The Ballad of Calypso followed a short story and poem I had written about a commercial tuna fishing trip.   In both cases, the poems preceded the prose.  The poem was essentially the outline for the story.

         Laziness, another mother of invention.  Telling a story in quatrains cuts the work out of using thousands of words to paint a picture.  In the case of the Ballad of Calypso, over 400 quatrains took 2 years to complete.

      This thirteen-thousand-word rhymer, when finished, provided the perfect outline to insert prose, illustrations and photos which round out the story.

     

     Night on the Columbia River Bar

                  “Murphy’s Law” “If something can go wrong, it will”
                                    (at the worst possible time)

                      Dedication: In honor and appreciation    
              of the U.S.Coast Guard Sector Columbia River

                      & a Taxi Driver in Astoria, Oregon                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Dennis McGuire
 

     

 

        S.V. Freya is a 47 foot Ed Monk Sr. designed sailing vessel, built by “Skookum Marine Construction” in Port Townsend, Washington. She has a beam of fourteen feet, draws six feet of water and carries fourteen thousand pounds of ballast in her keel.  She is sloop rigged with a sixty foot solid fir mast.   Given her head on an ocean swell with a freshening breeze, this vessel is built to thrill.   There is no doubt Mr. Monk was proud of his “47” when it came off the drawing board.      

 

Ridin’ the top of a big flood tide

keepin’ red buoys to the starboard side

Gonna’ deliver our tuna in Ilwaco

then go have a beer, and a taco

 

Little does the crew know

“Murphy’s” busy down below

Buoy “10” is off their bow

that’s when “Murphy” strikes, and how!

 

      The evening she returns from tuna fishing, off the Oregon Coast, Freya enters the mouth of the Columbia River on the flood tide.  Darkness envelops the scene on her approach to buoy “10” off Clatsop Spit.  Buoy “10,” is a red nun, flashing at four second intervals while emitting a low, mournful whistle. Freya’s  bow yaws to starboard when her stern rises to the push of a following sea.  The helm is put down to port to clear the marker, but there is nothing there, the wheel spins free!

 

Closin’ in on that red buoy at night

gotta’ keep that light to the right

But the helm has gone slack?

cannot get the bow to come back!

 

Now she’s surfin’ “ho, what a ride!”

an’ that red buoy shoots past her port side

The crew screams, “we jest hit!”

when Freya piles up on Clatsop Spit

 

      The breaking seas are big, gnarly, and adding their violent crushing weight to the sickening thuds of boat against bottom.  Freya is washed up broadside, the waves pounding her exposed side and deck, instantly smashing her portlights, which puts the VHF (very high frequency) radio out of commission.  A “Mayday!” is sent out on the CB (citizens band) radio.  A taxi driver in Astoria, Oregon answers the call; he relays the details immediately to the U.S. Coast Guard.  The fellow remains in contact with the crew throughout the entire ordeal which follows.


Heaved up on the spit near the top of the flood

Mother Nature is out for blood

The windows go away with the first wave

I do not think this boat we can save

 

The VHF is on the blink

after taking a really big drink

On the CB, a call is put out

a cabby in Astoria comes back with a shout

 

We’re on the bar at Clatsop Spit

need the Coast Guard lickity split

Boat’s on her side, windows blown out

she can’t last long, there is no doubt!

 

Waves break over in a killer fury

cabby says they’ll be there in a hurry

They come by sea, they come by air

now the Coast Guard is everywhere!

 

      The Coast Guard is there fast, with two surface vessels and a helicopter to find Freya on her side, helpless, being tortured by the percussive pummeling of big waves hitting the beach.  They light the area up with parachute flares while sending word via the cabby.  Their chopper will lower a basket with a line in it, as their vessels can not reach Freya to get the job done.  The crew are warned not to touch the basket until it hits the deck, to avoid shock from static electricity.

      The crew crawl forward methodically, every secure hand and leg hold is used to keep from being swept away.  The “combers” are breaking clean across the deck, nearly washing them overboard several times.

 

 

Up in the sky a chopper does fly

the crew asks the cabby the reason why?

