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There are limits to all things and so it is aboard a ship. Sir Salty McMay-Day had finally reached his. Finding him locked and tucked away in the forward cabin with the remaining grog and a dozen tins of tuna was too much. I ordered him confined to quarters, secured what remained of the supplies and set about thinking what needed to be done. How exactly Salty intended to open the tins I have no idea. Only one showed any evidence of an attempt to open being severely dented and generally mashed as if he had been hammering away at it with a flipper for hours.

Regardless of provisions or grog remaining, no sailor can abide another putting his own life and safety above all others. As captain, I knew it was high time to reestablish order and discipline lest the remaining crew and the ship itself fall into anarchy.

The question of what to do was straightforward. The question of how was another matter. The balance to be struck is to mete out just enough muscle to make a point and have a lesson learned and not so much as to engender resentment. As convoluted as Sir Salty’s antics might be, he seems to dislike labour the most.  Hard labour then I reckoned would get his attention and give him time to think on his transgressions.

Of all the mind-numbing, back-breaking, menial jobs to do aboard a ship, nothing compares to scrubbing acres of deck by hand on bender knee. Being urged on and endlessly scolded by a low-ranking senior or worse yet, a ship mate,  turns the task to torment.

So it would be with Sir Salty McScrubs-A-Lot.

Convening the ship’s crew at 8 bells this morning, I called Sir Salty forward, gave a brief account of what had transpired and ordered that he scrub the decks clean by 8 bells this afternoon under the unrelenting stares and to the satisfaction of Port and Starboard. Sir Salty’s eyes widened and his mouth gaped upon, but just as quickly he returned to staring at the deck and shuffling his flippers nervously. I figured point made.

Not wanting to tarnish a man’s record permanently, I went on to say that there would be nothing in the log on the matter and no mention of it on discharge papers when we make port. I noticed his back straighten slightly and his flippers stop fidgeting. I figured point made.

At 0815 this morning, I heard the brush going endlessly back and forth and the high-pitched voices of Port and Starboard pointing out spots missed and grime left behind. Sir Salty McScrubs-A-Lot was in for a long but deserved day.

On some happier occasion, I’ll have to ask how he intended to open the tins. Lacking a can opener myself, I might well learn something useful.

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