Stories about adventure, travel, and living. Hope you enjoy.


As a young pilot working on a riverboat I served with several great Captains who unselfishly taught me their trade. We would sit and talk for hours solving the problems of the boat, the company, the state, the country, and if any time remained of the world.

On an evening cruise I was steering and Captain Bill was sitting close by watching my actions and entertaining me with conversation. We each sat in captain’s chairs in the modern pilothouse. There were many aids to navigation on board including a barometer, wind meter, radar, and a chronometer (a clock.) The chronometer was a seven day clock, once you wound it, it kept accurate time for seven days.

That evening we were scheduled to land at ten o’clock or close to that time. As a rule we tried to follow the company’s schedule, but no matter how hard we tried sometimes we landed early and sometimes we landed late. The boat would only go so fast without shaking the glasses on the tables and bouncing the stage, so if we lost time during the cruise we just could not get back on schedule.

To help keep us on time we developed landmarks. It was forty-five minutes to the dock from ‘here’ and thirty minutes from ‘there.’ If we landed at ten we needed to be close to the fifteen minute mark, at nine forty-five. Easy enough.

Approaching the fifteen minute mark, just below the dock, I shone the torch (flashlight) on the chronometer, it wasn't nine forty-five so we slowed the boat and continued talking. The exact conversation escapes me, but it was fall so we were probably talking about Bill's beloved baseball team, the Cardinals. As time passed I shone the torch again and it still wasn’t nine forty-five. We slowed down more and continued talking. The evening was dragging slowly as Captain Bill mentioned that we must have been running too fast going out of town. I agreed and shone the light on the chronometer again. We were all stopped by now just killing time.

Sitting just a few hundred yards below the dock we began drifting downstream. Nothing felt unusual about the circumstances, I shone the torch and it still was not time to come ahead.

The pilothouse of a boat can be an intimidating place. All the passengers and crew below think that the Captain and Pilot are hard at work navigating the perilous river. If we (those of us working in the pilothouse) thought that someone was not thinking we were hard at work we would try to convince them otherwise. Basically everyone left us alone, because they did not want us to endanger their lives because of a distraction.

I shone the light on the chronometer and continued drifting downriver slowly. Finally our exclusive conversation about nothing was interrupted by the phone ringing. The boat's director asked to talk to the Captain. I handed Bill the phone and listened to his comments.

“Fine, everything is okay,” Bill answered.

After listening Bill responded, “no, nothing is wrong.”

And again he said, “why, what time is it?”

At that time I shone the torch on the chronometer and said, “it's nine forty. We land at ten right?”

It was not nine forty it was ten thirty and everyone on the boat was wondering why we were floating down the river backwards, but us. Finally the director after giving us the benefit of the doubt called to find out what was wrong. Nothing was wrong other than the clock had stopped.

We had been looking at the clock to see the time, but were not really looking to see what time it was we were really seeing what time it wasn’t. Nine forty-five was the magic time to begin the approach to the dock and since the seven day chronometer stopped at nine forty we were still waiting.

Pushing ahead we landed as quickly as possible. Captain Bill dallied a while in the pilothouse looking over the logbooks so as he would not have to go to the off loading ramp. Luckily he did not send me to the lions either. I sheepishly stood, wound, and reset the chronometer.


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