Once in a while, I get some mail from readers that tends to make me want to expand on the subject.

One recent inquiry is from Barbara Ann Darling, (a nice name) who listens to all the sounds of the island and can hear tide changes through the sounds of the waves. She also hears the sounds of children playing in the surf.

She says her husband, a career helicopter pilot, can, without looking up, identify the various makes and models of the Coast Guard, the University of Texas Medical Branch, and offshore oil aircraft.

She has listened to the various deep, throaty emissions from what I assume are cruise ships. One long one ... three short ones.

She asks, “is there a language like Morse code that they’re speaking? I love my sounds and want to understand what I’m hearing. Hope you can help.”

Can anybody out there explain them for her? My email address is on the column.

My one and only beautiful daughter has visited on tug boats and says, yes, they’re talking.

The same day there came an email from Truela Rogers of La Marque (another neat name), who writes that she enjoyed the article about the appropriate names of hymns and adds her own contributions:

Police hymn: “Let There Be Peace in the Valley.”

Insurance agents’ hymn: “Higher Ground;” egotist’s hymn: “How Great Thou Art;” taxpayer’s hymn: “I Surrender All;” magician’s hymn: “Love Lifted Me;” daycare worker’s hymn: “Silent Night;” military hymn: “Wherever He Leads I’ll Go;” and, the general’s hymn: “We’re Marching to Zion.”

“This was a fun exercise,” she said. “Thanks for the challenge!”

•••

I’ve been attending meetings of the Community Advisory Committee for years and years. I was one of the original members. For years I’ve written about the programs and the ringleader, José Boix, who has always mentioned my columns, even when I don’t write.

And occasionally, I don’t write because the program will be a praise report on a single industry or company. Something the newspaper would call an advertorial. Something I call a “puff piece.”

I make an exception this time because the Marathon annual report, delivered again this year, contained something of particular interest.

Their beautiful, slick-paper, full-color magazine, which tells about the hundreds of Marathon facilities all over the country, has a cover which was photographed in Texas City.

It’s a purple gallinule, a coastal bird which was spotted in the local Marathon’s little wetlands installation. A tribute to the plant’s ecological caring.

It’s beautiful.

Cathy Gillentine is a Daily News columnist. She may be reached at cathy.gillentine@comcast.net.

(1) comment

Miceal O'Laochdha

Kathy, you can tell your friend that there is indeed a code for the sounding of commercial ships' whistles. Here are a few: 1 short for passing to port, 2 short for passing to stbd. 5 short blasts indicates danger of imminent collision course. 1 continuous blast of whistle and simultaneously, ringing of the general alarm bell indicates fire or other emergency requiring crews to assemble at their emergency stations. 7 short and 1 long of both whistle and general alarm bell is the signal to crew to abandon ship. 1 long blast of the whistle is used when a vessel is ready to get underway from the berth. Periodic short blasts of the whistle while underway at sea indicate fog sufficient to restrict visibility. This is accompanied by placing the engine order telegraph on "Standby", which requires the either the Chief or First Engineer to personally standby at the engine throttles and reduce the engines from full sea speed to a specified RPM. Periodic sounding of the ship's bell at the bow and simultaneously of the gong at the stern is used when the ship is at anchor in heavy fog in close waters.

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