Of Mooncursers and other spun yarns
Saturday, April 2, 2011
Sailing Ships and Sailing Men
As a boy in the 1930's, I knew sailors. Most came home and swore off sailing ships for ever.
Drawn to a wild Baltimore waterfront life, they blew their wages on booze, women and gambling. They were shanghaied or signed onto a ship just to have a home for a time. It was not the sea they were drawn to, but instead, family.
A man, known to do his share high up on the yard arms, had respect.
On land, they were lowly and even tramps. Upon the sea, each a respected seamen! To stand his watch, furl canvas in rain and sleet then lend a hand on the bitter end of a sheet a new boy on board rose to man and mate.
Good people these, though not in a way most of us would recognise.
Among us modern sailboat sailors we may swagger and tell of hanging on with one hand and reefing a flogging sail with the other.
You could with effort, drag the same story from these square rig sailors, though they wouldn't say they were high in the air above mountainous waves reefing and tying as they rounded the notorious capes, driven by snowy squalls. To be 200 ft in the air in gale winds with a sails snapping and booming making every attempt to throw the watch to deck. Cut from heavy cloth, these men who worked, lived and died at sea.
A seaman I knew and was influenced by, was a Mr. Outabridge who fell from the main yard cracking his skull. He supervise the repair of it and inspired the character Doc in the Novel, Of Mooncursers and Other Spun Yarns By Douglas G. Pollard Sr. on sale @ Lulu.com .
My mothers brother Talmage Williams right after World War One was shanghaied aboard a sailing ship in to the far east. After a two year stint when his ship had not made a U.S. Port. He signed aboard a steam ship to Baltimore. Left in port at Tripoli where he had gotten drunk and spent a couple weeks in jail for getting into a bar room brawl. That was his last duty under sail. Arriving home he lost his seaman's papers for a year for jumping ship. During world war two he stayed at sea almost constantly. He made the one and only Mermaske run through the North Sea hauling gasoline. They were close on the German coast and suffered bombings for several days. Talmage said they watch ships burning in the distance every night and all hands fully expected to die on that trip. IT was by luck that they were not attacked by German dive Bombers.
To find men like these today you have to look to our men fighting on the sands of the middle east. So, every Generation has it's men.