Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A professional

Have you ever come away from watching someone perform their job so totally impressed that you want to tell someone about it? I love watching people who are truly gifted at what they do.

Tonight I had the pleasure of watching from the wheelhouse as our Captain maneuvered our barge away from a dock in Camden, N.J., with a rip roaring flood tide working against him, with the ease of someone backing their Honda out of their driveway on a cool Spring morning.

I’ve been playing this boating game for 36 years and have sailed for many many Captains. Even the really good ones get a little uptight during a docking or undocking maneuver. A voice raised to stress a point during such a maneuver is not uncommon and quickly forgotten as soon as the boat is heading safely down river.

The most gifted Captains get fooled by the wind or tricked by the tide at one time or another and it’s then that the engines start to scream as the Captain tries to get out of a jam, pushing the engines to their limit.

Tonight the Captain did, what amounts to a three point turn in the middle of a busy river, dodging ships and pleasure boaters like a dodge ball expert. This barge he turned around is longer than a football field and wider than an Interstate highway.

As he performed this little maneuver, I could barely here the engines change cadence; he was so in control of the situation. As I listened to his voice on the VHF radio while he communicated with the deckhands on the barge, it was a quiet confident voice of a man in total control, unlike some guys who spend this time cussing, yelling and working the engines to their breaking point.

Imagine having a serious conversation with a clergyman in a place of worship. Imagine the quiet calm manner in which this conversation might take place. That is the voice I heard tonight from the man who was in the middle of turning thousands of gross tons of steel around in the middle of a river then heading south in the black of night past Philadelphia toward the open ocean.

When the maneuver was complete and we were safely on our way, I heard him thank, over the airwaves, the deckhands for doing a great job and the assist boat Captain who was lending us a hand for a job well down.

This guy is too good to be true, but I’m really enjoying this.

1 comment:

dcpeg said...

Wow! Your captain sounds like one in a million!! I used to watch barges heading down the Mississippi when I was in college out in Iowa. It looked deceptively easy. Your description of what can go wrong was enlightening.

My Dad used to back his 32 ft. sailboat into their slip. I always dreaded it because he so easily lost his cool. But, then again, his engine conked out once and he actually sailed the boat into the slip. That was impressive and other boaters actually applauded him.

I hope you can stay with your current captain for a long time. Sounds like your life on the water is better than ever!