Monday, January 10, 2005

Elettra: Looking at the sun

January 8, 2005, 1000
DR position 25º15.5’N 082º36.5’W

This morning during my Navigation I used the Sextant, an instrument used to calculate the degree of the sun from the horizon. I was able to look directly at the sun. It was perfectly round and trembled with fire on the surface. It was situated at 31º from the horizon. It appeared so manageable and safe but without the instrument to protect the retinas, it has the ability to blind. What adrenaline to think of how dangerously close you are to harming yourself and what genius invented such an instrument to be able to see such beauty. There is a similar instrument used for celestial navigation but this one can only be used at dawn and dusk when the horizon and the stars can both be seen.

“The past is there. If it’s not in my memory…I guess it’s not important to remember,” says Andy, the First Mate, to Prof. Pyle, about the whole Blogging ‘business,’ as I sit at the Galley table and type my Blog. But recording is just as important as living. We move through life using and then throwing away. But I find recording for others to remember and utilize our experience is a duty. It is a duty because it is what advances our species and enables each to have a head start when embarking on a journey such as this--it is like bidding ‘Bon Voyage!’ or more appropriately, it’s like writing a modern White Jacket.

During times at sea, life is limited to the bare essentials. There is no room to hang up clothes or take a bath. But it is the moments that really make this life. Moments today when we were raising the topgallant yardarm, such as when Michael was up on the main mast helping to actually place the yardarm; Anna climbing up on the rigging; mopping the Galley floors; the crew painting on deck; Lucas singing shanties at the helm; singing in ‘Bozens,’ the tool shed; Ralph cooking pancakes for breakfast; the generator shutting off and remaining in the dark for several minutes; Bearded John (another crew member) sitting on a swing-type chair off the side of the boat trying to screw a bolt into the wood; and unfortunately also having Jamie, another crew member, get hurt when the ‘strop,’ or rope strap, lost its life and flew in the side of his head, near his eye.

The sea is a copycat because it always wants to reflect everything above it, the stars, the clouds, my reflection. However it distorts all this while it sustains it. It never wants to leave anything out, unless the land takes over. It always changes; its changes are told through waves and it changes because it doesn’t want to be attached to anything but it swallows everything. It is hospitable with the fish and it attracts men of courage such are sailors and surfers, only to disintegrate or swallow them up. How many contradictions inhabit the seven seas...

Tomorrow morning we should arrive at the Tortugas around 300 or 400.
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posted by Elettra

Nino: Third day


This is the third day of sailing. I have not seen land all day and it looks beautiful out here. The weather continues to be excellent, as does the food. Today I got to go aloft and set a sail. I thought that I had gotten over my fear of heights, but being up there pushing the sail off the yard certainly argued the opposite, at least for a moment. Once I figured out where to hold on, I began to enjoy the view from up there. During work party, which is when we have sailing lessons with the captain, we got to try some maneuvers. We did a box haul, which is when the boat does a tight turn when trying to avoid collision. I like these exercises in ship handling; with each one I feel more and more comfortable with the lines. I am also settling in the routine of my watch. It feels good to have a set job at all times even when the job is to sleep. We have eight hours of sleep and four hours for napping, so I feel rested. I am starting to, at least superficially, get to know the crew, the different personalities on board and the way they work together. It is interesting to be around people with such different backgrounds who have all dropped what ever they were doing to come and sail. While I love and appreciate everything that comes with this lifestyle, I must confess that I could not give up school for it. I am starting to love this ship. It is a beautiful creature.
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posted by Nino

Natalia: Sunday

A day fabulousooo today. A day of doing--woke up at 3:30am to stand watch, strike sails, scrub the deck, and navigate safely into the Dry Tortugas bay. Cindy and I spent about two hours, just laying in the sun, at the helicopter landing pad, looking at the sea, talking about safety on board a boat, marveling at our pirate-looking boatie, but secretly dreaming of the Robert C. Seamans. Snorkeled for the first time in my life, walked back and forth on the fort wall, and then saw the most gigantic fish I’ve ever seen, about 2 meters long, 40 centimeters diameter (Sorry, I still think in meters.)

