Launch the Long Boats
Launch the Long Boats

Bill Peterson

CATEGORIES: Captain's Journal


Log Entry : 23 May, 2020

So it seems to me ~ Day 67

The voyage to nowhere has entered the doldrums of confused seas.  That makes little sense, you say, doldrums and confused seas?  Yeah, exactly.  What started out for us to be a challenge, even a slightly heroic exercise in helping, by doing mostly nothing, has taken on an oppressive air.  In the day 16 post I mentioned mixed feelings about how this COVID-19 lockdown would go, and now I’m thinking that it’s devolved from a heave-ho get the job done effort of bending the curve to something akin to that of the Rime of the Ancient Mariner.  Here we still sit on the blistered deck with an albatross of indecision hung round our neck in many places across the Country.

Day after day, day after day,

We stuck, nor breath nor motion;

As idle as a painted ship

Upon a painted ocean.


No course assured, no sure breeze to fill our sails we’re drawn north, then south and round again east again and again by the confusing undercurrents twisting on the keel.

What sort of times are these, what forces are in play, in contest with one another.  Our thirst for real knowledge, wisdom and actionable path forward is as parched as the mariners throat in the blazing sun.

We could try to launch the long boats and draw her towards the trade winds. But the crew would have to all pull together to propel us even one half knot in that direction and as it is, we’re a band of rabble more than a proper crew.  

Water, water, every where,

And all the boards did shrink;

Water, water, every where,

Nor any drop to drink.

A third at least has taken up arms and banded together to huddle aboard this metaphorical ship of state, and wait for wind and pray for rain. Another third want to launch the boats and man the oars. And still the rest sit on the fence and squabble or languish in the scant shade to be had under the limp sails.

This is all the Captain’s fault claim the wind and pray for rain group, it was he who shot the albatross. Yes we cheered him then perhaps, but he should have known this could befall us.  So surely now it is the noble thing for us to take the ship and keep all aboard rather than risk life and limb in the long boats pulling for a hope. 

Who can know for certain which direction the trades will be. How can they know if there’s rain in their clouds?  He’s given the order to prepare to launch, but there’s discontent and mutiny afoot on the shrunken boards.  There’s danger there, can’t he see that many, or some, will die in the boats if we pull hard enough to move this massive ship of state free from these waters? 

“If we remain we’ll lose the ship and all aboard,” proclaim the Captain and his third cheer, and some in the shade nod slight agreement. 

“Do you not any of you care about the hands to surely be lost in the boats?” say the wind and prayers.  Do you not see the nobility and virtue in guarding us all and praying the wind will return on its own and all will be well?  Some divine providence surely will deliver us trapped so unjustly in this blazing hell.

The Captain’s third is nearly half now, as the squabblers and most languishers have lent their fate to the pull boats, but if it is enough, we’re yet to know.  Were this simply doldrums to be pulled against, chance could be in their favor.

Beyond the shadow of the ship,
I watched the water-snakes:
They moved in tracks of shining white,
And when they reared, the elfish light
Fell off in hoary flakes.

But the currents and undercurrents in play, barely visible beneath the glassy surface, seem to want possession of the ship at any cost and will take her as a salvage hulk with a barebones crew left alive to man her if need be. The worth and losses is in the victory of their righteous cause! And that shipmates, they profess, is as plain a thing as a man can see. 

The worth and losses is in the victory of our righteous cause! And so too think the men in the long boats hard upon the oars.

The self-same moment I could pray;
And from my neck so free
The Albatross fell off, and sank
Like lead into the sea. 

I say pull you hearties, pull your hearts out! And to the cluster still huddled aboard, pray and raise your voices high, then take an oar in hand. 

The trade winds and home again is on the horizon nigh … or so it seems to me.

~ BP


  1. Yvonne

    Good analogy, and I like the pictures.

    • Bill Peterson

      Ahoy Yvonne … glad you came by and oh yeah thanks for commenting. Now go read the poem again ha-ha 🙂


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Traditional sailboat anchored during a dramatic golden and blue sunset in Abaco Bahamas. The sailing Ketch Colony II off Powell Cay


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