I saw the last of the steam schooners die. It wasn’t dignified. She was tucked away out of sight while the repair tab mounted until her collapse was only a matter of time. After the people who should have been her guardians took the bits and pieces of her deemed to be worth saving, she was murdered, cut and pulled apart by people who only saw her as something to be disposed of, a pile of toxic waste, a hazard to be abated.
Ships are built and held together by love. Sailors understand that their survival is directly dependent on the state their vessel is in, and know that the sea will find the flaws in their work, the lapses in their devotion to her. Lloyd’s of London can say what they will, a ship will always be “She.” My employer may sign my check, but when I was a deckhand, I worked for the ships, not the organization. Being separated from them, set to recordkeeping and other tasks far removed from the vessels has turned what was a vocation into a mere job.
This song is the essence of what I’ve learned from ships and the work I did aboard them. I will always be a sailor, though I can’t say whether or not I will ever be able to live and work aboard ship again. The bond between ship and sailor, and the way life changes me when I’m at sea is something that will always be with me. I hope that this awareness is something that will grow to encompass the whole world because it isn’t a bond that is limited to ships and sailors.
I’ll bet you already have a taste of it. Your family, perhaps your home and the work that you do may well have this quality to it. We all can have that kind of bond with the land we live in if we choose to look for it. This kind of love can hold a nation together, and a species, if we can avoid falling into its toxic mimic of patriotism and xenophobia. A ship at sea is a whole world. Can we learn to love and care for our whole world? I think we can. And I think we will.