The Skipper


The Skipper
By Tom D Blakely

The rain sounds like gravel flung at my murky window pane
Droplets stream along the glass chasing more in front of them.
The demister and wipers are running at full, reflecting only me
And making more noise than doing good for there’s nothing else to see.
There aren’t a lot of lights around in this rolling, pitching swell
I watch the radar scope do a loop and it seems to agree as well.
Bad tempered gusts make the timber frame groan as if it might blow in
In the background is a moaning wind with an ever-changing drone.

The radio crackles with the shipping forecast, full of doom and gloom
‘. . . veering south-westerly, increasing severe gale force nine soon.’
Yeah right, well I’ve just shot the net, and I’ll haul in my own time.
Anymore threats from you radio, and you’ll end up in the brine!

My lazy crew are asleep below on this icy winter’s night
I hope they don’t choke on diesel fumes the exhaust still isn’t right.
Well I haven’t time to do these things; catching fish is my game.
A wall of sea hits the starboard bow and knocks me to port again.
Right hand down I spin the wheel; I must keep a steady course
My arms are aching as I battle against nature’s awesome force.
Weightless again we rise like a cork on the crest of giant wave.
A shuddering bang awaits us next; as we fall I brace myself.

I suppose I live for all of this; as skipper I’m master of all I survey
There’s not many could do my job, I’d stop them if they’d dare try!
Like Nelson with his skipper’s licence; his knowledge knows no end
If he wasn’t such a religious freak, he might have been a friend.
He knows how to sail, is safe with the net, and cares about the men . . .
Those trawl net doors weigh over a ton and are lethal in a storm.
But enough of this sentimental guff, a skipper must be strong
Not like Nelson, apologising and admitting when he is wrong!

Right. Deck lights on. It’s five am. Let’s not worry about the squall.
‘WAKE UP! You bunch of pansies now, it’s time to check the haul!’
‘Coats and gloves and wellies on, breakfast will come later.
Don’t forget your woollen hats for I’m your caring skipper!
Nelson! Man winches, give all square to wheel house when ready
Meantime I will hold this course and keep the vessel steady.

There’s his signal, we’re all square . . . engaging the winch, now.
The net is drawing slow and sure, five hundred feet below.
Nelson is a good winch man, that net will come up square
I never say a good word to him, but trust him like a brother.

In life and death matters I was talking about; not about the other . . .
What business is it of his; my religion? The self-righteous beggar!
I don’t believe in his God! How often do I have to tell him?
You see my father, then my brother died . . . also when out fishing.
Where was Nelson’s God back then? Off on his vacation?
I watched dad getting swept overboard and nobody could help him.
That’s why I don’t believe in God; God wasn’t there to save him.
So now I believe in myself instead, somebody I can depend on!

‘SKIPPER!’ Okay Nelson, I know; the trawl doors are surfacing
I must go out and lash them down before they kill a crewman.
A novice crewman was badly maimed just a few years before
On a night like this he was horribly crushed by a wildly swinging door.
Over a ton of steel crushed his head against the metal frame
My brother now stays in a special home and doesn’t know his name.

That door is chained:  ‘All right kid!’ So young, just like my brother.
Only one door, but at the time I forgot there was another!
My head hits the deck where I was pushed; I am lying on my face
Nelson died that night, crushed to death; because he took my place.

The rain sounds like gravel flung at my murky window pane
Droplets stream along the glass chasing more in front of them.
The demister and wipers are running at full, reflecting only me
But now Jesus is by my side each time I put out to sea.

‘Skipper, are you asleep?  Wake up before we all drown!’
‘Sorry, I must have dozed over . . . I had this terrible dream.’
‘I suppose it was about your dead father and sick brother again?’
‘Aye, they were in it, but someone else died for me in this dream.’
‘Jesus died for you; remember Skip, we discussed this on our last trip.
Then you were saved and baptized and the whole town’s talking about it!’

‘Nelson, I think I need a proper sleep, you better take the helm,
‘But don’t be thinking I’ve gone soft now that I’m a Christian!’


‘Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’
[John 15:13]



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