(from Tow Line, a publication for Moran Towing & Transportation Co., Inc.,
By Allan Keller, "New York World-Telegram & Sun" staff writer
THERE isn't much left to scare a man after he's had his ship break down in the north Atlantic's winter gales, the wireless
cracking and intercepted messages from Nazi submarine wolf-packs. That is why Capt. Robert H. Bradsell steps on the bridge of the liner Argentina or Brasil with no more apparent concern than the suburbanite shows
as he steps into his car to drive to the station.
"Don't get me wrong,"” said Capt. Bradsell. "I'm aware of my duties, alive to my responsibilities, but I don't step up the
gangplank to the echo of my knees knocking a tattoo."
As a relief captain for the Moore-McCormack Lines, Capt. Bradsell takes either of the new de luxe cruise ships on the 31-day
cruise to Buenos Aires and back when there is need. When there isn't he goes as staff captain, second in command.
He admits there is a certain loneliness to being master of a ship at sea. Away from land the skipper is the man with all the
responsibilities. No matter how many duties he delegates to subordinates, he is the man with the ultimate decision.
"Do I pass around a hurricane or turn and run from it? Do I dock at a port with a bad epidemic or pass it up? Do I risk a stop
where gunfire is crackling or play it safe?"
Capt. Bradsell is a good-looking man, in blues or summer whites, and he has to know diplomacy and the tactics of the social
cocktail party. Just when a storm is making up he may have to soft-talk a lady passenger who doesn't see why her stateroom is smaller than Mrs. So-and-So's.
Needless to say the passenger waits for an adjudication even if the storm comes close. To the man on the bridge first things come
first, and nothing is more important than the safety of the ship and all its passengers and crew.
"But when I see the tugs cast off and we pick up speed passing the lady on Bedloes Island I sense a freedom I never know on land,"
said the skipper. "With responsibility goes a certain elation—a feeling of power over your own destiny."
It's different when the hurricane warning is up in the Atlantic. The route the Moore-McCormack liners take to South America
crosses over the area where these tropical storms breed.
"When we know one is stewing around in the West Indies it gives us a bit of a queer feeling as we leave New York," said Capt.
Bradsell. "But with modern radio and all the other equipment and information we get from the Weather Bureau we can operate with assurance the storm won't sneak up on us out of nowhere." Capt. Bradsell explained, though, that
there’s a lot more to running a ship than patrolling the decks in the sunshine and being cheerful at the captain's table.
"The weight is always there," he said. "It doesn’t oppress you, but not enough room to swing a cat.
"Sometimes we go on new cruises to new ports. Then we have to bone up on charts and harbor rules and the peculiarities of the
different ports of call. Sure, we pick up pilots locally, but if we had pilots from one wing of the bridge to the other we'd still have the ultimate responsibility."