Imagine, if you will, a ship at sea. At a distance, it could be Jason and the Argonauts, or the Flying Dutchman, or even Captain Ahab. By the cut of its jib as it looms out of the mist, however, it seems rather to be a sieve, such as that in which the Jumblies once put forth. On the poop, sextant in hand, his grizzled features set in Churchillian grimace but instantly recognizable by the ancient Connecticut watchcap which tops them, stands—no, not Walter Mitty—but Hexter the Navigator. As a veteran of many earlier voyages, real and imaginary, he has a longer memory than his shipmates. He thinks this is a Liberty Ship, and he is trying to chart the course laid out in the sailing instructions, originally constituted by a long line of sea-lawyers and perfected by Victorian hydrographers. Right forrard, another ancient mariner, of the kind the lower deck calls Three-badge Killick (a leading seaman of long service who has never made it to Petty Officer), swings the lead. He is Plumb. In the crow's nest, bo'suns Tawney and Hill stand watch with their mates Stone and Thompson. As boy seamen long ago, they, too, were brought up on the old sailing instructions; but having, before the present voyage, served in capital ships, they consider that they have progressed far beyond such common lore. So wise are they indeed that they are convinced that this, too, is a Capital Ship, which, as everybody knows, can only sail forwards, and can therefore have only one destination. In the rigging, the rest of the fo'csle hands, a rabble of cabin boys and greenhorns press-ganged in 1968, who have barely passed for able seaman and still need the old guard to show them the ropes, likewise scan the horizon for the inevitable landfall and keep a weather eye open for that ill-omened denizen of these waters, Namier's Albatross. The intrepid helmsman, however, just as young but experienced beyond his years, knows better. Apprenticed to a line of tars that stretches back to old admiral Clarendon, he has learnt his craft the hard way, at the rope's end, and he has very little use for the sailing instructions of Liberty Ships or the great circle routes programmed, rhumb line by reductionist rhumb line, into the automatic pilots of their capital counterparts. He is Revisionist, a most unteleologic Ulysses, content (the journey not Ithaca's the thing) to sail his narrative barque (Narrenschiff?) before the winds of change for ever. Only one thing jars this whimsical homeric simile. Proof though he is against Circe and her reifications, our Ulysses has still his achilles' heel. Perhaps because he has come up through the hawse-hole himself, he has occasional bouts of nautical nostalgie de la boue: like Bertram, the sociologist of the sea in “Dry Cargo,” the Navigator's hoary parable on Doing History (another time, another voyage), he itches to pull on a pair of footnotes, go below and sample the bilgewater which, this being after all a sieve, slops around the hold.