“There gonna’ drop a basket on ya”

they’ll be a line in it

 from that big ship, out yonda’”

 

“But touch that basket you’d better not

the static electricity’s really hot”

Now the crew’s hangin’ on to the mast

an’ that basket, it just keeps swingin’ past

 

Wavin’ a gaff hook wildly in the night

a static surge an’ I’m a neon light

That cabby’s warning was well founded

when that basket I had grounded

 

The basket it hits the deck just fine 

but in it, there is no line

The cabby then relays our fate

the crew must now evacuate    

 

“Get in the basket!” I yell to Joe

his eyes are wide, he’s shakin’ his head no

He may have given it a try

if he hadn’t just watched me fry!

 

       The chopper is now hovering just above the mast with the basket swinging wildly from side to side over the bow, but every attempt at landing it on deck fails.  Exasperated, I grab a gaff hook and when the basket flies by, it is caught and slammed down on deck while static electricity jolts my body with a bolt of lightning.            

       The basket is empty.  There is no line from the vessel waiting just outside the surf.  The situation goes out on the CB informing the cabby the line is not in the basket.  The gentleman instructs the crew to “get in the basket!”  I relay with a yell to Joe, who is hanging on to the mast “get in the basket!”  His eyes widen, he shakes his head wildly “NO!” “NO!” “NO!”  He had just witnessed electricity shooting from me.  He is stuck like glue to the mast. 

      The cabby relays the message to the Coast Guard that the crew simply refuse to leave their vessel.  Their response is immediate, the basket is pulled off the deck, the chopper departs.  There is no argument, they just leave.

 

Cabby’s informed crew’s not leavin’ this boat

gotta find a way to make her float 

The cabby he says ”well o.k.”

an’ that chopper, it flies away

            

      There is a pause, then the cabby comes back across the radio, informing the crew the Coast Guard will attempt to get a vessel close enough to get a line to Freya.  They are told to haul in on the line and there will be a hawser (tow line) attached which they can make fast to the bow cleat.   An abundance of flares hang over the scene, allowing the crew a clear view of what follows.  They witness firsthand the courage and determination of the Columbia River Coast Guard.

 

A boat’s sent in to the breakers now

trying to get close to Freya’s  bow

Poor Freya they can not reach

now there’s two boats on the beach!

 

      Freya is desperate, on her side, pounded mercilessly by the heavy breaking waves, any one of which may sweep one or both of the crew overboard.  The smaller of the two rescue vessels, a forty footer, begins working its way through the tumbling seas toward the stranded vessel when she appears to take a deep, headlong plunge.  The Coast Guard rescue boat shudders from bow to stern when she strikes bottom, hard, nose on.  She comes to a dead stop and is greeted with the same punishment as Freya, the breaking bar takes her by the stern shoving her up shallow, beam on to the seas.

     There they lay, the two vessels on their sides, facing each other bow to bow, caught in the grip of an ocean and river that has been taking boats and lives for hundreds of years.  Freya is continuously ravaged in the surf, the sheer strength of heavy construction her only resource.   She can do no more than await her fate.  She is a beached whale this night.

 

Into the surf comes the 2nd boat on the run

now this party’s really gettin’ fun

Under this parachute flare lit night

the Coast Guard’s lines are stretched tight

 

Off the beach their stranded “sister” they hauled

all this while Freya’s still being mauled

Back into crashing surf that spunky gal dives

only to smack that beach again, as soon as she arrives

 

The Coast Guards’ busy pullin’ each other off

to them, my hat I doff

Certainly those kids from Peoria 

are cursin’ the day they wound up in Astoria!

 

      The second, larger vessel, noses in until she appears to strike bottom, then immediately backs down, to deeper water.  In that moment however, she had gotten a line to the smaller vessel and a desperate tug of war ensues between a boat and the forces of heavy Pacific Ocean surf.   The big vessel, her smokestacks bellowing, tell the story of the struggle.  “Big sister” prevails, “little sister’s” bow comes around, the death grip broken. 

       She has no sooner been hauled to deep water outside the surf line than the spunky little gal charges right back in.  Again, she negotiates the surf and just as she gets close to Freya, buries her steel nose in the sand and is turned up broadside.  The two vessels lay face to face for a second time.  And for the second time, here comes “Big Sister” to pull her little sibling back to safety.   Again the tug of war, and again the big ship is able to do the job, hauling the smaller vessel to deep water.

