Man Overboard


Port of Spain, Trinidad
27 August 1947
10:00 p.m.

Hello Heart Tender, (Keeper, that is)

It’s rather hot down here, as you can see by the way the ink blurs. Tonight, about two hours ago, to be exact, I was taking a longboat back to the ship. As I rounded the stern of a Liberty ship, a seaman committed suicide by leaping into the ocean. My boat searched for him for over an hour but we could not locate him, in the dark and with the swift current. He probably made one trip too many up into the jungle of Moengo, under the hot sun.

Men crack up on this run my dear. But, never the ones who are really seamen, who have clear heads, a sense of humor, faith, and a woman who loves them.  For example, several weeks ago, an engineer tried to smuggle through customs with his pockets and suitcase filed with Bauxite. (bauxite is ore, something like iron ore only very light and powdery) The engineer had just been down here too long, and with the continuous heat and constant hauling of Bauxite, the poor fellow’s mind just cracked. “Going Fruit” we call it down here. Why do I like the sea you ask?!

It’s peace and quiet,
It’s the roar of elements, angry and torn asunder.

It’s smooth and gentle,
It’s mountainous and terrifying.

It’s challenge.
It’s defeat.

It’s confidence.
It’s fear.

It makes men.
It breaks men.

It’s comfortable and pleasant.
It destroys men who know not how to sail.

It’s securing loose gear on a dark night on a wet deck with green seas coming aboard.

The sea is the place where a man who knows his work reigns supreme and unchallenged, and where a man who tries to bluff his way along is eventually caught and taught a permanent lesson, by the sea, the very element he thought to bluff.

Only those who know the sea and his habits can successfully sail her. Men who don’t do their work in the proper manner, are careless, are caught eventually, and reckoned with in nature’s own way.


The question, “Why do I like the sea?”, is really a poser. Sometimes I like it, mostly I don’t. But a man is suppose to do what he knows best. At least until new opportunities are available.

I know that rather than go to sea, I should like to be married to the girl I love, work ashore, come home to her every night, etc..

But, at present, let us say merely, that like the sea, or not, there are other things I desire more, and what I’m doing now, will enable me to obtain that which I desire, more easily, and retain it more capably. All this work is an attempt to answer your question.

Sept. 1. At Sea

Darling, I haven’t written for the past two days because I haven’t felt too hot! The sun is changing it’s declination from North to South, which means that it is directly overhead. If it is hot where you are, just imagine what kind of furnace I am working in. Not only is the sun hot, but, it’s heat is retained and reflected up to you by the steel decks on which you stand your watches.

Four hours, under those conditions, I must confess have been all I could cope with lately. I had sun fever yesterday, but was all right by the time my watch came around, so I went up for more punishment.

This is all for now my love. I have to sleep off today’s sun so that at midnight (four hours from now) I can stand watch again. Darn! It’s hot!

I love you Bette!