A Ship Captain’s Education

HOW TO BE A CAPTAIN

by Edgar Guest

“I’d like to be the captain of a ship that sails the sea;
I’d like to wear that uniform,” a youngster said to me.
Said I: “Let’s ask the captain what a youngster has to do
who wants to be the master of a vessel and its crew.”

So up we went to see him, with this question on our lips:
“What is it captains have to do before they get their ships?”
There was a twinkle in his eye as unto us he said:
“Well, first I tugged at anchor chains until my hands were red;

I scrubbed the decks and learned the ropes and trundled bales below;
I washed the dishes for the cook, but that was years ago
I carried slops and polished brass when I was young like you.
There wasn’t anything about the ship I didn’t do.

I stokered and I learned to oil, and in a year or two
they let me take my trick at wheel, which I had longed to do,
And well I mind the happy lump that came into my throat
The day they made me Number One of the Number Seven boat.

I served as petty officer for several years or more
and by and by, as second mate, a uniform I wore.
And when I’d learned a little more–I don’t recall the date
My captain recommended me to be the vessel’s mate.”

So when you see a captain in his braided uniform
it means that he’s been tried below, and tried above in storm.
He’s had many years of service in the crow’s nest and the hold,
and worked his way through grease and dirt to get that braid of gold.

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7 thoughts on “A Ship Captain’s Education

      • Yes – starting at the bottom is the best way to learn how the system works. Of course, parents and grandparents start at the bottom, work their way to the top, and rarely shed many of the tasks they collect on the way up!

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  1. So many of our youth want to start at the level of life represented by their parents, as captain and in charge. The problem is, some of them get there much quicker than we did, just enough to keep this myth of ‘instant success’ swirling around in their heads!

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