Overboard Annie

by Guest Blogger

August 25, 2007

She has freckles, long eyelashes, a crooked smile and she’s floating in the middle of the Bering Sea. There is no land in sight, no boats but ours. It is our job to rescue Overboard Annie.
How did she fall overboard? Actually, we threw her off, then circled the ship ’round to start our emergency drill. I was on the bridge talking to Captain Pete at the time, having forgotten all about the cryptic note on the blackboard this morning mentioning O.A. drill at 14:30. When I’d asked what it meant I was told it didn’t involve me, as I’m only here for three weeks, unlike the rest of the crew who are mostly on for three month stints. So mid-afternoon there I was chatting blithely away to Pete when suddenly he responded to a message, moved to the control panel, pressed a red button and an alarm sounded.
People started running in.
First came Radio Operator Tom, looking surprisingly cute (Tom will not appreciate being called "cute", and as he’s our resident computer genius will likely sabotage this blog later, even though "cute" is meant as a compliment –in bright yellow headphones pushed up on his forehead like some kind of cartoon bumblebee. Then Rao, 3rd Mate, with his million watt smile, which was not in evidence now. Tom and Rao rushed outside and began scanning the water.
I ran after them. "Where’s Annie?" Tom shouted. The sea was uniformly blue-grey, peaked with small waves, and there was no sign of Annie’s yellow head (a buoy, actually, which someone painted a face on) anywhere. Turning towards the stern we saw a few mates struggling to get a zodiac lowered from the stern. There seemed to be some problem…it wasn’t moving.
Meanwhile about eight or ten other mates rushed onto the foredeck, ran to the bow and pointed out to sea, arms uniformly at shoulder height like dancers in a ballet. I felt strangely moved by them.
Rao and I followed the direction of their arms, but couldn’t see Annie anywhere. "There," said Tom, his deep voice tinged with a Belgian accent, "Further out…further" until finally ahhh, WAY out there, about six-hundred feet, bobbing in the sea in an orange survivor suit stuffed with life-jackets.
I know the Bering sea is cold, but how much colder it looked suddenly. More mates rushed onto the foredeck, and we turned to the stern to see if the zodiac was down yet…no, still suspended aloft…what was taking so loooong? Finally it started down and after what seemed like ten minutes but was probably two hit the water, and Diek our poetic (you’ll know why if you read his blog) Second Mate stuck his arm out too, pointing, and Marc (our Mechanic/Film buff) gunned the engine, and off they went.
How slowly they seemed to travel, like in a dream, or a nightmare. Now seagulls were pecking at Annie’s head, and Diek reached for her, and she must have been awfully water-logged, because she looked so heavy and hard to hold as he hauled her in, and all of this seemed to be going in slow-motion.
Later we all assembled on the bridge, waiting in silence for the Captain to speak, and for once not a single person made a quip or joke. Captain Pete shared that if one of us fell off the boat "while looking at the moon and stars one night on deck, not that any of you would do such a thing" we’d basically be, well…He didn’t need to finish. We all knew there’d be nothing but a bobbing head to see, not a bright orange and yellow shape buoyed up by life jackets.
Lying in bed that night I can’t stop seeing my mates, all standing together, pointing out to sea. I keep seeing the zodiac, zooming towards Annie. I keep thinking of the Earth, and all the living beings on it, and I can’t help being glad I’m here, with my mates, trying our best to keep Earth, and Annie, afloat.

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