A cool fact of the day - the birds, which come to nest every year at the Dry Tortugas, fly for 3 years across the ocean, without seeing land, from the Tortugas to Africa. They fly and fly, eat fish and enjoy the ride. They sleep in their flight. And so, I too am off to sleep in my flight. Am I flying to Cuba? Perhaps. Cuba, only 90 miles away, is the closest mainland. Maybe, we get to dance salsa if the winds shift before it’s time to set sail tomorrow.
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posted by Natalia

Cindy: Hooked on snorkeling

So for the past five days we have been peacefully sailing along the coast of Florida and learning the ins and outs of square-rig sailing. Pretty exciting stuff. The differences between this boat and the Robert C. Seamans are infinite. Probably not going to go into it here, next one, though. This morning we arrived at the Dry Tortugas where we docked briefly and then set anchor offshore where we will stay until sometime tomorrow (I think).

Today was awesome! We spent all day on the beach swimming and wandering around the old fort. How many of you know that John Wilkes Booth was sewn up by some equally famous imprisoned doctor at this old brick fort?! The islands are called the Dry Tortugas because there is no fresh water on them. I spent the first part of the day wandering around the island and talking with Natalia (the other SEA alum—S-191) about all of the differences between the two experiences and how wonderful they both are separately but also how they will never be comparable because the only thing that is the same between them is that both the Bounty and the Seamans are ships. We talked for a long time and reminisced about SEA. When we had covered pretty much all there is to talk about, we migrated to the beach and continued to walk some more, eventually into the water. The Dry Tortugas are located inside of a coral reef. Towards the afternoon, Charlie (one of the crew) came and took me snorkeling. We saw a barracuda and a giant Carribean lobster and a whole bunch of other gorgeous fish that only appear in National Geographic photographs. I am officially hooked on snorkeling.

Anna at Dry Tortugas

Sunday, January 9th 9 pm

I have just spent a beautiful day on a remote island at the southern tip of Florida known as the Dry Tortugas. During my morning watch, from 4-8 we successfully maneuvered our ship into the dock before the rest of the tourists arrived by ferry or plane. The island is the strange, beautiful place completely isolated from "civilization". There is no fresh water (hence dry) and there is no land in sight, the closest land is Key West 70 miles away, the next is Cuba which is 90 miles away. There now stands Fort Jefferson which encompasses most of the island. Along one side of it there is a small beach with amazing crystal clear water where we spent the day exploring the fort, soaking up the sun, and snorkeling. The snorkeling was absolutely incredible, I have never been before and the fish I saw, including 4 barracudas, a blowfish, a Caribbean lobster, and countless others, simply blew me away. As I sat on the beach I could help remembering that it is actually January and how miraculous it is that I am able to be enjoying this beautiful weather. This evening we went on a lamp-lit tour of the fort and learned much of the historical background of the fort and its role as a military fort in the 19th century. This has been a long day and I am quite ready for bed, first a quick lesson on pumping the bilge – pumping water out of the bottom of the ship – and then I’m turning in for the night. Tomorrow we set sail for Key West!
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posted by Anna

Chris: Sunday

After sailing back and forth all night, we hauled up our sails and motored into Fort Jefferson to deliver our tourists and beach bums. The approaches are fairly treacherous in the best of weather, and are marked only by telephone poles stuck in the sand. The first three or four are mere stumps, run down by ships that did not see them in the night or fog. There are at least 400 shipwrecks around these coral reefs.

Today was for touring the fort, relaxing on the beach, and snorkeling in the shallows. Tomorrow the students will pay for their leisure when the captain teaches them how to raise the anchor and five shot of heavy chain by hand. A shot of chain, in case you didn’t know, is ninety feet long, so it will take us half the day to bend on a line to the chain, run the line aft to the capstan, and haul the chain up section-by-section, switching the line each time the bend reaches the capstan. Nicole and two other women on the crew are hauling the huge line up the gangway and onto the deck now.

