Captain Torres

You can hear James Keelaghan’s introduction to and singing “Captain Torres” here:



How small the Captain Torres
How high the sea
Gale ten and engines failing
No quarter, no lee.
They know when the wrong wave hits them,
Perdu, they’re gone.
They’ve played their share of poker
They know odds are long.
La mer ne pardonne pas

Time yet for consolation;
Each makes one call.
Signals came ship to shore,
Words plucked from the squall.
His heart a deep, deep ocean,
His voice so small.
So faint through all the static,
Five words, that’s all.
La mer ne pardonne pas

(Do I count myself lucky?
I was home, the phone was ringing.
What of others’ wives who missed it,
Came home to red lights blinking?)

How strange this world of wonder
Ships sailing, planes flying,
Sound sent at speed of light —
Phone calls from young men dying.
These walls bought and paid for
By labours on board
Gone months to clothe and feed us,
Gone now, forever more.
La mer ne pardonne pas


3 responses to “Captain Torres”

  1. Sherwood Botsford says:

    Does ship to shore radio have to go through the coast guard?

    When I ran canoe trips in northern Saskatchewan we used military surplus SBX-11 radios to communicate. We carried 4 crystals and two antennas. Saskatchewan Telephone (Sasktel), and Manitoba Telephone System (MTS) had base stations here and there in the north. Often we could not connect to Prince Albert, SK, the closest station, but we could connect to The Pas, MB.

    The antenna we used were awkward — about 150-225 feet long. Orientation matters — most of the radio power is at right angles to the wire. In a heavy storm with failing engines, they would have to use what power they had to maintain a fixed angle to the waves.

    If you wanted to check this, you could contact people who got this last call.

    But hey, it’s still a good story.

    • Heather Sparling says:

      I’m afraid I don’t have the technical knowledge to say. However, I can say that the families of the crew lived on the other side of the planet and this was in 1989 — so maybe? It is clear that the Coast Guard was in regular contact with the crew and their report doesn’t document the calls. But I take your point that perhaps they didn’t go through the Coast Guard. I agree that it’s a great story!

  2. Andrew Phillips says:

    Sherwood – The dire straits they were in and their assured demise would warrant the use of radio for this essential humanitarian act of decency.

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