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Dave and Anke
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Friday, December 16, 2016

On a Cold and Dark December

Snow Storm: Steam-Boat off a Harbor's Mouth
By Joseph Mallord William Turner

While listening to the moaning of the wind, 
And thinking what a solemn thing it wa
To move on 
Through the lonely darkness, 
Over an unknown abyss, 
Whose depths were secrets as profound as Death

-- From A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

On a Cold and Dark December

This time of year, in the waning of the last moon, in advent of the longest night, my thoughts turn to those who have made their living on the sea.

It is said of the artist, Joseph Turner, that he asked to be tied to the mast of a steam-boat leaving Harwich in a storm.

Leaving. Harwich. In a storm.

We're talking the German Sea of the North Atlantic. The graveyard of the Spanish Armada and countless others, beside. Legendary for its ferocity. Merciless.

They left by soundings, tapping their way with line and lead over and between invisible shoals that could wreck them. Heading into the storm.

For the artist, tied to the mast, his terror and awe were poured onto canvas, capturing a furious moment for all of us not so exposed.

For the crew... well... it was just another day, another night at sea. A schedule to keep. Likely setting forth at the end of a long day of lading. Weary, but ready. The tools of their trade well in hand.

Not one of them were tied to a mast or to anything else, for that matter. One hand for their selves, one for the ship. Blow high, blow low, blow sideways.

We sailors of the present day have seen a thing or two. Nights when it's darker than dark. When snow blinds us and the wind shoves us at the unseen shore.

But those sailors! Those sailors were made of sterner stuff than can be found in our easy times.

On a cold and dark December...

...They took to the sea.

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