At the moment we are anchored a half mile off the leeward side of the fort. The spanker is set, so the ship is like a giant weather vane pointing into the wind. She is a grand sight from the shore, even without her foretops’l and foretopgallant mast and yard. From the white coral sands beside the fort it is easy to imagine her off Tahiti or Pitcairn. The original Bounty was built as a merchantman to carry coal – i.e. a collier. This one is one third larger than the original, and more like a six rate (small) British frigate. Indeed, she is a lot like the Australian replica of Cook’s bark HMS Endeavor.

Between us and the fort is a broad band of shallows, rich in sea life of all kinds. The crew has loaned us its snorkeling gear, and at least half of the students have been cruising face down over the shallows spying on the fish, lobsters, and giant turtles. Rose, our official photographer, is using Andy’s underwater camera right now. She is a surreptitious observer; the fish will never know she was there.

I went ashore with the students this morning, armed with three cameras, plus apples and snacks. Sometimes I feel like a Japanese tourist; other times like their mom. But four hours on the beach was plenty for me. I need to read or write something, and I can’t do that in the sand. So I returned to the ship with B watch in the Boston whaler that serves as our gig.

Tonight the students will go ashore again for a candlelight tour of the fort run by a costumed interpreter.

In a previous post I mentioned that the captain and a volunteer had built a new mizzen topmast from lumber bought at Home Depot. I’ve decided that this is the original Home Depot ship. Everything is done economically, which is essential given how expensive tall ships are. Even our esteemed chef Ralph buys his cooking utensils from Home Depot. His potato masher, for example, is a giant drywall mixer. Had Home Depot existed in the nineteenth century, maybe the age of sail would not have ended so soon.
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posted by Chris

Carly: Saturday 1200

The seas are getting rougher. Not bad, but you can certainly feel the boat rocking back and forth, and the creaking of the boards and the sloshing of the water against the boat are the sounds that lull you to sleep at night. Last night we were hove-to so we were on watch for only one hour. On my watch from 2145-2245 I was once again reminded of how amazing and different me being on this boat is from the life that so many live and that I have lived until now. Outside the wind was blowing at about 10-15 knots and we were simply drifting, with nothing as far as we could see. There was a pod of dolphins surrounding our boat with their babies jumping and playing and catching the flying fish that forget that dolphins are amazing jumpers. It was just unbelievable to see so many dolphins, had to have been at least 10 jumping and swimming together. I really have gained an appreciation for being out here. The constant wind on my face and the sun beating down, it’s really beautiful on the water. In the world that I normally live in there are new things to see everywhere, when driving, when walking. It's all very fast-paced and high stress; everyone needs to be somewhere quickly and never stops to appreciate what is around them. However out here we really have time to look around and appreciate everything that is around us. I also am appreciating what I am missing back at home, everything that seemed so everyday and normal. Life out here on the water is so different; seeing a boat or anything out on the horizon is a joyful sight, a reminder that we aren’t completely alone out here. I have a better understanding of the camaraderie out here and how they truly are like a family and there is a bond that I don’t know if it can be duplicated in a normal fast-paced world on land. Many wouldn't trade the sea life for anything. However, I am beginning to realize that the general consensus of coming out here is running away from something, whether it be the daily grind or a fear of committing to a life that might not be fulfilling in one's mind.

We reach the Dry Tortugas tomorrow and are spending the day and night anchored there, leaving at daybreak on Monday. Seeing land will be a welcome sight. The feeling of blue all around you makes you feel so small and insignificant. I'm learning navigation yet I'm still having difficulty grasping how one can steer through miles and miles of blueness and get from one point to another. Today we have another hard work party ahead of us, hoisting up yards about 50 feet up. Another night and morning of sore muscles will await me, however I can't forget the reward. Sailing and getting to a destination I'm sure will be truly rewarding. Seeing the fruits of our labors is always a welcome sight.
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posted by Carly