 

Now the cabby comes across the radio

Says they’re ready to give it another go

From their boat a small line will be dispatched

Ya pull it in an’ they’ll be a hawser attached

 

So the crew’s clingin’ to the mast

Getting smacked by waves blast after blast

“Whatever we do Joe, we gotta’ get that line

Cause my friend, we ain’t got much time”

           

       Freya is filling up fast now, the blown out windows allow every wave to pour gallons of water into the boat.  There is no opportunity to make repairs, just hanging on without getting washed off the deck is all one can do.  The cabby comes back across the radio saying the big vessel will attempt to get the line to Freya.  I make my way forward from the cockpit and hang on to the mast with Joe, explaining what is about to happen, and to be ready to catch this line and haul it in to get hold of the hawser.

         What the crew does not know, is how they are going to get the line to them.  They have no idea of the technology involved in getting a line to a boat.  In the minds of the crew, a line, possibly a “monkey’s fist,” is simply thrown from one boat to another.  The throw has to be accurate and the receiving crew must be fast, so as not to lose the line overboard, before getting their hands on it.  

         “Big Sister” plows toward Freya in the surf, plainly visible under a fresh barrage of parachute flares.  With each surge of sea, her stern lifts high and skews around to port, threatening a full broach.   She squares up on the wave, and as it passes beneath her, she makes a slow, moaning roll to starboard.  The next wave again picks up her stern, bow dipping sharply, exposing the entire length of her decks where she appears on the verge of pitch poling headlong into the beach.  Again, her stern slews around to port and again she is squared up on the wave, an expert helmsman at the wheel.

 

A loud report rips through the ocean’s fury

Joe an’ I react in a hurry

Hurling ourselves into the night sky

to catch this line as it’s goin’ by

 

Then of a sudden there is a loud “whack”

when the mast that bullet does smack

Joe’s lookin’ at me with a silly grin

that bullet landed where our heads had just been!

 

      The crew are coiled, ready to spring. A loud BANG! pierces the thunder of crashing water and we jump, arms outstretched to catch a line we cannot see.  We land down on all fours and there is a solid “thud” behind us.  A bullet with a two foot shaft and thin line attached bounces to the deck which we both fall on instantly, grabbing up coils of line and hauling with everything we have.  We do not fail to notice the half inch dent the bullet arrow had left in the seasoned, solid fir mast.  Joe has a wide grin on his face and is shaking his head, his eyes alight.  Instantly I am laughing too, at the imagined damage it would have done had we been hit.

 

We haul in that hawser, tie ‘er off to the bow

tell the cabby they can start haulin’ now

That line stretched tight through the surf

those “Coasties” are pullin’ for all they’re worth          

 

         Got the hawser aboard, tied off, then make our way back aft to the relative safety of the cockpit.  Black smoke pours from the stacks of “Big Sister” as she huffs and puffs, pulling for deep water.  Freya’s bow jerks seaward and is then pounded back by the force of breaking waves.  She is pulled hard again to seaward and again she is pounded back to the ground in this furious tug o’war. 

 

Another shot rings out through the din

we hit the deck, thinkin’ they shot at us agin’!

Then see to our dismay
that hawser has parted and gone away


Back into the surf those “Coasties” do fly

they’re gonna’ give ‘er another try

On deck waves are still crashin’

from another bullet the crew are dashin’

 

       Another loud BANG! Joe and I hit the deck, our rattled nerves thinking they had shot at us again!  But the hawser had parted, and if any thing had been gained, it was lost. The cabby comes right across the radio and says they will try again.  Joe and I hunker way down in the cockpit when “Big Sister” gets close.  She approaches with that same skillful maneuvering witnessed before and when the shot comes, the line drapes itself over the main boom right above us.  We scramble for it, haul it in to where we get our hands on the fresh hawser, then work our way to the bow and make it fast.

                                    
Well we got rigged up, that didn’t go bad

‘cutter’s pullin’ with every horse it had

Then the bow comes ‘round toward the sea

the Columbia River bar has let Freya go free

 

      Smoke pours from “Big Sister’s” stacks and the roar of her engines at full throttle can be plainly heard over the din of crashing waves.  The hawser comes taut, spanning four or five sets of breaking waves; Freya’s bow snaps around so hard, had we not been hanging on, would have been thrown off the boat.  Freya greets the next wave head on, freed from the grip of the Columbia River Bar.

