It was in '68, or '69, when I popped into St. Thomas, Virgin Islands for a Port Visit with the Gilliss, that I spotted this grand vessel anchored in the harbor. I was pretty sure it was the vessel I was thinking of - The Brigantine Romance, owned by a former ship-mate, and his wife.
We first sailed together on the "old" Mobilgas - a Socony Vacuum tanker...he Second Mate, and I, on his watch - AB.
That was in '54. I was a Brooklyn kid, and he from Massachusets, and "salty" in an "old age" way...he acted, and sounded like from out of the past...to me anyways.
Though not all that much older than I, maybe ten, or fifteen years, he walked with an old sailor's swagger. He, at that time held his Master's license, and was an academy graduate. I remember one stormy night off the coast...he was in the chart room cursing the old, very old, RDF while trying to get a set of bearings. Those old RDFs could be a frustration when there was slop between the wheel, and the loop, or if the battery was getting low...not to mention, that this particular night was filled with lightning - lots of static. It sounded to me, a young kid at the time, like some pirate was in the chart room...the wheel house dark, and I steering. It was kind of strange.
However, he was a great guy, and had powerful hands...I saw him one time finish off a sail-makers whipping on a piece of two-and-a-half-inch manila without pliers...he could pull that needle through that board-hard line with just his thumb, and fore-finger. In other words, he could pull a nail through a one-by-four that way.
We sailed together once again some years later, he now Chief Mate, and me - Third Mate, and I think it actually was on the "New" Mobilgas. He had, by himself, painted the stack...something ordinarily not done by Chief Mates, but he just loved being aloft, and painting...to boot. He at one time brought me a can of paint, and a small brush, and suggested I touch up a little in the wheel house while standing watch. Like I said, I was from Brooklyn, and this wasn't the thirties...I laughed at him, and ignored the paint. He quit after that voyage...I remember, he was leaving the vessel in Staten Island - Port Socony, and we both rode into Manhattan together, heading for Penn Station, me for a few hours home on L.I., he to Massachusets to a fate unknown.
Before boarding our trains, we had a drink together, and there he told me he was fed up with tankers....It wasn't the last I was to hear from him.