Jul 292012

Having a new home every 3-6 months can be hard. The process of upheaval and resettlement is physically and emotionally tiring. I’ve been doing it for a little while now, and I thought it’s time to start taking notes to make the process as pain-free as possible. Here’s what I have this time around:

-Re-read “West with the Night” by Beryl Markham*. Whether going somewhere new and unknown, or returning home to normality, Beryl has an insight or two for you.
*This may be substituted with a memoir by any obscure and eccentric adventuring character from the early 1900′s.

-Don’t plan to drive to upstate New York the first day back after car has been sitting for six months. Oil change, fluid checks, tire pressure, deep clean inside/out, and the new alternator will require at least a day.

-No less than four days to fully rediscover and repack breadcrumb trail of belongings stored throughout New England. NO LESS THAN FOUR DAYS.

-Find yoga mat, old journals to flip through, and a pretty dress that has been packed away for a while ASAP.

-Plan for a full week for family visits, and another week for friend visits.

-Schedule a dental checkup ASAP.

-PLEASE remember that the adventure does not end when you get to New England. There WILL be a re-acclimation process, it WILL take some time, it WILL be more difficult and confusing than you expected. It WILL pass. A week of no-pressure R&R by the ocean somewhere couldn’t hurt.

-Amidst all of the little errands and visits with the people you love most, don’t forget to include a healthy dose of alone time and beer (not necessarily together). This will help you recover more quickly.

All in all, for a happy, bases-covered return home, it looks like I will require about three weeks, some plans with family and friends, some places to go for solitude, and enough money for an oil change, a dental cleaning and a bunch of gas and beer. Done, and done.

Jul 042012

Working on tall ships, you get all kinds of visitors, all the time, with the strangest of talents. This week a somewhat “famous” relief Captain and former crew-member of Windeward Bound, Dirk, came around to say hello and help out while our Captain is away. He’s recently back from the Bark Endeavor’s Australia circumnavigation, which took just over a year. And now he’s here to teach us about wire seizings. And we are excited.

What makes a wire seizing exciting? Well, first of all, you get to use one of the most awesome and important tools known to traditional riggers throughout the world: a STICK with GROOVES in it! Yes, I know I’m sounding sarcastic right now, but I’m 100% serious. Check out my post on parceling and serving to understand how this simple tool so easily and perfectly guides and tensions the wraps of twine that we sailors use to protect steel cable. We used a serving mallet in that post, but here, Dirk is using a serving board to tension and wrap wire around two shrouds to hold them together.

The other reason that learning about wire seizings is exciting is because it is just one more thing that we can all add to our tool kit of riggers’ and sailors’ skills. With visions of the sloop Clearwater dancing in my head these days, every new bit of knowledge I acquire is like a little stash of potential that may come in handy once I start my job.

After dangling about the rigging over Dirk’s head for twenty or so minutes sticking my camera in his face, I wandered over to the foredeck and spied his bag of tricks. With permission, I opened it up to look through and I am again not joking when I say that I actually BLUSHED at how nice his tools were. Inside were a variety of fids, spikes, blocks, mallets, serving mallets, serving boards, a hand-made seam rubber, a bit of leather in the shape of Montana, and some beautiful tools whose exact purpose I can’t quite figure out.

Thanks for the education and inspiration, Dirk!


Jul 012012

It is nearly six months since I arrived in Tasmania. The intense and challenging voyaging season is over. The sea-sickness is but a memory, with people suddenly coming out of the woodwork assuring me that Winde in particular sends her passengers to the rail more than other ships. I am rested, encouraged, just home-sick enough, and I have a job!

ClearwaterIf you’ve been keeping up, you might remember a few posts ago, I wrote about my top choices for employment this fall. The Isaac Evans, Sultana and Clearwater were tied for first place, and I was recently hired as Bosun on the Sloop Clearwater for the fall season!

I’m really excited to be sailing on Clearwater, for many reasons. The first is its environmental mission. The Clearwater Organization was started in the mid-sixties by American folk-singer Pete Seeger in order to build environmental awareness about the Hudson River, which at the time was very polluted. The sloop was launched in ’69 as a symbol of environmental stewardship and teaching tool for young students. Clearwater continues its environmental mission today, with multi-faceted programming, not limited to the work done on the sloop. I was raised as an environmentalist, and I look forward to using my science degree to teach about something that is so important to me.

The second is the music. As I said, Pete Seeger started the organization, and continues to be involved today. For the last six months I’ve barely picked up a guitar, and it’s the longest period I’ve spent without almost daily music practice. I’m really looking forward to joining a ship whose history is intertwined with music.

The third is the Hudson River! So far I’ve sailed around the islands of Maine, some harbors in Massachusetts, the Eastern Pacific of Southern California, and now the Southern Ocean, but I have no inland experience! I’m looking forward to learning about inland rules of navigation, and putting everything I’ve learned in my Coxswain’s course to work.

Finally, I’m excited about the rig. After a square-rigger and a bunch of schooners, three sails is sure to feel sparse, but every ship has her own secrets to share, and I’ll be glad to get to know a new rig. Sometimes the simplest things in life are the most enjoyable.


Jun 162012

Thank you to the really awesome staff at some un-named eye place in Hobart that gave me a free eye exam so that I can get my Coxswain’s license even though I’m broke as a joke. Already completed First Aid and Marine Radio Operator’s courses, just have the Deck, Navigation and Diesel Engines courses to go! Four weeks until I am US-bound…

May 162012

It’s almost exactly two months away from my return to the States! That’s still a loooong time, but the part of me that loves to plan has already started scheming my next adventure. I’ve been haunting the sail-training and yacht crew websites for some time now, and shining up my resume.

This has been my desktop lately:

My desktop as of late

You can see my list of potential employers. Some of them are new to the list — the Oliver Hazard Perry is a new and still uncompleted build that will be Rhode Island’s flagship — and others have been on my list for years now. SEA (The Sea Education Association) does scientific research and sail-training aboard tall ships in the open ocean with college students, and have been my dream employer for a long time (although all of this sea-sickness has me second-guessing a bit). Employment with SEA is pretty competitive, but once you’re in, it seems like dependable seasonal work year after year, with good benefits. They’ll be hearing from me again this year, but until I have licensing, my chances with them are small.

My availability this season is somewhat limiting for work in New England– August 1 through the holidays — but I’m confident that something will work out. My favorite picks right now are the Isaac H. Evans in Penobscot Bay Maine, the Clearwater on the Hudson River, and Sultana in the Chesapeake Bay. And then who knows, maybe the Caribbean or back to Australia in the new year!