Solo Moment in the Hold

Entry written in the hold on July 25, 13:15 (1:15 pm)

After Captain “Kip” had given his impromptu tutorial on the purpose and method of tacking, with a few more tacks about to follow, I thought it was a good time to take up Bill’s invitation to visit the hold alone, especially now that our ship was free of the tug and moving solely from the wind in its sails.

The Morgan tacking on Buzzard’s Bay. Courtesy of Mystic Seaport Museum

Down here it sounds like an unpeopled beach on Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands. Soft easy waves washing up against the bow as on a sandy or pebbly shore. You can feel the roll of the ship in a lovely way here. The sounds of the voices on deck are muted so that you know they are there but not what they are saying. I loved the look of the manila line coiled in the forward port side of the bow, exactly one deck below the bunk in which I slept in the forecastle.  I am sure I never got that curled up or comfortable.

Quiet coil of line in the forehold

Quiet coil of line in the forehold


Harches covering ballast in the hold
Harches covering ballast in the hold


Alone, silent, you can focus on such details as the hatch covers beneath which ballast was added after the ship passed down the Mystic River. Bill had explained that more ballast was needed on the port side to counterbalance the engine, batteries, and holding tanks aft on the starboard side.  If the ballast under these hatches had not been so carefully balanced, the foremast I had climbed earlier would have been listing to port or starboard.



 One beautiful, vertical, manila line next to the base of the foremast makes wonder if there have ever been sleepwalkers in or out of the forecastle immediately above.

Line rises out of forehold beams and timbers

Line rises out of forehold beams and timbers

I just took off my shirt and 38th Voyagers T-shirt because it is very warm down here. It is also very quiet.  For some reason, the sound of the water against the bow of the ship makes me think of the motion of the fishes, suggesting a deeper life in the sea beyond what we invaders are adding to it. 

I am going to stop and listen for John Cage’s 4 minutes and 33 seconds before going topside again.

     *     *     *     *   *
Sequence of Sound: infinite, gentle variety, with a slow regular pulse. Toward the end, began to pitch a bit fore and aft, probably in relation to the commands and actions going on above. A subtle shift in the sounds and motion down here, though everything is still gently and peacefully rhythmic.

Intersecting joints and planks holding together the hold

Intersecting joints and planks holding together the hold

Hearing that rhythm, I wonder if 19th-century sailors got a kind of Post-Traumatic-Shock-Discorder in reverse after serving 3 ½ years on this ship. After becoming so attuned to the rhythm of the ship itself within the motion of the sea, would everything when they returned to land seemed impossibly jagged and crude by comparison? Of course it was not like that when the heat of the hunt was on. But they often had so much dead time between episodes of the hunt. In addition to the routine “business of the ship,” they must have unconsciously identified with the motion of the ship in the sea wherever and under whatever conditions they happened to be.



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