on earth.

    • I was living in Oregon in ’64 and we went to the coast not long after the Tsunami. When we drove south on US 101 a bit south of Yachats, along cliffs 300′ above the water, we saw sand that had been thrown another 100′ above us along the road. That was a ginormous wave that went along the PacCoast that year.

  4. I’ll throw in my two bits here. Not about the eastern seaboard, but about the ancestors from my maternal grandfather’s line. Those hardy folk hail from Schiermonnikoog in Friesland, Netherlands, and in their day were largely a sea going lot. Name any Dutch Captain or sailor from that era, and I’m probably related to him in some way. As my mother has compiled her family’s history over the decades, a very common note found in the male family records is “Lost at sea”. The sea does not discriminate, and takes whomsoever she will.
    Re. the Bounty, while not knowing the details behind leaving port, I’m dismayed they took her to sea in harm’s way. Yeah, I know, a ship in port and all that, but, still, I think I’d have gone north to Canada, perhaps Newfoundland, and sought to get around this beast. Attempting to race south and beat the front was foolish. I’m saddened at the ship’s loss, along with two of her crew, which somehow sanctifies the loss.

  5. Perhaps they thought they could sail around the storm…such a terrible loss in all respects.

  6. Old AF Sarge

    FWIW. Back in 2000 I was driving over to Fall River (in Mass) and while going over the Braga bridge I spied out my port-side window a square-rigged sailing vessel tied up to a pier on the Sakonnet River. Having an interest in most things nautical, I did some research when I returned to the family domicile.

    Seems the ship was a replica of HMS Bounty. (Or more properly, HMAV, His Majesty’s Armed Vessel, Bounty.) At the time I thought it was the replica built for the Anthony Hopkins/Mel Gibson version of the movie. Turns out it was the replica built for the Marlin Brando version of the movie. The ship had been in Fall River from 1993 to 2000 until the local Chamber of Commerce ran out of funds to maintain her. So she was sold to an outfit down south. She did return to Fall River for a visit back in May of 2010.

    It is that very ship which has been lost at sea.

    ‘Tis a small world.

    Again, prayers for the crew and their families.

  7. cg23sailor

    Almost 21 years to the very day for another unusual out of season/character Hurricane to threaten the Eastern Seaboard.

    The Unnamed Halloween Hurricane of 1991. AKA “The Perfect Storm”

    Between the movie scenes and the name “Perfect Storm”, A lot of people that I have met are under the misconception that it was the most powerful storm ever recorded. It was in all honestly, BARELY a Category 1 hurricane. The “perfect” in the Perfect Storm had nothing to do with it’s power and size, but rather a perfect confluence of events that came together to create the storm at all.

    The same fear and awe now held by Katrina and her aftermath.
    Once again however, Katrina was a Cat 5, but not the most powerful Cat 5 recorded. Up there, but not the most powerful. Most of the damage done was not a direct result of the hurricane, but indirectly due to piss-poor levees which failed due to shoddy and cheap construction to line the pockets of those responsible for them.

    If one good thing came out of these Storms, especially Katrina, it is this…. That landlubbers now have a healthy respect (read: Fear) for Mother Nature and what she can dish out when angered. Every Hurricane since Katrina has been met with what could be called an OVER reaction to disaster preparedness (if there can be such a thing as over-prepared).

    Sadness at the loss of such a fine ship and prayers to the families.

  8. Formerly known as Skeptic

    At last word all but 2 were saved. One of the two was recovered but the Captain is still unaccounted for.

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