the glow of the binnacle lights

“You may imagine what it feels like to be on the bridge drawing near to your port, all keyed up to bring her in in style, watching for the marks on the coast, and listening for the surf on the outlier. I loved it best before dawn, when coming into a land as dark as indigo, with the faintest of colour pale in the sky above. There would be the forward well and the fo’c’s’le lit by the masthead light, the back of the look-out man craned over the dodger, and the gleam of the water spreading from the bows.

I loved that picture of the bows and all that tenseness of those near me, the leadsmen, so trusted and sure, in the dickeys at the bridge-ends, ready for quick casts, and the quartermaster’s face above the wheel, in the glow of the binnacle lights, with his eyes steady on his mark or on his card. To myself, the joy is the handling of a big ship in a difficult passage, all beset with reefs, and the knowledge that my clear head will carry her clear and set her down at her marks.”

  – John Masefield – The Taking of the Gry (1934)

(Masefield’s novel of high seas adventure was set in 1911 in a fictional South American state. We can assume his narrator was describing the arrival of the type of tramp steamer on which Masefield himself had served as a young man. He died in 1967.)