      “Big Sister” hauls her clear of dangers and sets a course into Ilwaco.  Once there and tied up to the buyers dock, the Coast Guard captain and several of his crew board Freya for the customary vessel inspection following an assist.  The group goes straight below, wading aft through three feet of water and debris, to check the steering gear.  All are quiet as they stare at the shattered steering quadrant atop the rudder shaft.  The captain who is standing in water up to his knees, turns to face me.  His eyes bore deep as he reaches out with a firm handshake, saying simply, “good job, captain.”    We express our gratitude at their tremendous effort and perseverance. The captain nods, and without a word about why we didn’t get in the basket, takes his leave. (There is a quizzical look in his eye that tells me, it is certainly on his mind).  We wade back with his crew, the Coast Guard disembarks Freya without further inspection.  What is there to inspect?  Everything that is stored in the boat is either floating around or sunk to the cabin sole. The interior looks as if she’d been filled a third full of water then shaken like a mixed drink behind a bar.

 

Down below we find the steering quadrant defective

“Murphy’s Law” has proven effective

5 a.m. when we got hauled into Ilwaco

it’s omelets n’ coffee, instead of beer and a taco

             

 

 

 

 

 

 

     

 

 

 

 

     

 

       The Freya was a 47 ft . Ed Monk Sr. design, built by Skookum in Port Townsend.  Actually, she was built from the plug used to build the 47ft. line, making her construction extra heavy.  (The “plug” is the mold the production line mold is taken from. These first two elements of fiberglass boatbuilding are built super strong, so the resulting production mold can take the stresses of repeated use).  She had a beam of fourteen feet, drew six feet of water and carried fourteen thousand pounds of ballast in her keel.  She was sloop rigged with a sixty-foot solid fir mast and given her head on an ocean swell with a freshening breeze, this vessel was built to thrill.   I am in no doubt that Mr. Monk was proud of his 47 when it came off the drawing table.  Many designs, which followed the 47, from the 32 all the way to the 53 and even the 70-footer, are no match for the performance of the 47.

         Joe and I sailed out of Neah Bay, having rigged the boat for tuna, and cleared the salmon gear from the cockpit.  We had eight lines off our trolling poles with the long lines abut 12 fathoms from the tips of the poles and each adjacent line being shorter until the inside pole lines were just a little longer than the three short lines off the stern.  The resulting configuration draws the fish closer to the stern of the boat as they chase the lures. The august weather produced healthy westerlies and we set off on a southeasterly tack for blue water.  We got to the thousand fathom drop off and turned, following it south.  We had been dragging the hooks for about a week with only a handful of fish to show for the effort.   The blue water sailing however took the sting out of not catching fish.  There was one big strike on the outside long line, where a blue fin tuna tailwalked across the ocean, looked me right in the eye, snapped the leader with one more powerful swoosh of the tail, and was gone.

       Now into our second week, waking in the middle of the night, a hundred or more lights appeared off to the west on the horizon. The first boats we had seen since leaving Neah Bay and we tackled the fishing with renewed energy.   Setting sail, driving Froya hard at the sleeping tuna fleet and the promise of good fishing with the coming dawn.

       Good weather and time at sea had taken its toll on our ice.  We were fortunate to run into some fish finally, but the fishing, as it turned out, was not all that good.  Predictably, at first light, we started catching fish on our outside, long lines.  We hauled in the sails and fired up the engine, needing the ability to get the vessel into tight circles, to stay on the fish. 

      There is chaos now on the ocean, with boats around us in every direction tightening their circles, running hard, and hauling fish.  There were “bait boats” as well with their crews lined up along the bulwarks casting jigs from hand held poles.   Froya’s short lines caught a few fish and she was brought into a tight circle.  We dumped the entire contents of two huge bags of theater popcorn over the side, came about and ran back through the corn, lighting up the short lines.   Hand lining tuna, without hydraulics, is exhilarating, hard work.  The fish strikes and the line is hauled back as fast as possible against the fight of a 15- or 20-pound albacore.

