It's been almost three years now since the moonlight shone this clear;
I'm out here quite a bit since then; they don't need me to steer;
I'm skipper of this tanker; it's all instruments they say,
And I've come to find the flying bridge is peaceful any way.
Coming down this way past Thomaston one night, three years ago,
Trading stories with the first mate in the chart room's eerie glow;
In the greenish light the instruments proclaimed that all was well –
On a tanker full of diesel, you don't even feel the swell.
And the Leona is in the moon tonight;
Her sails are set like swan's wings, gliding in the light;
You can even hear the captain as he leans against the rail,
Calling to the sailors to trim up the sails…
The first mate's eyes grew restless and they wandered toward the chart;
I saw him reading something, and I saw him give a start;
"Hey, Skipper, did you see this? I don't mean to stop your talk –
'Magnetic interference, one mile 'round Carlson Rock.'"
I heard him but the instruments intruded on my thoughts;
The GPS flashed zeros and the screens dissolved in dots;
We stared at them in wonder, then our glances met in shock,
"Magnetic interference! Where the hell is Carlson Rock?"
The first mate grabbed the glasses and I raced him for the deck;
Both running for the flying bridge, we got there neck and neck;
And tumbled through the bulkhead, and I fell upon my knees,
In the brilliance of the moonlight and the vastness of the seas. (CHO)
The first mate raised the glasses and began to scan the swell;
I did my best to help him, though I couldn't see as well;
That's why from that day forward, I swear I don't know how,
He missed that flying clipper as she cut across our bow.
That moment was forever, I remember it so well;
I read the ship's name from her stern, I heard her captain yell;
And I had the time to wonder, on a night so clear and still,
What was that wind from out of time that caused her sails to fill? (CHO)
Her skipper kept on shouting, pointing starboard out to sea,
And suddenly I realized his cries were meant for me;
I didn't hesitate, called down to Engines on the phone,
"Hard starboard!" and down below I heard the engines groan.
"I see it!" yelled the first mate, as we slowly swung around,
And the terror in his voice made me fear we'd run aground;
But then I saw it, standing, like a black knife in the swell,
It cut the ocean portside, just a stone's throw from the hull.
The mate still doesn't understand how I knew to turn that night;
I tell him that binoculars don't always see the light;
And now here on the flying bridge, I hope there's more to see,
Than the brilliance of the moonlight and the vastness of the sea. (CHO)
(Words and tune by Nelson C. Dale, © 2002, used with permission.
Technical revisions by Capt. Kendall Morse.)