Technical note

FYI for readers: The team has been sending their posts in batches, so the day and time shown for each post is not necessarily when it was written. You might run across a post that was written earlier but posted later than another post, making them appear to be out of sequence.
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posted by Bill

Chris: Saturday

On Saturday we raised the main to’gallant yard, which is like hoisting a 35 foot long log 85 feet into the sky. This black log carries a furled sail, numerous hanks of rope, and assorted wires. The halyard was wrapped around the capstan and the students walked it round. It was clear to the captain and me that the yard was rigged to go up upside down, but we said nothing, waiting to see if the crew would figure it out. Eventually, after a little prodding from the captain, they did, and lowered it back to the deck for re-rigging. Then they hoisted it again, up past Anna who was standing on top of the main yard to guide its rise, and up to Mike and others standing on the cross-trees. It rose to the top of the topmast, and then suddenly dropped about eight feet, swinging in towards Anna. She never flinched, and stood by her post. It fell because a strop, used to hold a hauling block (pulley) to the bulkhead, broke, giving one of the crew a severe whack in the head and sending him below for an ice pack. Our hero of the day was Mike, who seemed totally comfortable working at the top of our highest mast, wisely clipping on with his harness, but otherwise fully absorbed in his tasks. He is greatly admired by all. But he was up there with Megan, a first-year student at Smith and a member of the ship’s crew. She not only wrestled with the errant yard; she filmed the exercise for us.

According to the captain, sailors in the Queen's Navy could lower and raise a yard in nine minutes. It took us over two hours to hang this one aloft, without reeving all her lines to the deck. So this Bounty is not ready to return to naval service. Has too good a sense of humor, anyway.

After dinner--another triumph by our good cook Ralph--the first mate Andy reminded us of the contract. The crew would bring us to the Dry Tortugas, we and they would sail us to Key West, but we will bring them home. That means that our group has to select its own captain and mates and learn all the commands for working each mast, as well as navigate. Curiously, our group is more confident of its capacities to do both dead reckoning and celestial than to work the ship, although that was before tonight’s maneuvers in the dark. They have each received one-on-one tutorials in the chart room for the past three days.

We raised the Dry Tortugas at about eight p.m., a faint glow in the southern sky. Our permit to land is not until 8:00 a.m. Sunday morning, so we sailed back and forth all night. Night time is the best time to learn the ropes, because we have to find them in the dark. On the 12 to 4 a.m. watch we wore ship four times, clewing up the fors'l, setting and dousing the main and mizzen stays'ls, and clewing and unclewing the spanker.

The lighthouse on Loggerhead Key flashes every 20 seconds. On the port tack at night it was about 20 degrees off the starboard bow. On the starboard tack it was about three degrees off the starboard fantail. These islands lie so low on the horizon that it wouldn't take much of a tide to wash them away. Ponce de Leon dubbed them "Las Tortugas," after sea turtles he slaughtered here in 1513. The old conquistador was searching for a fountain of youth, but there are no fountains of any kind on these shoals. If you want fresh water, or any other libation, you must bring it yourself. The Park Service makes this emphatically clear. Smokey is not a St. Bernard.

The harbor here is dominated by Fort Jefferson, one of the largest forts ever built on the American coast. Begun in the 1850s, it was promptly rendered obsolete by advances in naval gunnery and a dearth of foreign predators. Like many military construction projects, however, the absence of enemies did not deter Congress, and construction continued well after the Civil War. Were the fort not here, no one would visit but birds and turtles, and the Park Service rangers would be even lonelier, and drier, than they are now.

The bulbous guns of old Fort Jefferson were never fired in anger. During the Civil War its walls were used to house Union deserters, and afterwards Dr. Mudd, who was exiled here for setting a bad actor’s broken leg. Mudd performed so well during a yellow fever epidemic that he was paroled in 1869.
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posted by Chris

Anna's third post

Saturday, January 8th 11 am

The wind has picked up as of last night and the boat is rocking a bit more, which is very nice for sleeping at night, and so far no sign of seasickness for me (knock on wood).

