Outward Bound by Captain J. S. Earl


I remember well, when I went off to sea,

Many years ago – but things come back to me;

Sights and sounds of seamen on a Merchant ship,

Just the same around the world, however long the trip.


Familiar life of ship’s routine as she steams from A to B,

A following wind and gentle swell as the vessel’s running free;

Seagulls over the quarter, awaiting galley gash,

Wing tips hardly moving, till they see their breakfast splash.


A roving British tanker passing close to port,

Flying from her gaff – red duster whipping taut;

The flying fish, and porpoise, playing round the bow,

All these things and many more, I recall just now.


Lookout on the fo’c’s’le we sound of the bow waves swish,

Or on the monkey island with the foghorn’s constant hiss;

Perhaps upon the masthead, high up in the air,

Dangling from its lizard, a waiting bosun’s chair.


Work is done upon the charts as the Mates plot our course,

Aft the bridge in his radio shack Sparkie taps his Morse;

Engineer in overalls walking round with spanner,

And constant turning on the spot – the modern radar scanner.


A handy crowd out on deck equipped with knife and spike,

The steady wake when looking aft – all due to Iron Mike;

Buffer in his locker – a thimble in the vice,

Showing young apprentices the Ozzy locking splice.


The general work and maintenance of topping lifts and guys,

The pulsing of the engine – not noticed till it dies;

Chippy with his sounding rod plumbing all the tanks,

A growing tan while heading south and beards among the ranks.


Greasers wearing sweat rags, and buckles back to front,

Telling yarns of wartime days and calling Cook a runt;

We rarely see the Master until it’s Sunday rounds,

His authority is silent unless there are the grounds.


But most of all we’re ready, for hazards on the way,

Peril, fog or tempest will surely come one day.

I learned the ways of mariners with an independent crew,

How I loved those salad days – I ‘spect that you did too.


Posted with kind permission from Captain J. S. Earl.