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All In a Day's Work ©

A rescue by Duncan Newlands, Lifeboat Coxswain, and his crew

Jim McRobert
Edinburgh, Scotland
2003

The Maroons gone off, and not been heard
The crew all warm, tucked up in bed
From door to door by boys in blue
An hour lost to raise the crew

One man short with injured back
A young man offered, his name was Black
Easy said on dark quay-side
Would he cope on that wild, wild, night

From the harbour to Dhorlin-light
Its muzzled flash not picked out bright
Past the Point and then Davaar
The Lighthouse beam a hazy star


With night as black, as black as pitch
Wild the wind, a screaming witch
Wave on wave all torn and ripped
Sheets of sleet, bullet tipped

The Cox'ain dancing at his post
A fabled man, a wily ghost
Took a breath and smelt the air
To Barrel-Reefs, our prize lies there

With heaving seas and wave on wave
A single task its crew to save
Blundered on in raging storm
Touching twelve if going to form

They battled on for hour on hour
Metronomic beat from steady power
Fighting current, wind and sea
Momentum lost, propeller free

Held so steady, course on course
For every wave they felt its force
Battered each in harness bound
In steady task, cocooned in sound

By Watch was seen a single flare
A plea for help they were aware
From muffled shape on murderous reef
Wracked, buckled, locked in grief

Now to lead as naught expected
Bring her round as he directed
Thro' the surf and into lee
Dare he risk them to that sea

On tanker crew now alerted
They'd catch the line each man asserted
Keen to risk for Breeches Buoy
From saviours there in bath like toy

Each man with strain and haggard look
From Chief to boy and Chinese cook
Uttered each in silent prayer
For Lifeboat crew to take great care

Cox'ain hold her steady now
As surf crashed round and beat her prow
With engine laboured hard in spin
Time it right to rush right in

Thro' the gap of yawning death
Raced the craft by whispered breath
The boy stood green with fear in eye
Gripped and gaunt would he survive

Each felt the razors scrape her keel
Held a breath. Would she seal?
Felt the surge, relief as clear
Now in lee, no time to fear

Man the rocket, fire the line
Missed by hands, time by time
Watch the struggle, grovel, hope
Injured, desperate, hold the rope

Secured and tied not by book
First on Breeches dare to look
Haul on haul, brave each wave
Survive, survive, a curse to crave

A crack of line, a snap, a burst
Fire each rocket in silent curse
A crack of line, drag in sea
With flailing arms, a need to flee

Out of water, relief, alive
Bloody, shiver, need to cry
Second on breeches, third, fourth
Steady now, ignore the force

Wrapped in blanket, warmed in tea
Escaped the wrath of angry sea
Watch the man, their life in hand
Would they escape in what he'd planned

What he'd do to make his move
A wave of hand as each man knew
The route to take, escape the reef
With extra draft from gnashing teeth

Was it planned by rising tide
Each heard the groan on underside
Scrape on keel and buttered plank
Within the group the fear was rank

Then, popped the cork in champagne rush
To howling winds and seas of mush
Shredded sheets in curtained drape
She struggled on with bounteous weight

Engine steady, beat on beat
Each wave by roll, avoid to meet
Deep in trough, an oily cave
A mote in vice, lonely, brave

Totter, totter, climb wall on wall
Breach its peak, crash and fall
Shaken deep within the shell
Bruised and battered, suffer Hell

Take heed the reef, flash muzzled light
And then Davaar, a welcome sight
Clear the Point and pulsing Dhorlin
Neat in berth a'fore the dawning

Report filled in, Saved been fed
Says farewell, now off to bed
Wife at door with best smile on
To warm her man before the dawn.


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