The Crossing

     Five years of my career was spent on the North Atlantic. (I ended up knowing the way to London better than how to drive into downtown Toronto.) To this day if I took off from YYZ on a clear winter’s night, and headed east, I could keep the Dipper and Polaris “just-so” on my left shoulder, watch Orion rise out of the east, and hit Ireland – without any navigational aids at all. (Although ATC wouldn’t be very happy about it!)

     I was flying the A-330 then, and this song epitomizes a typical work cycle, a “pairing” as we call it. It sounds glamorous, but in reality these flights are enormously fatiguing. There are only 2 pilots – no relief. They take place all-night (“red-eye”) eastbound, and then extremely early in the morning westbound (on your body-clock). And they are not productive – it’s 15 hours flight time for 3 days work, so you need to do at least 5 of them in a month. The result is a long-term draining fatigue that is quite relentless. You end up aging 2-for-1. (It seems like every time you shave you’re looking in the mirror at an older guy.)

     And you are constantly aware of the danger of the water below. There is almost no chance of survival if you had to ditch. The danger in the blackness underneath never leaves your mind completely.

     I was very glad to change to the China routes when I got on the 777, but this song was my effort to remember 5 years spent over a very hostile ocean.

 

 

The Crossing               E   (DADGAD up 2)    © 2013 Dave and Phil Hadfield

There’s Polaris over my shoulder                             D   Bm
As I rise into the night                                              D   Bm
I’ll cross the dark Atlantic                                        D  Bm
And land in dawn’s grey light                                   G   A
The Dipper rotates slowly                                        D   Bm
Orion rises high                                                         D   Bm
And I can tell how long I’ve sat                                D   Bm
By their angle in the sky                                               G   A
The clearance comes from Gander                             F#m   Bm
The checks each ten degrees                                       F#m   Bm
I can see Track Victor                                              G   Em
By the lights proceeding me                                    G   A

 [chorus]

And here I sit in the Captain’s chair        D             Bm
As Newfoundland goes behind                G             A
I cannot see black water, but it’s not far from my mind.
And all my bones are a part of this ship ‘til we reach the Irish shore
Like the Captains who came before           G           Bm
All the Captains, who came before            G           Bm

We make the call to Shanwick, and doze ‘til twenty-west
Drinking endless coffees, hours until we rest
We see the lights of Shannon, the stars begin to fade
We pull out charts, and brief ourselves, for Heathrow’s promenade
Descend and hold at Ockham, the ILS awaits,
Touchdown in the fog and mist, and shutdown at the gate

         [chorus, then bridge]

The early morning traffic’s thick                    F#m   Em
As we ride into London town
It’s late, yet it’s early when we sleep
Get up in the afternoon
Walk in Regent’s Park
Happy hour pints and out to eat…

And here I sit in the Captain’s chair as Ireland goes behind
I cannot see black water, but it’s not far from my mind
And all my bones are a part of this ship ‘til we come to Labrador
Like the Captains…

 

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