Mid Watch

You get a sort of meager slumber. Night-Ops rumbling above, General Quarters can sound any time; and up you’d rise to your assigned station. You don’t bother shucking off your shoes; you might not have time to put them back on. That was Operational Readiness Inspection.
Given that as a background, you’d think that a quiet anchor watch in a friendly harbor would be a piece of cake. Not so when the anchor, solo, is holding loosely on shingle, and the skipper and rest of the crew have flexible ideas of what constitutes a watch. Four hours you’d say (except for the two dogged watches). Perhaps if you’re more familiar with bells, it should be eight bells ( two bells in each hour). These days you might pull out a phone or tablet and spend the time with music playing. Not so then; things that played music did not fit in a pocket unless they were a harmonica.
Inevitably, your mind wandered to things best left unexamined. Why did I agree to come on this stupid cruise knowing that I’d catch the mid-watch? Then the sound of oars and loud voices came to me over the water. “Hey. Pipe down. Everybody’s asleep…except for the anchor watch.” “Ahoy Psyche! Is that young Westerly? Do you want a bottle? We have one more drop, and we’ll be chumming the fishies!” I thought this one over before answering quickly. ” It’s Wes, and I assume that you’re the crew that shut down the Twin Dolphins tonight.” The reply- ” We are. So, you want the bottle?” I jumped into the skiff, let off the painter, and rowed out to meet them.
A companionable two hours of conversation and sipping killed off the balance of the watch. The crew that shut down the Twin Dolphins rowed back to their schooner and me to the ketch.
As I was climbing on board, a groggy Cap’n emerged on deck. ” I thought I heard voices…is that rum I smell?” My reply: “Sure is Cap’n. In the middle of the mid-watch, I rowed out to meet a bunch of rum-toting drunks. We drank all their rum, and only now am I reporting back for duty.”
He blearily looked at me. If he weren’t just fresh from his bunk, he’d have pulled out his pipe and done his little routine of filling it, lighting it, puffing on it, and then pointing the stem at me. Being it was 4:30 in the morning, he just grumbled, ” the mid-watch can do strange things to the mind, but providing rum doesn’t count as one of them.” Before he noticed, I quickly deep-sixed the empty pint of rum over the side.

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