We are making good time and were able to furl the sails, turn of the motor and “heave to” for the night – basically we just drift. This meant that we did not need a full watch crew but only 2 people on watch at anytime so we all took turns doing one-hour watches in pairs instead of our regular 4-hour watches. This means extra sleep for everyone (yay!) and also that there was time for many of us to watch Treasure Island (with Charlton Heston) last night which features our very own Bounty. It was so cool to see the same ship on the screen that we were standing on at that moment.

Just before going to bed last night we saw a huge group of dolphins, large ones and baby dolphins, swimming right along side the boat and feeding on flying fish. There must have been at least 15 of them, it was impossible to tell as they were all moving so quickly, but I did see one big group all come up for air at the same time.

We did a lot of practice turning the boat around yesterday to try to understand how the wind and direction of the sails affects us. It was quite a workout hauling all the different lines so many times but I think I am beginning to have a better understanding of where most of the lines are.

It is lunchtime soon, and having slept through breakfast, I am hungry. It looks like macaroni and cheese – I’m excited.
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posted by Anna

Nicole: “look ma, no hands”

16’10

A ship is never still. It is an ecosystem unto itself. There are people about at all hours of the day and night. Some are on watch, some struggling with celestial navigation, or finishing Melville, some learning knots, many laughing, most exhausted. When under sail, once the sun goes down we live by red light, below the weather deck so as not to ruin our night vision above deck. Flashlights are forbidden on deck unless absolutely necessary, for the same reason.

Last night we struck sail at midnight, which is to say we took down the fore and aft sails in the dark. (The fore and aft sails are not square but triangular and they run from bow to stern, as opposed to perpendicular to the ship, hence the name fore and aft.) This was an excellent exercise. First there is the matter of finding the line you need in the dark. When this ship is fully rigged she carries more than ten miles of line. Much of that line must pass through someone’s hands in order to maneuver the boat. I was terrifically proud of our girls, as we found what we needed in the dark, hauled it down and coiled the deck after. Nothing like a little aerobic exercise just before bed after 20 hours awake to knock you out.

This morning the wake up fairy came at 07:15. The wake up fairy (complete with wand made from a piece of wood and a Christmas package bow) is someone from the previous watch who visits each bunk of the oncoming watch and rouses us for duty. That person tells us the time, the weather on deck, and any pertinent information about what has or is about to occur. With that we rise, take our breakfast, and twenty five minutes later we are on deck, taking the ship. This morning I got five minutes and then heard the call, “All Hands to furl the main topsail.” Oh hell, that’s me. So I ran for a harness and eight minutes after waking I was fifty five feet above the water, standing on a foot rope that was swinging in the force 3 breeze, bent over the yard arm swimming for sail (for y’all who have no idea what that means, it means I was laying on my stomach over a big long wooden pole that holds the sail, reaching down and grabbing at what I could reach in an attempt to take the wind out of what was left of the sail and roll it up underneath me.) I did a “look ma’ no hands” (maman, I was clipped in) and howled out to the rising sun from the top of the world. Then I descended and took my cold tea and soggy granola.

This morning we docked in the Dry Tortugas. It sounds like a chain of islands but in fact it is a series of small bluffs that peek above the waterline, one of which is occupied by Fort Jefferson. The whole area is a National Park, barely large enough to run aground on. I spent part of the day on the beach, covered in green clay as a remedy for the sun plague that has spead across my face. The rest of the morning I spend underwater, snorkeling for the first time. One of the crew, Brian, was a dive guide in the Florida Keys and he pointed out and named all manner of wonderful creature. We saw lobsters and blowfish, coral and zebrafish, and even some barracuda. The water here is a fantastic blue, turquoise in the shallows and sapphire in the depths, complete the picture with sandy white beaches.

