Friday, August 31, 2007

Crossed over the bar

Last night I had an e-mail from Jay McCarthy of the Lightship Sailors Association, letting me know that early last month Hal Washburn, one of the lightship sailors I interviewed for Lightship, had, as they say in these circles, “crossed over the bar.”

Hal served on Light Vessel 115 as a young man, in 1945 and 1946, helping to warn ships away from the dangerous Frying Pan Shoals off the coast of North Carolina. His old ship, known to many people these days simply as the Frying Pan, happens to be docked in the Hudson River here in New York. (The picture here is one that I snapped earlier this month, while out on a schooner on the Hudson. Unlike the staid Ambrose lightship at the South Street Seaport Museum, the Frying Pan lightship is now used basically as a bar.) When Lightship was still in the sketch stage I got Hal’s contact information from the folks who run the Frying Pan now, and he treated me like an old friend from word one. He happily sent photos of himself and his friends from his lightship days, shared stories, and reviewed drawings and text. He was pleased, I think, to see his obscure (to most people, anyway) old line of work get the picture book treatment. I am pleased that the book got to him in time for him to see it and share it with his grandson, and remain grateful for his help.

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