Jack Ross Knutson

         Typhoon Delilah

        It was the winter of '77 sailing the China Sea
        In a rust bucket christened Kopaa for the shipping company
        We sailors were on the fantail drinking a Formosan brew
        With the oiler, fireman and the rest of the blackgang crew
        It was then the wind picked up and the sea began to foam
        She was typhoon Delilah and we were so far away from home

        Dead ahead she lay, black as blackest night
        Angry as all hell's devils and screeching with a fright
        "Should we steer around her or push this bucket through?"
        The helmsman asked the captain wondering what to do
        The skipper in a trance sounded strange as he said
        " Keep your course sailor, dead ahead, dead ahead "

        The helmsman paled and swallowed hard, steering as was bid
        In his desperate mind he bade farewell to his wife and only kid
        Just then the mate ran up and called, " Captain, sir,
        That's typhoon Delilah, we can't possibly sail through her "
        " Mind your place, sailor, I'm skipper of this ship,
        I've met Delilah before, this time I'll give her the slip "

        The seas picked up crashing over the bridge
        The wind howled like a freight train out of control on a mountain ridge
        The Kopaa was tossed like a cork in rolling keg of beer
        When the Chief rang up and cried, " we can't give you steam to steer "
        The captain just repeated, " Dead ahead, dead ahead "
        The Engineer cried, " You're crazy, it’s nonsense what you've said "

        The bell of the ship rang frantically fore and aft
        It was rung by Delilah and it said to man the life raft
        The tie core had broken, she'd taken control of the bell
        And turned a peaceful voyage into a living  hell
        The crew in dread heard the bidding of that bell
        And dutifully ran to their stations in answer to its knell

        The captain shouted, "Come back, I never gave the word "
        But his speech was wasted in the wind and never heard
        Every man was drowned trying to clear the ship
        Every man save the captain, only he would give her the slip
        He was condemned by the fates that rule heaven and earth
        To forever sail into Delilah for all that he was worth
        And to command with these few words, more honored were never said
        " Keep your course, Kopaa, dead ahead, dead ahead "


Helmsman:  sailor who steers the ship; usually an A.B., able-bodied seaman or Bos’n, Boatswain 
    who is the highest ranking non-officer in the deck department

Chief: head of the engine department; he is a licensed engineering officer equivalent to Captain 

Blackgang: engine room personnel; historical reference to coal powered days and coal dust
          when engine room personnel were often covered in black coal dust while working

Formosa: contemporary Taiwan

Mate: the Chief Mate, second in command after Captain

Kopaa; pronounced ko-PAH; pre-WWII built bulk carrier of grain to Far East; sugar from Hawaii
            Nearly as worn-out as the Transchamplain in ’77 when yours truly sailed aboard her

Dead ahead: nautical term of direction meaning straight ahead

The events of the poem: based on a captain who in 1977 literally commanded the helmsman to   
       “Keep your course, sailor.  Dead ahead”, when faced with a typhoon, though he preceded the   
        command with a common vulgarity generally summarized with “F’ it”.  The result was 
        disastrous, nearly catastrophic. Resulted in disciplinary action by U.S. Coast Guard 
        rescinding the Master’s (Captain) license of the individual responsible.