Nicole

Nicole: Saturday

10’45

I think it’s Friday. No, Saturday. It’s easy to forget. The watches change, the sun rises and sets, we sleep and wake, and there is little need for names of days, though the hour is still quite important. When I am below deck I find it surprisingly easy to forget that we are underway. The gentle rocking has become so much a part of my world that I have forgotten its existence in the way that one forgets the solidity on the ground beneath ones feet when on land. Experienced sailors will laugh and know that this means we have had fair weather and calm seas. When foul weather blows in the ship is sea-stowed and everything not in use is lashed down to prevent it becoming airborne.

So, back to what we are learning. It is true, our learning here, for the most part, is not academic in a textual sense. But life is not lived in texts, it is lived in the world. Strictly speaking, the goal of a liberal arts education is to produce well rounded human beings, capable of both thought and action. The ability to analyze texts and scribble coherently is only one part of that balance. Theory without practice is a daydream, a kind of sophisticated amusement for intelligent minds. Please do not misunderstand me, I respect academia, and on my better days fancy myself a scholar, but a whole soul this does not make. As students, most of us read over five thousand pages a semester, and write between fifty and eighty. We huddle together in hundred year old buildings as the seasons change, around tables with papers scattered about us, we touch heads in labs, reading measurements yielded by state of the art tools, we live work and play within the confines of an extraordinary microcosm, and when we graduate, we believe ourselves to be educated. In many ways this is true, and that sort of education is a gift, both as it pertains to the people we become, and the opportunities that are made available to us. But by itself it is incomplete. Here, we are in the world in a vastly different way. It is an animal world, of gravity and grace, wide open to the wind and waves, full of wonder and experience so rich it peels back your skin and shows the steel beneath.
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posted by Nicole

Nino: Work party

The days are filling up so quickly that I am writing the fourth day entry on the fifth day. The most exciting thing to report is the work party. Every day each watch has two watches and a work party. This far we had only had sailing theory and some exercises, but on the fourth day we were assigned the job of helping the crew raise the topgallant yard. We actually got to use the capstan, which can almost be described as a round revolving table. After a small accident of a piece of rigging falling down and hitting a member of the crew and giving him a concussion, we calmly went back to work. We are about twenties miles off of the Dry Tortugas and I must admit I am excited to see land again. -Nino

Nino's second day

Second day, and we have set sail. We have been simulating an electronics failure all day and have been doing all the navigation without the GPS. My day started at 4am, which is my first watch. I got to see the sun rise and be on the watch that opened the main sail and the foretopsail. I have started to get to know more of the crew today as we settled into our watches and I must say I like the crew, they are a fun bunch. Today was not as sunny as yesterday but it was a nice day, warm weather and more wind. I am going to have to dedicate the last potion of my blog to the cook. Ralph, the cook, has managed to make each meal better then the last; and as I am a member of C watch, the eating watch, I appreciate it a lot.
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posted by Nino

Nicole: A moment of glory

16’14
Today we received the first whispers of wind. We are on a port tack, which means that the windward side of the boat is the port side, and that the yards are braced to reach forward on the port side. The wind has been sufficient to shut off the motor, which is a blessed thing, as it lessens the noise on board considerably. The generators below us still groan on ceaselessly, providing power for our 21st century electrical needs, among them the nav lights that indicate our presence to other vessels in the darkness. Under sail we are managing a staggering 3 knots, give or take. For those of you who are unfamiliar with sea terminology, that is painfully slow.

I am greatly impressed by the assembled group of young women from MHC. I was proud to see Elettra, who is terrified by heights, out on the port yardarm yesterday, 50 feet off the deck, furling sails and looking brave. Cindy and Natalia have been working on their celestial navigation skills, taking sun sights and making calculation that are beyond my ken. Maria is a gem, always smiling, always willing to help. Allsion is a bit sore, due to the fact that she tumbled down the companionway this morning, a maneuver which deposited her in the fore crew quarters, quite close to my head. On the topic of soreness, I cannot believe how shaky my legs are. I had expected my shoulders, arms, and hands to protest the new workload, but their soreness is nothing compared to my upper thighs and calves. Climbing is easy, but descending is another matter entirely.

