Masefield’s “Sea Fever” is among my earliest memories of school, back in England.
In those distant days (the early fifties), classrooms in English schools had world maps, and we were taught that everything coloured red was “ours”. Of course, by then the “Empire” had crumbled to become the “Commonwealth” though the distinction eluded those jingoistic teachers. However, the vast expanse of Britain’s territories was achieved by means of its mighty maritime achievements.
England as I recall it, saw itself a nation of seafarers, though a vast number of them had never even “been to the seaside”. The recently ended second world-war provided some justification to that self-image with narratives of great heroism both in the navy and the merchant marine. This was reflected in art, literature and poetry, and John Masefield’s “Sea Fever” was a very popular appeal to a fast disappearing era.
Combined with my father’s work in marine repair, this early grounding is probably the root of my abiding fascination with the sea and all that lives, swims, floats and moves thereon. That brings me to yesterday’s images which began in Oriental Bay. As I was admiring the vast bulk of the Holland-America Lines cruise liner “Oosterdam“, the police launch “Lady Elizabeth IV” zipped across in front of me.
A shag of the “little black” variety executed a high speed landing immediately in front of me and I was intrigued by its use of the spread tail-feathers as a speed brake, even to the extent that they were extended into the water.
Meanwhile, across the harbour, the Oosterdam continued to attract interest. Clearly the cruising season is upon us. This one, at a mere 82,000 GT is considerably smaller than the Celebrity Solstice from the previous day and has only 1,848 passengers. Still a large and handsome lump of ship, though.
Driving on around the bay to the Miramar Peninsula, I was delighted to see that HMNZS Canterbury (Pennant Number L421) had left her berth and was headed out to sea. There was a time when the crew of a naval ship leaving port would hear the call “Hands to stations for leaving harbour, special sea-dutymen, close up”. Crew not immediately engaged in running the ship would line up smartly along the railings in their dress uniforms, facing outboard. The old customs (including rum and the lash) seem to be dying out.
The image I have chosen is as she clears the heads. A little bit of a slop on the water was the cause of the splash against the rocks in the foreground. If she looks like a civilian freighter, that’s because she is a very close copy of the Isle of Man ferry, “Ben My Chree“. She does carry a pair of large landing craft, and can accommodate up to four NH90 helicopters.
What will today bring?
*John Masefield, Sea Fever