Maintenance has been such a busy time, I’ve been too busy and tired to do much writing. Thank god for the camera! It’s another bunch of photos today, and I promise soon I’ll explain all of the terms I’m using: mousing, foot-rope, flemish horse, parcel, serve, serving mallet, chafe gear, servicing. Until then, enjoy some more photos of one of yesterday’s projects: parceling and serving the lower topsail foot-rope.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
Looking forward to the rest of the week’s maintenance, and I’ll keep you updated with all we do!
Yesterday at around 5:00, after a nice full day of maintenance projects, our Captain, Sarah, walked aboard the ship with an air of purpose. She asked one crew-member to run an extension cord onto the fore-deck and another to bring her mallet. In one hand she carried a medium-sized bundle filled with chisels; the other held a circular saw. She headed for the jib-boom.
Not every sail-boat has a jib-boom. It’s a long spar on the bow that attaches to the bow-sprit (also found only on some rigs), whose purpose is to extend the length of the head-rig to allow for more sail area in the headsails. Our jib-boom is an enormous piece of timber with a small section of rot on its in-board end. I think Sarah has been eagerly awaiting the day when she could tear into that bit of rot to see how extensive it was. Yesterday was the day.
The crew, all of us already engaged in little tasks, slowly and quietly put down our tools and projects, as if in a daze, and moved towards the foredeck as we realized what was about to happen. We’d all been eyeing the jib-boom for a while, and talking a little excitedly amongst ourselves about the impending project. We’d been waiting for this day too.
Without fanfare, hesitation or any visible pre-thought, Sarah pulled the trigger of that circular saw and pushed it across the upper half of the spar. Slice after slice she cut, delicately pulling back the guard with her perfectly manicured fingers to allow the blade to reach the wood, then plowing through it like it was nothing more than a stick of cold butter. I guess when you’ve thought about something long enough, once you finally start it, you just don’t need to think about it anymore.
After she put about a dozen parallel cuts into the “northern hemisphere” of the jib-boom around the rot, she took out the mallet and chisel and went to work. The whole crew stood by watching, mesmerized, and wishing we could take a whack at it too. Maybe at some point. On this boat, skills (and trust) are developed slowly and methodically, and getting to work on a project like this would be a privilege for any of us. For now, we’re content to gather round and watch a master at work.