The Wraith in a Yellow Coat: a poem

This week for the What do you see? #181 Photo Prompt to write a story, poem or a caption, there is a photo is of a figure dressed in a yellow coat. The face is unseen in an eerie black shadow.

The #WDYS Photo Prompt

What did I see? I saw a wraith in a wood, wearing a yellow wet-weather jacket. An outdoor sporting jacket like a yachtsman might wear.

Here is my poem THE WRAITH IN A YELLOW COAT in response to the #WDYS #181 Photo Prompt. My thanks to Sadje for the inspiration.

The Wraith in the Yellow Coat

The Wraith in the Yellow Coat | Artwork©️Lesley Scoble
A tall dark wraith in a yellow hood 
Stood by a tree in the shadowed wood 
He was once a mariner who sailed at sea 
A valiant sailor, sailing wild and free

He was the leader of the yacht race. 
Sailing at a rate of knots (at hell-bent pace!) 
T’ward the trophy of Round the World renown. 
He didn’t know he was going to drown.

He rode  the galloping spume of the devil’s black horse 
T’ward the perilous rocks of death and remorse

His ship is blown off course in a howling gale 
A storm of a beast beyond the pale! 
The rain lashed hard, driven from the east 
blowing storm force ten, at least!
The wind veered south-southwest —
putting his seamanship to the test
The seafarer pulled hard on the stormsail halyard;
and to change course tries setting the jib in hurricane force! 
His hands ripped, red raw hauling the rope 
He gripped the rail; clung on; to no avail, 
There was no hope—and then he jibed! 
The boom swung across and hit his head; 
he knew it then—that he was dead. 
Avast! he cried, 
I am doomed to drown beyond the Veil.

The seafarer donned a sou’wester and pulls up the hood of his coat, 
against the torment of the storming molester 
He prepares to abandon his boat 
With a last look at the dark sky above, he bids adieu, 
“Goodbye, my ship, goodbye my love, farewell to you.”

The boat lurched from port to starboard 
Rising, falling, aft and forward,
pitching and rolling,
crashing down in the trough of the swell, 
Over-the-side of his broaching ship, 
he fell!

Man overboard! screamed a passer-by wayward seabird
No one hears the cry (just the wind heard)
No one heard the call of distress
No one heard the SOS! above the screech of the squall

The sailor slips into the foaming mouths of the slavering waves.
They suck him in and laves over the marine 
As though he were in a washing machine! 
He is lost—lost at sea! 
cast into the Drink 
Aswirl in a tumbling chaos of briny, 
and left to sink 
down into the roar of silent finality.

Nothing could save him from the giant rogue wave 
That sent him down deep to his watery grave 
Nothing could save his soul or bones 
from the abysmal Locker of Davy Jones. 
Nothing could save the life of this brave sailor 
Not prayers, nor hope (nor even his valour). 

Later, he washes ashore 
In a shroud of seaweed and ivy
On, the land of forevermore 
and the shade wood’s eternity

Now, he is the dark wraith in a yellow coat 
On constant night-watch, for faith—for a sight of his boat 
His spectral eyes scan miles out to sea 
He stands alone. Beside a tree. 
for thee

Lesley Scoble, April, 2023

My thoughts behind my poem

Whilst writing THE WRAITH IN THE YELLOW COAT my thoughts rolled back a few years to a time when I sailed. My old sailing chums of the London Corinthian Sailing Club enter into my head. To whom I now raise my half pint to toast the fun and the many sailing adventures we enjoyed together. (You didn’t know Champagne comes in half pints?).

I Dream of Sailing in The Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race
I mull over my seafaring experiences and remember how I fantasised at the time of being the first woman skipper to sail round the world!—but Clare Francis beat me to it. 
Clare Francis was the first woman to captain an all-female crew in the Whitbread Round the World Race in 1989.

I had the enormous privilege of sailing on the yacht Flyer II, (Skipper, Conny van Rietschoten) Winner of the 1981/82 Round the World Race. I sailed with her during Cowes week, in the Round the Island Race of that year.

The Fastnet Race
As I wrote my poem, it developed into a poem about shipwreck and the loss of life at sea. The character in the poem is fictional, but based on the knowledge and fear I felt during the tragic Fastnet Race of 1979.
Some of my sailing buddies went missing during this tragic race. I recall making too many phone calls to find out if they had returned to port safely. I remember my absolute joy and relief when I received the good news that they were safe.
Later, when I asked how it was during the storm, the reply was a simple; It was a little hairy. My friends were prone to understatement.


Davy Jones Locker
According to nautical folklore, Davy Jones was a mythical figure who controlled the depths of the sea and the fates of those who sailed upon it. 
Sailors believed that ships and crew lost at sea would end up in the Davy Jones Locker. Doomed to spend eternity inside it.
The origin of the term is uncertain, but it’s thought to have been first used in the 18th century.

The Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race
The first Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race began on the 8th of September 1973. 
This year, the 2023 Ocean Globe Race (OGR) will follow the original Clipper ship sailing route around the globe. This race will follow in the wake of the Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race and the great yachtsmen (and women—let’s not forget Clare Francis) Tabarly, Blake, van Rietschoten, Blythe, Knox Johnston, and Ramon Carlin. The event will start at a European port on the 10th of September, 2023.

The Fastnet Race
The Fastnet 79 was a yacht race that took place in August 1979. The Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) organised the race and took competitors from Cowes on the Isle of Wight, around the Fastnet Rock off the southwest coast of Ireland, and back to Plymouth in England. It was one of the most challenging offshore yacht races in the world, covering a distance of 608 nautical miles.

The Fastnet 79 race was struck by a severe storm. Wind speeds reportedly reached up to 60 knots (70 mph or 110 km/h) during the storm, and the combination of high winds, large waves, and strong tidal currents made the sailing conditions extremely challenging and hazardous. The storm resulted in the loss of many boats and several lives, making it one of the deadliest sailing disasters in history.
It proved to have a profound impact on the sport. The disaster led to a major overhaul of safety standards in yacht racing and led to the development of new safety equipment and procedures.

The 50th Rolex Fastnet Race will start on Saturday 22nd of July, 2023 at 1300 hrs.

In memory to those who lost their lives in the terrible storm of the Fastnet 79 Race.

18 responses to “The Wraith in a Yellow Coat: a poem”

  1. Such a beautifully written story Lesley. I was so engrossed in this with the authentic details you’ve included in here. Thanks for joining in with this beautiful, moving poem.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. When I read your verse I thought of ‘The Ghost and Mrs. Muir’ – eventually a happy ending? Thank you for the added info. I too like to inclued information on my posts when something stirkes my fancy.

    And may the memories of those lost at sea… be blessings as numerous as the stars above.

    (I wrote to this prompt and actually added to it… I’m going to add the link to the first one soon…)

    Liked by 1 person

      • I particularly liked the old black and white version… I haven’t seen the newer one – I think there may have been a few updates. There used to be a TV series based on the film/book(?). Good luck in finding it.

        I saw the black and white old version several years ago on TNT/Turner Broadcasting but I don’t get that service anymore.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: