I've always been interested in the merchant marine, as a romantic kid and, later, as an adult admiring practice and skill. Reading World War II history, I found myself in unusual sympathy with the guys who sailed the Lend Lease ships to Murmansk as much as the usual suspects. One of my favorite books, John McPhee's 'Looking for a Ship', is about the merchant marine, and, in his subtle manner, a lot more besides. Did surgery for 25 years or so: routine, endless hard work and detail, occasionally terrifying, and seen by those without utterly differently from the way I saw it. A freighter captain or engineer might know something about that...
Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir,
Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,
With a cargo of ivory,
And apes and peacocks,
Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine.
Stately Spanish galleon coming from the Isthmus,
Dipping through the Tropics by the palm-green shores,
With a cargo of diamonds,
Topazes, and cinnamon, and gold moidores.
Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack,
Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,
With a cargo of Tyne coal,
Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.
John Masefield, 'Cargoes'
I know where that's at, intimately, as a surgeon, and I'd guess anyone who's ever seen reality intrude itself on a daydream too. I wonder how a merchant seaman would see it. Meanwhile, I myself saw that dirty British coaster romantically, and, a little, still do, turning Masefield on his head a bit...