Thursday, April 03, 2008

In the Trenches at Sea: The Crucible of Character

“The ship must sail on... regardless of who the captain is, regardless of who the admiral is...”

The good ship Reverend Resbo never did sail very smoothly -- from its rocky beginnings to its eventual loss at sea some twenty-seven years later. Young Merbos had volunteered purely by happenstance: An overheard phone call at The Gristle by a crewman pleading for manpower. The ensuing voyages were a shakedown more for the man than the ship: Find your sea legs, get the tasks done, get from A to B.
It was changes in the Admiralty that led not to mutiny, but desertion by 90% of the crew. The Resbo’s remaining days were helmed by a procession of impotent captains, Queeg-like but without the experience. Needless to say, the lingering skeleton crew had clung to the gunwales, the seas growing fiercer with each successive voyage.
What does a crew learn? Not merely under one unstable captain, but never having experienced an able and competent captain at all -- what does a crew learn?
The ship must sail on... regardless of who the captain is, regardless of who the admiral is.

At the risk of charges of insubordination, Merbos could not quite bite his tongue in the face of:
• Captain Gladhand McSandbag, whose M.O. was ‘Divide & Conquer’ -- pitting the crew against each other so he could swoop down as saviour -- all whilst the ship cruised in circles.
• Captain Connor MacLeod, when not AWOL would brandish cutlery as recompense for his lack of leadership.
• Capitaine Bellâtre, who when called to account for excessive tea times and quaintwork, threatened to sabotage his own ship.
• Captain Jethrine -- smiley-psychotic who bragged of cheating at the Academy. Also conspired to keelhaul his first mate, just to get his hands on his paltry commission.
• All admirals who promoted and excused these rate grabbing dinQs (while withholding BCDs), along with their own damage to morale, reputation and seaworthiness.

It’s a wonder that the Resbo stayed afloat long enough to reach the twenty-first century. But it did. Merbos gives hearty thanks to his fellow deck hands who stuck to their oath: The Olde Salt, Top Shelf Charly, Mairobin, The Walt-Man and Lieutenant Gergg. Bravo Zulu.
Every day was a long day but no matter how endless or harsh, one must view it as accomplishment, whether by man, by crew, by vessel, or by navy. Even if one is bailing water, figuratively or literally.
At the end of a given day the scant crew of the Resbo would retire to the Nether Quarters -- a makeshift lounge only accessible via the ship’s photolab. There, Lt. Gergg would provide some much needed ‘attitude adjustment’ for all. At least by laughing off the insanities of the day, the crew could fortify themselves for whatever nuttiness lay on the horizon.

EPILOGUE: All of the original crew, and finally Merbos, did eventually jump ship, as one must when fatal leaks and other Benny Suggs go unacknowledged by brass. The Resbo continued to limp along with clueless crews, captains in name only, and admirals who abandoned them to the wind. She was lost at sea about a year later.
If no one remembers the indignities of the Reverend Resbo, may they remember her lessons.

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