Ben Haymond

Mar 18, 2019

4 min read

A Mariner’s Woe

Photo by Susan on Unsplash

A wild eyed, halfcocked Ahab shrieked from the mast: “There is no land today!” as the rudderless ship floated adrift amid stormy seas bashed by waves. The pilot, chained to the wheel, looked on despairingly as the first mate and his crew waited in a life boat bickering about how to navigate the waters. The ship wafted aimlessly battered on all sides without direction and with little hope. For one of officers in concert with a few others had cut the rudder cable.

By this time, I was no longer aboard. I had long held the feeling to jump ship. This I did. I had watched for some time as the pilot suffering in his chains gnashed his teeth and tore his hair burdened by the knowledge that his beloved ship of which he was a skilled guide was drifting aimlessly in the currents towards an unknown doom. I knew of his worry and concern and could do nothing further to help him. I could also no longer bear to watch my friend suffer. So, I left.

The ship was a fine vessel made from fine southern oak and imbued with a spirit of hope. For many years, she had sailed honorably upon the seas guiding the young and the old towards the promised land. She was built in the latter half of the previous century. The original crew was a sincere and dedicated lot from countries spanning the globe. They raised a flag of unity and sailed westward for a port of call. For many years, it was a lively ship that carried a good crew. A spirit of joy prevailed and new passengers embarked and joined in its mission with some even dedicating themselves to her health.

Over the years, different pilots were brought aboard and the crew continued to their service of the ship and cargo. For a long time, they served the passengers well.

And then the ship began to rot. Years before, some of its officers saw the need to strengthen the ship and assist the pilot. In their efforts, they had poisoned the very beams holding the vessel together with a structure destroying fungus. And yet nobody was aware of it. It only became apparent as the ship entered into calm seas and a new crew was elected by a body of passengers dominated by an apathetic steerage, who chose officers of questionable character to guide them though the waters were calm. Unbeknownst to all, the horizon was dark.

Through the years, and multiple pilots, the ship’s manifest had been compiled but there had been no proper system or clear communication and some names of the less prominent had been lost. It was as if their voices no longer mattered. Some had departed when new ports beckoned while others had tired of sailing.

Before I left, I witnessed another pilot join the ship. The first mate and crew undermined him as they had done previous pilots. And though he fought to command the ship, and his courage great; he was undone by mutiny from a cadre of officers whose egos had swelled with so many years of microcosmic prominence that they believed the seas were calling them to pilot the ship and its living cargo to their desired destination.

At first, the waters were calm and the ship sailed peacefully westward. It was only later when the seas changed that the pilot realized the executive crew had disabled the rudder. The ship was adrift and the passengers were powerless to right its course.

The pilot had done his best to provision both the officers and his cargo for the passage before them. He gave them wine but the crew watered it down or refused to distribute it altogether. The bread he gave them was delicious and filled with fine ingredients that pushed the senses and the passengers were grateful for the experience. But the officers and crew harbored doubts the quality of the nourishment. So, they sabotaged the diets of those they were charged with serving. And soon the ship, its crew, and its cargo grew unhealthy. And where once unity and joy had prevailed, the unhealthy diet had led to anger, frustration and bitterness.

It was at this time that I chose to leave. For I had borne witness to the decay for too many years. The ship was rotting from within and I could see it. And yet, I had ignored the signs because I loved the ship and hoped for the best. I prayed the ship would right itself.

I knew the sea holds graves of many a sailor whose lives were destroyed by hubris, greed, and ignorance. And at its worst the sea would even consume the lives of the good. I knew this and thus hoped to save myself the misfortune of drowning when my beloved ship could no longer brave the seas before her. Thus, I last saw that cherished boat creaking forward as storm clouds enveloped her.

And where is she now? Only the Lord knows! The last I heard she is still adrift; rudderless at the mercy of the elements. Somewhere out in the deep blue waters, passengers pray for salvation, while a crew comforts them with platitudes of paradise as they quietly ready themselves sharpening their daggers for the ritual sacrifice of the pilot upon first sight of the shoals.