Strength from the sea; poetry, too

Carrier Carl Vinson carries on tradition of New Year's poetry

Navy tradition holds that the first entry in a ship's deck log each year must be in verse.

The tradition began at least before World War II. Maybe longer ago. Even naval historians are unsure.

Some of the poems are preserved in anthologies by various ship associations. All are kept in official archives along with the rest of the logs.

Some are in rhyme, many in free verse. Riffs have been known on Edgar Allan Poe. Some of the poems done when a ship is at its homeport show a certain wistfulness at standing watch on New Year's Eve while other people are ashore frolicking.

For the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson, the poetic task fell to Quartermaster 3rd-class Jonathan Lee Wenrich, of Philadelpha.

From its homeport at North Island Naval Air Station in Coronado, the Vinson is now in the northern Persian Gulf. Its warplanes are striking Islamic radical targets in Iraq and Syria.

Navy regulations insist that the log entry note the location of the ship and the condition of the sea. As such, Wenrich's entry notes that the Vinson is in the gulf "under a waning moon with many a star to be seen."

Wenrich studied at the University of the Arts before joining the Navy. His poem carries a Longfellow-esque tone of discipline and patriotism, reading, in part:

Through heavy winds

and pitch and list

our thoughts encompassed

by those we miss.

As hours turn to days

and days to months

we think of the place

we came from once.

We think of the people

of our country.

We think of how thankful

we are to be free.

As we continue to send

Strength From the Sea.

The final line is an English translation of the ship's Latin motto, Vis Per Mare.

Twitter: @LATsandiego

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times