Thursday, May 05, 2016

A Stich in Time

The sail repair crew of the USS New York.  The year? 1896.

1 comment:

Rick said...

Not much use for a sail repair crew on the modern freighter, but we were equipped with the basic tools, just in case. We had lifeboat covers to maintain on the SS Adabelle Lykes in the spring of 1971, on our trip to deliver war materials to SE Asia. And we also had to make a body bag.

The 3rd Mate on our 12-4 watch, Jim Jackson, died in his sleep from an apparent heart attack just before our watch was to start at midnight. The Captain, who had sailed with Jim for decades, knew that he didn't have any family back in New Orleans, and decided to bury Jim at sea, at noon the following day. The Bosun and one of the Ordinaries stayed up all night sewing the Mate into the bag, using a sailmaker's stitch. They tied about 50 pounds of chain to his feet with a short length of 3/8" manila rope ("9 thread") and closed up the bag.

Just before noon the ship slowed to a stop, and we sat still in the water, somewhere in the Taiwan Straits just north of the Philippines. We brought Jim out onto the deck, on the port quarter near the stern, and laid him on a sheet of plywood which had one end resting on the gunwhale. The Captain said a few words, we had a moment of silence, then we tipped the plywood up, and Jim Jackson, 3rd Mate, slipped down into the deep. We all watched the ripples in the water for a few moments, and the Captain ordered the ship to Full Ahead, and we started the long journey back across the Pacific. I was 20 years old.