(Please Note: To begin reading the chapters, scroll down.)
While Congress is considering major maritime safety bills, I’ll continue to publish on the web one chapter per day of Until the Sea Shall Free Them — The Wreck of the SS Marine Electric.
Our story so far:
The crew and officers of the SS Marine Electric sail on an ancient and unsafe World War II converted tanker riddled with holes in her hatches, cracks in her deck and with a hull composed of war-time steel of questionable quality.
Still, the men are so in need of jobs, and the Marine Electric “coastal” run carrying coal from Virginia to Boston so attractive, they ignore the shortcomings. Nearly all ships in the tattered American merchant marine are so bad, so the Marine Electric looks good. More than 97 percent of all American merchant mariners say they have sailed on unsafe ships and these are no exception.
Besides, they are just 30 miles off shore, and the Coast Guard can just come out and get them. Or so their logic suggests.
The first two chapters of Until the Sea Shall Free Them (The Wreck of the Marine Electric) tell the tale of the crew. Of how they came to be aboard the Marine Electric and how the ship came to the aid of a small, troubled fishing vessel off the coast of Virginia.
Chapter Three shows how their worst fears come true as the Marine Electric encounters a fierce storm — the Monster of the Month, it will be called later — that blankets the East Coast with 20 inches of snow.
Taking on water, the ship wallows and her bow falls ever lower in the water. And then, capsizes dumping the men into the water.
“Officers and seamen, cooks and engineers. All alike. No rank
now. All paddling about in severely cold water. The ship they had
sailed on was rolling over on them as they swam. They were being
pushed down into the depths of the cold North Atlantic.”
Read Chapter Three.
Scroll down to “Into the Water”