       A simple rig, double barbless red and white feather jigs on a heavy monofilament leader attached with swivels to eight-hundred-pound test tuna cord.  A rubber snubber completes the rig at the boat end.  In heavy fishing, there is no time to pull the fish in from the lines running off the poles.  Every effort is made to get the short lines working nonstop.  When a fish is hauled aboard, it flips easily off the barbless the hook onto the deck and the jig is immediately tossed back, where another fish hits it the instant it touches the water.   That morning bite found us with almost three tons of fish aboard and our ice now was becoming an issue.  The fish had quit, and the fleet dispersed in all directions, back to the hunt.  A decision was made to run the 100 or so miles north to Ilwaco, sell our catch and get fresh ice.  We at least had a good feeling for where to get on the fish, and we’d be right back out in a few days. 

      In the early evening of the following day, Froya entered the Columbia River Bar near the top of the flood tide.  It had just gotten dark as she approached buoy 10 off Clatsop Spit.  A following sea was pushing her heavily into the river when the helm went slack. Initially, feeling like the weather helm had suddenly let up, then the wheel spun free in both directions as buoy 10 shot by our port side. 

       The breakers got big and gnarly real quick and then came the sickening thuds of boat against bottom.  Froya was washed up broadside and waves began pounding her sides and deck, right away taking out her portside windows and dousing the VHF radio.  I got a mayday out on the CB radio and a taxi driver in Astoria answered the call, which he relayed immediately to the Coast Guard.  The fellow stayed on the horn through the entire ordeal that followed, relaying instructions. 

       The Coast Guard was there fast, with two surface vessels and a helicopter to find Froya on her side, being battered heavily.   They lit the area up with parachute flares and sent word via the cabby that the chopper would lower a basket with a line in it, as the vessels could not reach us to get the job done.  We were warned not to touch the basket until it hit the deck, to avoid shock from static electricity. Joe and I went forward and hung on to the mast and rigging, the occasional wave breaking clean across the deck, nearly washed us overboard several times.  The chopper now was hovering just above the mast with the basket swinging wildly from side to side over the bow, but every attempt at landing it on deck failed.  Exasperated, I grabbed a gaff hook and when the basket swung past, caught it, and slammed it down on deck while static electricity shot through me like a bolt of lightning.

       The basket was empty.  There was no line from the vessel waiting just outside the surf.  I ran back to the CB and told the cabby the line was not in the basket, and he instructed me to “get in the basket!”  I yelled to Joe, who was still hanging on to the mast, to get in the basket.  His eyes widened, having seen the electricity jumping from my body when I had grounded the thing, just hung on and shook his head wildly “NO!”  I radioed back we weren’t getting into the basket.  The cabby simply said “ok”, the basket was pulled off the deck, and the chopper was gone.  

After a pause, the cabby came back across the radio, informing us the Coast Guard would attempt to get a vessel close enough to get a line to Froya.  We were told to haul in on the line and there would be a hawser attached which we could make fast to the bow cleat.   An abundance of flares hung over the scene, allowing us a clear view of what followed.  We observed firsthand the courage and determination of the Columbia River Guardsmen.

        Froya was desperate, on her side, pounded mercilessly by heavy breakers, any one of which may take one or both of the crew overboard.  The smaller of the two rescue vessels, a forty-footer, began working its way through the breakers toward us.  As she approached, she appeared to take a deep, headlong plunge, the vessel shuddered from bow to stern as she struck bottom hard and came to a dead stop.  She was greeted with the same punishment as Froya, when the breaking bar took her by the stern and shoved her up shallow. 

         There they lay, the two vessels on their side, facing each other bow to bow, caught in the grip of an ocean and river that have been taking boats and lives for hundreds of years.  Froya, continuously pounded by the surf, the sheer strength of heavy construction her only resource left, could do nothing more than await her fate.

         Her gallant neighbor, however, was just getting into the fight.  The second, larger vessel, nosed in until she appeared to strike bottom and then immediately backed down, to deeper water.  In that moment however, she had gotten a line to the smaller vessel and a desperate tug of war ensued between a boat and the forces of pounding surf.   The big vessel, her smokestacks telling the story of the struggle, prevailed, and little sisters’ bow came ‘round, the death grip broken. 

     She had no sooner been hauled to deep water outside the surf line than the spunky little gal charged right back in.  Again, she negotiated the surf and just as she got close to Froya, buried her steel nose in the sand and was turned up broadside.  The two vessels lay facing each other for the second time.  And for the second time here comes big sister to pull her little sibling back to safety.   Again, the tug of war, and again the big ship was able to do the job, hauling the smaller boat to deep water.

