Midnight at Sea
From Glenn Hendricks
So…getting off the 2000-2400 watch. Still a little wired from too much coffee and midrats. Not really tired. Steaming between Sasebo and Subic, 1974.
It’s a balmy night, we’re making turns for 16 knots. There is a full moon out, lighting up the ocean surrounding us like a cold white searchlight. You could almost read by the light. All but the brightest stars are washed out by this incredible moon.
I stand on the lee side boat deck on the O2 level next to the motor whale boat and under the Captain’s Gig and light up a cig. Watch the ocean sweep past and listening to the breeze against the superstructure and the distant hum of the forced draft blower intakes on the stack. I toss the butt into the drink and wander aft then down the ladder to the main deck. I turn the corner and walk forward toward the fo’c’sle.
I climb the ladder and walk past the 3 inch twin mount, across the anchor chain and up to the bow. Standing there you can watch the stem cut the water into twin curls, hypnotic in their unending stream.
I look back at the bridge. Only the red and green running lights are showing. The glass is dark. I know lookouts are posted but no movement can be seen. It’s as if I’m the only one aboard. A ghost ship sailing toward the unreachable horizon.
I duck down and light a cig. Standing there I gaze off, listening to the water, the breeze in the rigging of the M frames, the faint murmurer of machinery and contemplate what my future might be. I’m 19 years old.
I toss the butt into the ocean. Consider having another, then decide I need to hit my rack. I turn away from the bow and make my way down to Engineering berthing. Quietly I take my boondockers off by the light of the red night vision lamp, stick them between the AC vent duct and the bulkhead. Put my dirty dungarees into my laundry bag clipped to my bunk and turn in.