The following was a conversation between myself and the informant. The topic was on nautical traditions. I will be labeled as MH and the informant will be CP.
MH: So what is it about the phrase “the captain will go down with its ship” ? It is always said in movies and books, but is it a real thing ?
CP: It absolutely is a real thing. There is a sense of pride for the captain. The ship is your ultimate partner at sea. Yes you have your crew, but the thing that keeps you safe is your ship. She shelters you, gives you a pace to sleep, a place to eat. And most importantly your ship is what lets you sail the seas freely.
MH: So the captain going down with the ship is a sense of duty to the ship?
CP: Sort of. Letting the ship sink alone is a sad moment. But also, the captain is the last person off the ship, well a good captain at least. For safety reasons, the captain is in charge of the ship so he is also in charge of evacuating the ship incase of emergency as he knows it best. Because of this, it ends up that in a lot of shipwrecks it is too late for the captain to escape by the time all crew and passengers are off.
MH: So a good captain remains on the ship, and a poor one jumps ship early and lets people fight for themselves? What if the captain has a family?
CP: Pretty much. But a good captain will also view the crew as family and he is in charge of their safety and making sure they get home to their families as it is his job to get the ship from A to B safely. A good captain would not be able to go home to his family knowing he did not do everything to save his crew.
The informant was a yacht captain for his whole life, like his grandfather. He grew up on the water and he says it is the only way of life he can accept. And he maintains that even though he loves his kids more than anything, he would have to go down with his ship if it came to that as that’s the promise he made.
The informant is a family member of mine, and we had the conversation over dinner while I asked him about odd nautical traditions.
A I can see how there is a sense of duty to the ship and to the crew. It does make sense that the leader goes down with the ship. I think initially the tradition sounds antiquated and dramatic. But when hearing him explain the reasoning behind it makes sense. Simply based on evacuation the procedure, if the captain is the last person to evacuate he can’t always make it off the ship in time.