Captain Livingstone: Into the Breach

George H Livingstone
Total Views: 205
October 15, 2020

Photo: Anatoly Menzhiliy

By Captain George Livingstone – I have written much over the years regarding the collective uniqueness professional mariners almost universally display. Regardless of where they come from, regardless of religion, politics, race, and gender (work yet to be done) we find a way to work together toward the common goal, the safe evolution of a vessel. Putting aside personal differences, coming together, working collectively, collaboratively toward a mutually acceptable conclusion. Not always Roses and Champagne but always together. To have witnessed it over four decades in the business has led me to the conclusion that collectively, mariners (mostly) make good decisions, primarily due to a willingness to compromise. Lone rangers do not last long in the maritime world.

Working in a profession with many kinds of people with many differing views, a kind of microcosm of society in general, led to more tolerant attitudes. In all the decades spent at sea, it was an exceedingly rare thing to not witness shipmates helping each other. Most never hesitated to put themselves out for the safety and wellbeing of another.

Nearing the end of a career and proud of fellow mariners, I worry has something changed? Many hold strong opinions, but they could mostly be changed by observation or reasonable debate.  Has that been lost? Have disagreements become a call arms? If so, that is something new and we should be asking why? When I started in this business, mariners did not see each other as liberal, conservative etc., one was a just colleague and you stood together regardless.  It went so far as risking life or limb for one another.  That may be changing, perhaps the world in turmoil has something to do with it.

During both terms of the Reagan administration, the President squared off against the Democratic Speaker of the House, Tip O’Neil.  At opposite ends of the political spectrum, it could have gotten ugly with little to show in the end. But Reagan knew how to win, lose and compromise and O’Neil knew to allow up and down votes to occur. In fact, they rather liked each other regardless of their politics. O’Neil was one of the first visitors the President saw at George Washington University Hospital following the assassination attempt. The Speaker took the President’s hands saying, ‘God bless you Mr. President’ and then dropped to his knees and read the 23rd psalm. *Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked Chris Matthews

I have owed much to colleagues over the decades who, regardless of political views and/or personal opinion, never faltered in guidance and support. I have benefited greatly because of it. That’s called community in case anyone needs reminding, and it should be occurring in a thousand places big and small, all over, is it?

In the 1989 film, ‘Henry V’, the great Kenneth Branagh playing King Henry speaks to encourage his soldiers, who are about to launch a renewed attack through a breach in the city walls of Harfleur. He is asking them to try once more into the breach dear friends, and not to lose heart. In the second, King Henry is speaking to his men on the eve of the battle of Agincourt, where they were vastly outnumbered, the king says in part, “But we in it shall be remembered- we happy few, we band of brothers”…”This day shall gentle his condition.” 

So, to all who read this and those beyond. Let us try again, do not lose heart; take a breath, pause, wait before rash action leads to the loss of what can be, or will be, or can become. Let the coming days gentle all who enter and let it be remembered for what we did together, not what we did apart.

To more arrivals than departures-

Captain George Livingstone is a San Francisco Bar Pilot, co-author of ‘Tug Use Offshore’, contributing author of ‘IMPA On Pilotage’ and a regular contributor to gCaptain. Read more from Captain George Livingstone

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