American Literature of the Sea and Great Lakes

STEAMING TO BAMBOOLA: THE WORLD OF A TRAMP FREIGHTER (1982). In his author’s note to Steaming to Bamboola, Christopher T. Buckley (1948- ), son of William F. Buckley Jr.,* writes, “The ship, the people, and the events are real. The names of the ship and her crew were changed.” Buckley’s book reveals his vision of America’s seafarers during the Vietnam War, misfits of the late 1970s and early 1980s who go to sea to escape problems on land. He shows us the alcohol, drugs, sex, and violence of their lives as they work aboard the fictional tramp steamer Columbianna in America’s “Fourth Arm of Defense” during those turbulent years. His view of the ship’s crew is marred by his attention primarily to deck personnel; we see very little of the men in the engine room. The character sketches of the crew are interspersed with short studies of some institutions (Sailor’s Snug Harbor), leading personalities (union president Paul Hall), and history connected with the U.S. Merchant Marine.

James F. Millinger