         Froya was filling up fast now, with the blown-out windows allowing every wave to pour gallons of water into the boat.  There was no opportunity to make repairs, just hanging on and not getting washed overboard was all one could do.  The cabby came back across the radio and said the big vessel would attempt to get the line to us.  I made my way back forward and hung on to the mast with Joe, explained what was about to happen, and to be ready to catch this line and haul it in to get hold of the hawser.

        What I didn’t know, was how they were going to get the line to us.  I had no idea of the technology of getting a line to a boat.  In my mind, a line is simply thrown from one boat to another.  The throw has to be accurate, and the receiving crew must be fast, so as not to lose the line overboard, before getting their hands on it.

       Big Sister plowed toward us in the surf, plainly visible under a fresh barrage of parachute flares.  With each surge of sea, her stern would lift high and skew around to port, threatening a full broach.   Then she’d square up on the wave, and as it passed beneath her, the bow lifted high with a slow, moaning roll to starboard.  The following wave again picked up her stern, bow dipping sharply, exposing the entire length of her decks where she appears on the verge of pitch poling headlong into the surf. Again, her stern would slew around to port and again she would square up on the wave, an expert helmsman at the wheel, working his way closer, slowly and deliberately.  

       Joe and I are coiled, ready to spring. A loud BANG! pierces the thunder of crashing water and we jump, our arms outstretched to catch a line we cannot see.  We landed down on all fours and there was a solid “thud” behind us. A bullet with a two-foot shaft and thin line attached bounced to the deck which we both fell on instantly, grabbing up coils of line and hauling with everything we had.  We did not fail to notice the half inch dent the bullet arrow had left in the seasoned, solid fir mast.  Joe had a wide grin on his face and was shaking his head, his eyes alight. Instantly I was laughing too, and shaking my head at the imagined damage it could have done had we been hit. 

      We got the hawser aboard, tied off, and made our way back aft to the relative safety of the cockpit.  Black smoke poured from the stacks of Big Sister as she huffed and puffed, pulling for deep water.  Froya’s bow jerked seaward and was then pounded back with the force of breaking waves. She was pulled hard again to seaward and again she was pounded back to the ground in this furious tug-o-war.     

       Another loud BANG! Joe and I hit the deck, our rattled nerves thinking they had shot at us again!  But the line had parted, and if anything had been gained, it was lost. The Cabby came right across the radio and said they would try again. Joe and I hunkered way down in the cockpit when Big Sister got close. She approached with that same skillful maneuvering witnessed before and when the shot came, the line draped over the main boom right above us.  We scrambled for it, hauled it in to where we got our hands on the fresh hawser, worked out way to the bow and made it fast.

      Smoke poured from Big Sisters’ stacks and the roar of her engines at full throttle could be plainly heard over the din of crashing waves.  The hawser came taught, spanning four or five sets of breakers, and Froya’s bow snapped around so hard, had we not been hanging on, would have thrown us off the boat.  Froya greeted the next wave head on, freed from the grip of the Columbia River Bar.

      Big Sister hauled Froya clear of dangers and set a course into Ilwaco.  Once there and tied up to the buyer's dock, the captain and several of his crew boarded Froya for the customary vessel inspection following an assist.  We went straight below and waded aft through three feet of water and debris, to check the steering gear. Not a word was said as we looked at the shattered quadrant on top of the rudder shaft.  The captain just stuck his hand out, looked me straight in the eye and simply said “good job”.  We expressed our thanks at their tremendous effort and perseverance. The captain nodded, turned and without a word about why we didn’t get in the basket (There was a quizzical look in his eye that told me it was on his mind.), waded back with his crew and left the boat without further inspection.  What was there to inspect?  Everything that was stored in Froya was either floating around or sunk in the boat.  It looked as if she’d been filled a third full of water and then shook like a mixed drink behind a bar. 

