We are in San Juan. Impossible to believe that I flew into this city four weeks ago to relieve the second mate on the Adventurer – it passed like nothing. That first week back saw me in a dark mood and an attitude of bitter reticence. I’d worked for five weeks and gotten fully six days off at home, and just as I got used to sleeping through the unnaturally quiet night I was jerked back to the boat. I called home from Philly, but instead of – well, I don’t know what I was expecting, sympathy maybe? reassurance? – I was forced to stand back up and carry on. My loved ones can offer moral support, but no one can do this for me. And the ones you love will tell you what you need to hear, not necessarily what you want to hear. I was just so anxious at the prospect of continuing like this. Living and working on a tug for more than two-thirds of the year will try anyone’s nerves. But I do think I’ll get used to it, and in one more week I’ll be getting off in Philadelphia to go home for a short break.

When we were here in PR two weeks ago, we switched from the Adventurer to the Sentry so the former could go to the yard in Jacksonville for maintenance. Each of Crowley’s invader class tugs is more or less like the next, with small differences, so settling into a new routine took little time. The weather on that northbound was calm and we made excellent speed. Not so with this last leg; on the way down the weather became foul once we turned away from the coast and for the first day we strained against rising sea swells and wind. I passed a nervous night watch looking out the rear windows at the wires and the barge as the boat swayed and lurched like the head of a tired animal pulling against its reins. The next night, as we crossed the 30th parallel, we plodded through a thunderstorm while lightning struck all around us in the hot, humid dark and the raindrops fell so heavy and dense that it seemed there couldn’t be space to breathe in between them.

But as we moved along, the weather inevitably improved. Such is the charm of working in the Caribbean – the weekly escape from the blustery east coast and the luxury of passing a quiet midnight watch looking out at a sea lit up by a brilliant full moon, the door wide open and the fresh, perfect 75-degree northeasterly trade wind filling the wheelhouse.

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