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C A P T A I N
by John G. Denham
CAPTAIN is another great sea story about a boy, John Decker, that grew up at sea, before he was a man he was a sailor. As a lad raised in the “foc’sle” i.e., the crew’s quarters of merchant marine ships, he is the product of the “school of the ship.” The ship was his home, substitute parent, proctor, friend and protector. Shipmates were mostly older men, varied, even devious but always shipmates. From these “salts,” either he learned or regretted it. Such trust and relationship may not be possible today, but there are exceptions. The process started in 1942 in the midst of a great war. By war’s end he was a licensed officer and skilled in navigation and seamanship, but only twenty years old. He had learned: Everything is an opportunity, it’s what you do with everything."
Survival in the post-war 1945-47 sea-going business was mostly luck. Good jobs were available, but scattered. For weeks nothing, then suddenly more opportunities than seekers. Competent mariners were always in demand but remnants of the past i.e., derelicts and nepotism maintained death grips on good positions and desirable berths. Young “Bucko Mates” were not popular with many of the older mariners. But there was always a place for quality, reliable and trustworthy sailors; the U.S. Navy understood that.
Neither the Navy or the Merchant Marine alone could have produced a John Decker within their means and system without the affect of the other. A proper mariner must be knowledgeable, educated, skillful and experienced and most of all, go understanding about his work. No one trait is omnipotent because in one’ s duty all are frequently required, often simultaneously. A captain at sea is not always correct, seldom wrong but never slovenly.
Meet the ship mates, Admirals, Commodores, officers, Boatswains and career petty officers and the school that created them, the sea. Departed ship mates have provide great memories and some are posted here. It is summed in the ageless charge: Keep a proper watch!