      

       Years later I told the story poetically at the Fisher Poets Gathering in Astoria Oregon:

                             

                                       

 

Crossin’ the bar on a ten foot swell

almost midnight and all is well

A following sea, a ten foot swell

didn’t have a clue we were headed for hell

 

Ridin’ the top of a big flood tide

keepin’ red buoys to the starboard side

Gonna’ deliver our Tuna in Ilwaco

Then we’ll go have a beer and a taco

 

Little did we really know

a tommyknocker was runnin’ this show

Buoy 10 was off our bow

That’s when the tommyknocker struck, and how!

 

Surfin’ in on that red buoy at night

gotta’ keep that light on my right

--But the helm, it felt unduly slack?

couldn’t get the bow to come back!

 

Now we’re surfin’, wow what a ride

an’ that red buoy shot past our port side

All I could do was say “we jest hit”!

when Froya piled up on Clatsop Spit

 

Heaved up on the spit near the top of the flood

it looked like Mother Nature was out for blood

All the windows went away with the first wave

I did not think this boat we could save

 

The VHF was on the blink

After taking a really big drink

On the CB, a call I put out

a cabby in Astoria came back with a shout

 

We’re on the bar at Clatsop Spit

we need the Coast Guard lickity split

Boat’s on her side windows blown out

We can’t last long there is no doubt

 

Waves break over with tremendous fury

cabby said they’d be there in a hurry

They came by sea, and they came by air

suddenly the Coast Guard was everywhere

 

Up in the sky a chopper does fly

an’ I asked the cabby the reason why

 “There gonna’ drop a basket on ya”

they’ll be a line in it from that big ship, out yonda’”

 

“But touch that basket you’d better not

the static electricity is really hot

Now me an’ Joe, we’re hangin’ on to the mast

an’ that basket, it just kept swingin’ past

 

Swung a gaff hook with all my might

an’ it lit me up like a neon light

That cabbies’ warning was well founded

when that basket I had grounded

 

The basket it hit the deck just fine 

But in it, there was no line

The cabby then relayed our fate

we must now evacuate    

 

 “Get in the basket” I yell to Joe

his eyes are wide and he’s shakin’ his head no

I think he may have given it a try

If he hadn’t just watched me fry

 

I tell the cabby we’re not leavin’ this boat

We gotta find a way to make her float 

The cabby he says’s ”well o.k”.

And that chopper, it flew away

 

A boat’s sent in to the breakers now

Trying to get close to our bow

Poor Froya they could not reach

Now there’s two boats on the beach

 

Into the surf comes another boat on the run

Now this party’s really gettin’ fun

Under this parachute flare lit night

the Coast Guards lines’ are stretched tight

 

Off the beach their stranded brother they hauled

All this while we’re still being mauled

Through the massive surf another boat comes in

Only to smack that beach agin’

 

The Coast Guards’ busy pullin’ each other off

to them, my hat, I doff

I’m sure those kids from Peoria 

are cursin’ the day they wound up in Astoria

 

Now the cabby comes across the radio

Says their ready to give it another go

From their boat a small line will be dispatched

You pull it in an’ they’ll be a hawser attached

 

So me an’ Joe are clingin’ to the mast

Getting smacked by breakers blast after blast

“Whatever we do Joe, we gotta’ get that line

Cause my friend, we ain’t got much time”

 

A loud report rips through the Ocean’s fury

Joe an’ I react in a hurry

Hurling ourselves into the night sky

to catch this line as it’s goin’ by

 

Then of a sudden there is a loud “whack”

when the mast that bullet did smack

Joe’s lookin’ at me with a silly grin

That bullet landed where our heads had just been

 

We hauled in that hawser, tied er’ off to the bow

Told the cabby they could start pullin’ now

That line stretched tight through the surf

                            Those Coasties we’re pullin’ for all their worth                                                                                                                       

Another shot rang out through the din

We hit the deck, thinkin’ they shot at us agin’!

Then we saw to our dismay

That line had parted and gone away

 

Back into the surf those Coasties do fly

they’re gonna’ give er’ another try

On deck waves are still crashin’

from another bullet Joe an’ me are dashin’

 

Well we got rigged up, that didn’t go bad

Cutter was pullin’ with every horse it had

Then the bow came round toward the sea

the Columbia River bar had let Froya go free

 

Down below we found the steering quadrant broken  

the tommyknockers’ gun was smokin’

5a.m. when we got hauled into Ilwaco

it was omelets n’ coffee instead of beer and a taco

The Ballad Disassembled