Feb 202012
 

I was reading my latest single-handing book last night, and came across a quote I really enjoyed. Bernard Moitessier was the first person to sail single-handed without stopping all around the world. Look him up in world records, he’s there.

He’s also a beautiful writer, and I highly recommend the book from whence this passage came, “The Long Way”, about his choice to continue sailing after he made his record, and not return home.

“I am neither happy nor sad, neither really tense nor really relaxed. Perhaps that is the way it is when a man gazes at the stars, asking himself questions he is not mature enough to answer. So one day he is happy, the next a bit sad without knowing why. It is a little like the horizon: for all your distinctly seeing sky and sea come together on the same line, for all your constantly making for it, the horizon stays at the same distance, right at hand and out of reach. Yet deep down you know that the way covered is all that counts.”

A view from aloft

Feb 182012
 

It’s amazing how time flies. We have worked our way through our 10 day maintenance period, and finally have a couple of days off. Yay! As promised, here is a little explanation about what we’ve been doing to our yard and foot-ropes over the last several days.

The yard extends from both sides of the mast, with a foot-rope hanging from each "arm"The yard extends from both sides of the mast; a foot-rope hangs from each “arm”

First off, a yard is a horizontal piece of wood that holds up a square-sail, and a foot-rope is a piece of steel cable that is attached at both ends of the yard, and hangs down from it. While sailors work aloft, we “stand” and balance on the foot-ropes.

As you might guess, that steel cable could become vulnerable to oxidation, being out in the elements all of the time. In order to prevent them from rusting, sailors have been worming, parceling and serving those cables (which also happen to be used for shrouds, stays and other standing rigging) for generations.

Down-rigged foot-ropes with intact servingsDown-rigged foot-ropes with intact servings

For this project, we did not worm, which is the process of laying tarred nylon line into the grooves between strands for the length of the cable in order to keep out moisture. We did, however, parcel and serve. Parceling is simply tightly wrapping the cable in greased cloth, again, to keep out moisture. The next (and funnest!) step is servicing. The end result of servicing is a steel cable with twine so tightly wrapped around it that it creates a barrier to the elements.

Our process, from beginning to end, went like this (some repeat photos in here):

1. Unwind old serving and parceling1. Unwind the old, brittle serving, and remove the dried out denzo tape (parceling) to expose the cable
Greasy denzo tape (used for parceling) and tarred nylon line is removed to expose the cable, which is inspected for rust and cleaned with a wire brush2. Inspect the cable for rust and clean it with a wire brush
3. Wrap the cable with greasy denzo tape. Be sure to wrap with the lay of the cable, and overlap each round by a third.3. Wrap the cable with greasy denzo tape. Be sure to wrap with the lay of the cable, and overlap each round by a third.
A "serving mallet" is used to aid the process of winding the twine as tightly as possible. The mallet is bound to the cable by the serving twine, and regulates tension as it rotates around the cable, paying out twine as it goes..4. Serve. A “serving mallet” is used to aid the process of winding the twine as tightly as possible. The mallet is bound to the cable by the serving twine, and regulates tension as it rotates around the cable, paying out twine as it goes.
"Worm and parcel with the lay; turn and serve the other way"“Worm and parcel with the lay; turn and serve the other way”
The mallet can be rotated by hand, or if you're good, you can get it to turn itself by swinging the cable like a jump-rope!The mallet can be rotated by hand, or if you’re good, you can get it to turn itself by swinging the cable like a jump-rope!
Fully served and ready to tarFully served and ready to tar
5. Paint the serving with a mixture of roofing tar, black paint and varnish5. Paint the serving with a mixture of roofing tar, black paint and varnish
6. Allow one day for the tar to dry and apply a second coat. Enjoy your newly parceled, served and tarred foot-ropes!6. Allow one day for the tar to dry and apply a second coat. Enjoy your newly parceled, served and tarred foot-ropes!

Check out these posts for more photos and explanations:
http://www.shesails.net/2012/02/parcel-and-serve-in-photos/
http://www.shesails.net/2012/02/detail-of-a-yard-in-photos/
http://www.shesails.net/2012/02/down-rigging-a-yard/

 

Feb 142012
 

I reckon there are two types of people in the world: those who prefer their work be an integrated part of their life, and those who would rather keep the two things separate. I undoubtedly fall into the first category, and I think this might be true across the board for sailors, certainly tall-ship sailors.

Tearing into a painful three-month long deck restoration!

Tearing into a painful three-month long deck restoration!

If you belong to the second category, you might see someone like me and wear a hole through your chin wondering why in the world I choose this lifestyle. The hours are long, the pay is low, the work is hard and sometimes dangerous. I have no permanent home. I get no benefits. I rarely get to see my family and friends, and I get hardly any time off. The one little space I can call my own is scarcely bigger than a coffin! And the only thing that is certain in my line of work is that something is not going to function the way it should, it will happen soon, and I’ll have to figure out how to fix it quickly with limited resources.

Okay, yes, I admit that sounds crazy.

We work way high up in the air, all day long!

We work way high up in the air, all day long!

I’m sure fellow tall-ship sailors can relate to the conversations I always seem to be having with caring and concerned family members. “This is crazy!” they say. “They’re working you like a dog!” And it’s true. When you measure my “job” by the traditional standards, I am a member of an exploited population. The difference is in the rewards that accompany the obligations.

What’s hard to get across to those on the outside is the writing between the lines, the experiences beyond nine to five. How can I explain the fulfillment I get from my work? It’s somewhere in the skills and confidence developed; the people I meet and the way we change each others’ lives. It’s in the faith-inducing vistas; the moments of fear followed by courage. And it is also in the long hours and the hard work, and the pride in a job well-done that follows.

As a team, we accomplish great things!

As a team, we accomplish great things!

Nobody asks a mother or father whether their children are worth the struggle, or questions a farmer for his commitment to his farm. We do it because we believe in it, and because it reaches deep within and lights up a part of who we are at our core.

Feb 132012
 

I had another first yesterday…my first day without a post since I arrived in Tasmania! Ironically, I was almost late for work yesterday because I was trying to finish a post about why the huge time commitment we sailors make to our boats is completely worth it. But then, I ran out of time and couldn’t post. :) Ironic, right?

Lowering the yardLowering the yard

That article is almost finished, but it will have to wait because yesterday was WAY too full of exciting things to report. We are in a maintenance period right now, not sailing for another 10 days or so, and we have a huge amount to get done in that time. One of the major projects is taking down one of our yards and servicing it. A yard is one of the horizontal spars (long pieces of timber) that square-sails attach to on square-rigged boats.

Alex spent all day sandingAlex spent all day sanding

We began our day yesterday a little on the early side, and got started right away prepping to bring the yard down. With some smartly placed lines, plenty of hands and a couple of windlass drums, it came down neatly and easily. Alex spent the entire day sanding it down while the rest of us took care of other projects. By 6:00 it was all sanded, and we had only to bring the 30-something foot spar to the workshop…several miles away. No problem!

Sarah brought her car with a trailer on back, but when it was loaded up, there was more of it hanging off the back than was on the trailer! No worries…three crew members rode their bikes alongside in a kind of motley sailor parade, and the yard got to the shop in one piece. At the end of a long day, there’s nothing like a ridiculous and slightly illegal project to give everyone a boost! We all had a great time, and that is one more check-mark on the list of to-do’s.

Towing the yard behind in a trailerTowing the yard behind in a trailer

Looking forward to the rest of the week’s maintenance, and I’ll keep you updated with all we do!