If you’re in your little wooden cabin cruiser, threading your way through the shipping lanes of Puget Sound, and you suddenly hear five short, loud blasts from a ship’s horn, you should infer the possibility that every part of your boat, from stem to stern, is in imminent danger of being destructively dissected by the metal hull and propeller of a large ship whose path you are nonchalantly crossing.
In other words, you should wake the hell up! If you do nothing to head off this destructive embrace of wood and steel–if you’ve deserted the helm to have a crap, mix a vodka tonic, or become a member of the seamen’s version of the mile-high club–you’ll be offered just one more series of five blasts from the metal monster before it has your life for lunch.
I was on the MV Tillikum‘s passenger deck when I heard five horn blasts from her wheel house. I’ve heard this warning signal only a couple of times in all the years I’ve ridden car ferries around the Sound. None the less, I went back to fiddling with my camera and watching my daughter read a book.
Then I heard the same warning blasts from another ferry, followed by a second warning from the Tillikum, followed by yet another warning from the other ferry. That got my attention. I jumped up and dashed to the Tillikum’s forward observation deck just as she hit the brakes. (A three-hundred foot ship doesn’t really have brakes, which is the reason it’s vitally important to heed warning signals from ships‘ horns.)
About a thousand feet ahead and a little to port was a medium size pleasure cruiser intent on crossing the Tillikum’s bow. It had just crossed the bow of the other ferry, which was sailing from the opposite direction. Both ferries came to a full stop as the small boat’s captain finally realized the pickle he was in and cut his engine. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my telephoto lens, so I couldn’t tell whether or not the fellow had pants on.
After a long minute of everyone waiting for Godot, the Tillikum and the other ferry resumed their original courses, leaving the small boat’s captain to fend for himself in their intersecting wakes.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the guy put his boat up for sale as soon as he arrived back at the dock. There is no bowel movement, cocktail, or sex worth the risk of having that experience twice.
July 19, 2012