I flew to Gibraltar from New York to catch this ship. I had the second electrician’s job. 1978.
Rewind: I just flew to Michigan from Piney point. With a fresh set of documents in hand, I was now a QMED.QMED is an acronym for Qualified Member of the Engine Department. Back then, it was a real accomplishment, as I barely made it getting my FOWT (Fireman, Oiler, and Water-tender) a couple of years before then.
After a couple of months on an oar carrier, she laid up. The union hall had just moved from River Rouge to Algonac, Michigan. It was then that my father he informed me that a ship was coming down the river and needed a second electrician. I was too nervous to take the job. The name of the ship was the Yellowstone. Sister ship to the Mohawk.
Anyway, I flew to New York a few weeks later. At that union hall, there was a job on the Mohawk. It was a fly out to Gibraltar. I took the job, thinking that if I wasn’t good enough, it would be hard for them to get rid of me. After a flight to Casablanca, I took the ferry to Gibraltar. It wasn’t until I got there that I realized I didn’t have the Agents contact information. Oh well, I thought. I’ll just get a hotel room, get drunk and catch the next flight back to New York. Gibraltar was kind of neat, but I remember very little of the club I sit in getting wasted on scotch and water.
The next thing I remember was waking up to the loud ring of the telephone next to my bed. ” Is this Robert Rush?” The voice was that of a man who seemed to have a sense of urgency.
“Yes”, I muttered while trying to remember where I was and how I got there.
“Can you be ready in one hour”?
“OK”. What else was I going to say?
“My driver will pick you up and take you to the water taxi”.
Click. The line went dead. As I sat up in bed trying to process the phone conversation that just took place, It suddenly dawned on me why I was here and where was here. 45 minutes later, I was waiting outside the hotel for the agency’s driver to pick me up. That morning as I climbed on board the ship from the launch, it wasn’t 20 minutes later when the captain ordered everyone on deck with their lifejackets on. Evening was approaching, and the straits were foggy as usual. The ship came to a stop. In fact, all traffic was at a stop, and backed up for miles. I never seen so many ships in my entire life.
We were close to what the cause of the stoppage was. It was the Yellowstone. A huge tanker had climbed right on top of her. All I can see were a cluster of lights, and a string of lights coming from the wreckage. There were six crew members killed in that disaster. I was a bit shocked, to say the least. As huge as my ego was in those days, I remember that huge wave of nervousness I got when I was offered the job on that ship. The Seafarers Log had a first hand account of the whole event, and a photograph taken from a helicopter included. I look back at incidents like this, and think of how lucky I really was. But, age has taught me that luck like that always runs out eventually. Time will only tell if and when my day would come.