Stuck

By now, you’ve probably heard about the supersized container ship Ever Forward—oh, the irony!—that is stuck in Chesapeake Bay mud off of Gibson Island. The irony, of course, is compounded by the fact that just a year ago, Ever Forward’s sister ship—Ever Given—got stuck in the Suez Canal and tied up that waterway for several weeks, frustrating everyone from master pilots to insurance adjusters to consumers and every one else in between.

While my initial impulse was to laugh at Ever Forward’s marine misfortune, I have to admit I feel some sympathy for her. I’ve occasionally gotten struck in some sticky mud and I don’t draw nearly as much water as that behemoth. The truth is we all get stuck from time-to-time and hand-wringing or finger-pointing don’t do much good, let alone solve the problem. Wouldn’t we be better served if we all could just carry a little less cargo and ride a little higher in the water? I’m sure you know what I mean.

As the years pass, we accumulate stuff—heavy containers of stuff, tons and tons of stuff. To make matters worse, the manifests for our individual vessels are likely written in disappearing ink. Things that happened way-back-when are loaded on the bottom of our cargo deck and, if you’re like me, probably forgotten, or so we think. Our more recent cargo is stacked somewhere nearer the top of the pile where it’s more likely to destabilize the entire load.

I’m sure there are all kinds of computations and load formulae that should—in theory, at least—prevent big ships from getting stuck in shallow water. After all, it’s some poor soul’s job to make sure cargo ships don’t run aground every day. The rest of us aren’t so lucky. The task of staying afloat and moving forward falls to each of us, so when we do get stuck—and we will—we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Ever Forward got stuck back on March 13 when somehow it missed a right turn, entered shallow water, and ran aground outside the Craighill Channel. All kinds of competent helping hands—the US Coast Guard, the Maryland Department of the Environment, and the ship’s owners (Evergreen Marine Corporation)—have been collaborating on the salvage operation, hoping to find a way to refloat the beached whale. But neither dredging nor tugging has yet to do the trick. I’m sure someone will solve the problem soon, but for now, poor Ever Forward still waits, wallowing in the mud, mocking her optimistic name.

When I get stuck in the mud, I sure wish I had all those resources available to help pull me free. Alas, I have only me, myself, and I, along with a caring wife and a coterie of good friends who, alas, do not own shares in a fleet of tugboat. Still, I count myself lucky: I believe in therapy and self-care, naps, daily exercise, a reasonably healthy diet, leaning on conversations with good friends, and trusting the opinions of my supportive, loving wife. Usually, some combination of those lifelines will lift me off the bottom and get me on my way again.

Maybe by the time you’re reading this, Ever Forward will be doing just that. I hope so. I hate to see anything stuck in the mud—not a big ship, not you, not me. There’s a higher tide coming and enough deep water for all of us.

I’ll be right back.

(The photograph that accompanies this Musing was taken by Chris Stone, a fellow member of the Chesapeake Bay Photography Group on FaceBook.)

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer who lives in Chestertown. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy Magazine.

Two collections of his essays (“Musing Right Along” and “I’ll Be Right Back”) are available on Amazon.

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