The VHF marine radio is a potpourri of accents, a lovely collage of voices.
On channel 13, bridge to bridge, captains call out passing arrangements: one whistle is “I intend to pass you on my port side,” two whistles, “I intend to pass you on my starboard.”
One evening, a few months ago, the Cosco Bremerhaven, out by the 29 buoy called out to another ship. In a crisp, tight Irish accent, the captain of the Bremerhaven requested to meet the captain of the oncoming vessel at 1 whistle.
The response, in a warm, drawling, very VERY thick Brooklyn accent, came back: “Yeah, well, we’re just gonna pull over here in the channel and give you more room, and let you go by over here.” My heart warmed with his hospitality to the foreign captain.
A moment of silence, and then in the Irish accent: “I’m sorry, sir, could you repeat that?”
(Indian accent, proper and polite): “British Lines, to the Dela rosa…British Lines, Dela Rosa.”
(American accent): “Dela Rosa.”
(Indian accent): “Uh, what are your intentions, sir? are you angry?”
(American): “Yes, we’re anchoring.”
(Indian accent): “Oh, well, could you please give us some room?”
(American): “Will do.”
(Indian): “Thank you, sir…”
Beautiful accents…”dulcet” is how NYTugmasters describes the lyrical southern and cajun accents.
It’s not just voices one hears. One midnight, a captain announced his plans to go to sea. In the background was a quick whiff of Jimi Hendrix.
Another time, some poor captain shared his wheelhouse with some very noisy machinery, so that whenever he spoke on the radio, he seemed to be accompanied by a bagpipe quartet.