The Cursed Costa Concordia Captain

There is something almost mystical about sea captains.  In the early days, they took their ships to places never seen before.  What courage it took to take a ship over the horizon and into the unknown.  Well, sea captains may no longer be as mystical.  Perhaps it’s because the unknown has shrunken so.  They are still quite special and usually held in high esteem.

Then there’s the Costa Concordia captain, Francesco Schettino.  The only thing mystical about Captain Schettino is how he mystically ended up in a life boat while his 4200 passengers were still fighting for their lives on board the ship (some, of course, lost their lives).  Should we give him the benefit of the doubt?  I think not.  He says he was helping others into the life boat when the ship lurched and he fell in.  I guess he could have climbed back out.  But, as luck would have it, it was the same life boat that his Moldavian girlfriend had climbed into.  But most telling was when the port authority ordered him to return to his ship, Schettino mentioned that it was dark and cold out (and he didn’t have his blankie).

Italy can’t win for losing.  They have an image problem.  Listed under The World’s Shortest Books and right before “The Amish Telephone Book” is “Famous Italian War Heros”.  Then along comes the activities of the cowardly Captain Schettino.

I guess by now most people know that the captain directed the ship off course so he could do a nautical “fly by” for a friend who lived close by.  He planned to blast the horn in a form of a salute.  The ship never got to the horn part.  But his friend, a retired Costa admiral, will be able to look out toward the island of Giglio, perhaps for the next year, and see a reminder of the abortive salute.  “All this for me?”

Follow this, the ship hit the reef at 9:45 PM on January 13 (Friday the 13th).  Twenty minutes later (10:05 PM), the captain was contacted by the company and he told them he had a problem.  At 10:25 PM, forty minutes after the gash was cut into the ship, the crew was instructing people that there was an electrical problem and they should go to their cabins.  It wasn’t until 11:00 PM that the captain directed the abandoning of the ship.  And he really meant it, because that is exactly what he did.

One of my friends who knew that we liked to cruise inquired whether the Costa debacle would cause us to change our plans.  Absolutely not.  I can’t think of a safer time to cruise.  The recent experience will cause every ship captain to be a better Boy Scout, paying close attention to that which is important.  They will save their stow away Moldavian women for deeper, calmer waters.

I have been told that Winston Churchill once was overheard saying how he preferred to cruise on Italian ships.  He allegedly said, “First the cuisine is unsurpassed.  Second, the service is superb.  And then, in time of emergency, there’s none of this nonsense about women and children first.”  The quote was probably not Churchill’s.  But on the Costa Concordia, it wouldn’t be the women and children that would cause him delay, it would be the captain and his officers.

Written by PJ Rice at

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