21’10
The little wind we had today has quit us entirely and we are drifting at less than a knot, but at least in the right direction. I am mid-watch and have just checked the boat, a task that someone on each watch performs every half hour. No fires, no gurgling or gulping in the nether regions of the ship, no fuel or water leaks, check. Pumping the bilge is daunting for anyone unfamiliar with pumps and valves, as there is an entire wall of them, of varying colors and purposes, and a mistake can burn out the motors for the pumps and who knows what else.

Today my moment of glory came when I sat on a pile of line under which was stowed a fire extinguisher without its pin. The damn thing went off like gangbusters and a caustic white powder coated the lines and the area underneath and around them, which included two lashed barrels of linseed oil. We used the shop vac to clean it up (more 18th century technology), but in the morning I will move everything, mop, and coil the lines. I wonder if they usually store the extinguishers under five hundred feet of rope, but perhaps they simply ended up there after our combination fire/man overboard drill this afternoon.

When we set out on this voyage there was some consternation among the scholars within our academy, and the skeptics within our families. “It will be a wonderful experience,” we said. “But what will they learn? How much academic credit will they get? Is this scholarship?” they asked. Their questions made me think of one of my favorite quotes that I first discovered on an outward bound journey of long ago.

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, pitch manure, solve equations, analyze a new problem, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

More on that later.

Last night I dreamed of phosphorescent whales and dolphins swimming around ship and as far as I could see, singing night songs and leaving trails like comets in the heavens.
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posted by Nicole

Megan's second guest post

Megan Folz
HMS Bounty Guest BLOG
01/07/05
1641

Someone once asked me what is the best thing about living on a tall ship. Actually a lot of people have asked me that. I believe that the best thing, the most important thing is that you learn how to live with other people. There is a camaraderie amongst a crew that can be experienced in few other circumstances. As a crew you work together, live together and socialize together. These people become your co-workers, family and friends. When you leave, you loose all of these at once, and it has been one of the hardest things that I have ever had to do. The same person told me that they always pictured sailors as independent and separated from each other in some way. I was surprised at this, and told her so, because it is so far from the truth. People that have come and sailed with us have told me that they are amazed at the amount of cooperation amongst the crew and guests. We practiced evolutions today, and even I am amazed at how everyone works together. It is a proud moment when everyone on deck is hauling a line, sweating, pushing themselves, bringing out a strength that surprises even them, all trying to achieve a common goal. Sailing is teamwork at its extreme. We must trust ourselves, and trust each other even more.

01/08/05
1800
I was thinking yesterday and today about what I said about trusting ourselves. Really, I didn’t say very much or even anything at all, but thinking about it and watching people over the course of the trip so far has really made me realize how much of our lives we spend in our “comfort zone”. At one time or another each one of us is presented with some situation in which we feel awkward, uncomfortable, uneasy etc. How do most people deal with that? I guess that some of us reach that comfort zone and become so afraid that we run back before we even fully understand the situation. Others reach the edge and decide that that is enough and never actually step outside. But how many actually jump? How often do we say, “Oh, I wish that I could do that, or had done that” or whatever, but when we are presented with an opportunity, we run away covering our fear with excuses. “Oh, I can’t really do that because of blah, blah, blah.” But once you jump, you find that the ground is actually right under your feet, and it wasn’t as bad as you expected. And then we begin to understand where we are and are able to deal with it, and we jump again, maybe a little further, maybe a little less. I have always loved taking people up into the rig for the first time. People are always so unsure of themselves, so afraid that they will fall. It is just a step at a time, one ratline, one foot in front of the other. I have actually talked people through each step, “ok, now put your left foot here…” But in the end, when they reach the fighting top, there is always that great sense of accomplishment, even though they might not want to stand up. As you take people up more and more they eventually begin to realize that if they just don’t let go, if they just allow themselves to trust their hands and their feet and their own strength (most of which they didn’t even know they had) they are fine. Andy is talking to everyone right now and he brings up the great words of Irving Johnson at exactly the right time. “We didn’t have harnesses back then. We just didn’t let go, it would be stupid to let go.”