General Poetry posted February 24, 2024

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Death at sea

The Andrea Gail

by Paul McFarland

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If you want a story of swordfishing glory
And fishermen lost out at sea,
Then I'll tell you the tale of the Andrea Gail
If you'll spend a few moments with me.

In Gloucester you'll meet, on old Rogers Street
Some men who remember the day
Back in ninety-one when the town was undone
By a storm off Cape Cod Bay.

On a late afternoon, near the full of the moon,
They threw all her lines from the pier,
And the Andrea Gail and her crew then set sail
On a trip all those good men did fear.

After struggling through the first week or two
When damn few fish were around,
They hauled all their gear, and they started to steer
Northeast for a more fertile ground.

They decided to tap the wild Flemish Cap
With not too much time left to spare,
And a forty mile set was the best they'd had yet,
So they finished the trip way out there.

Now thirty days old with a full fish hold,
This trip finally came to an end.
And the crew could then dream on a long homeward steam
Of the money that they'd have to spend.

With the fish all aboard and the gear safely stored
And the bow finally now headed West,
The Andrea Gail and her crew then set sail
For home and a much needed rest.

But the gods of the seas sent a murderous breeze
That no fishing boat could withstand,
And it was a day, that all fishermen say
They wished to hell they'd stayed on land.

For hurricane season is one damn good reason
To dread the Grand Banks in the fall.
For there's many a man who sailed from Cape Ann
Who didn't make his last port of call.

The crew went below to weather that blow
And sent out a last heartfelt prayer
As the men at the bars counted their lucky stars
That they were on land, not out there.

And off Sable Isle, seas started to pile
Into waves of incredible height.
'Twas the end of the trail for the Andrea Gail
And her crew on that miserable night.

Now there's just debris on that cold windswept sea
Where that mighty storm had just passed
That marked the dread spot where a battle was fought,
And stout-hearted men breathed their last.

And loved ones all pray that somehow and someway
That swordfishing boat did prevail,
But at night in their dreams they hear all the screams
Of the crew of the Andrea Gail.

And those loved ones still go to Portagee Hill
To gaze at the good virgin there.
With heads humbly bowed, to themselves or aloud,
They send out a passionate prayer.

They pray for all souls from the tropics to poles
Who now are lost far out from shore,
Where their bones now all ride in the surge of the tide
That washes the deep ocean floor.

And the women all weep as their fishermen sleep
Entombed in their watery graves.
And they stand on the shore as they've all done before,
Looking out on those desolate waves.

Now you'll sometimes meet on an old Gloucester street
The form of a wandering ghost.
He'll be on a quest for the old Crow's Nest
In search of his friends for a toast.

With a stiff drink or two they'll honor the crew
That one fateful day did set sail
For a fisherman's share in the salty sea air
On the swordfisher Andrea Gail.

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This is a true story about a fishing tragedy that occurred in 1991. Sebastian Junger wrote about this in his novel "The Perfect Storm". There was also a movie made with the same title.
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Artwork by William Runcie at

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© Copyright 2024. Paul McFarland All rights reserved.
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