Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Landlubbers, Gods strangest species
Pictures: My friend being accosted by a pirate but she soon got the upper hand! Don't mess with this pint size gal! Then there is a picture of me (not so pint sized :-) ) this was taken on formal night on the aft deck (you can't tell but the wind was trying to spit me out to sea).
It seems a long time since I wrote but I see it was only a week, so much can happen in a week! I have been dealing with a family emergency and now last night we have another, kinda feels like we (my family and I) are in the tenth round with the great boxer Ali. I know we will make it but man what a beating!
Among the drama, and at the urge of my family, I did go on a cruise. Things had calmed down a bit on the home front and I really could not cancel on my friend or she would be going alone. So I left out of Galveston on this big monster of a boat. Frankly, I did not think I'd like it, I didn't think I'd be able to feel the ocean on such a beast, but happily I was wrong. The ocean was there in all her glory, the sea life so abundant, the water so blue. I loved walking around on deck and even found a beautiful quiet corner where I could look out onto the sea(we nicknamed the spot "Erika's nook"). At night my nook was very dark, so star gazing and ocean watching was perfection. I am very rusty with star gazing, I couldn't spot the southern cross (should of been low on the horizon) and I couldn't even be sure about identifying the major constellations for that matter (a shabby sailor for sure!).
The boat was filled with landlubbers, I can't say I ran into anyone who just wanted to be with the ocean, they mainly swam in the pool and hit the casinos...landlubber are a strange lot and I will never understand them! I tried to tell someone who had stopped by my nook to chat about the phosphorescence at night. She just gave me a blank stare and a frozen smile. Funny, I could see her mind working, forming an escape plan from this obviously demented person who talked of glowing sea animals and glittery trails behind the boat..yep I will never understand landlubbers.
The friend that went with me was a perfect traveling companion. She loved the casino, so after dinner and the nightly show I would head off to my nook and she would go have fun at the Blackjack table. It gave me my needed alone time with the sea and she was just as happy on her own as well. We are already planning our next trip :-).
It was very strange to cross the Gulf in such a beast. To be a spectator instead of a participant, very strange indeed. In many ways I was fighting the feeling of being a traitor, or well, that is not quite it, really it was a feeling of doing something beneath me..I had no idea I was such a sailing snob! That feeling though was quickly replaced with a feeling of being spoiled and pampered, and after the last week of drama I was feeling like a wounded bird seeking refuge, and that big beast of a ship was just the refuge I needed. Every morning I would get up and go to my nook with a nice cup of tea, sit cross leg on the teak deck and watch the sunrise, is there anything better than a sunrise at sea? No I say!
Some sealife encountered on the gulf crossing aboard the beast, we also saw the standard dolphins and lots of sagrasso seaweed (spell?)
I love PMOWs ever since I saw one sail up a wave on a close reach - no kidding the things can sail!
The squid I saw at night as it surfaced for some reason. It was a very strange creature and took me a while to figure out what the heck it was.
Below is an excerpt from an account of an Atlantic trip with a psycho crew and a close encounter with a cruise ship, maybe it will explain my conflicting feelings towards the beasts of the seas..the cruise ships that is.
The Psycho crew from hell
In my twenties I was first mate on a 37 ft sailboat from Texas to St. Thomas, s/v Parrothead. In Miami we picked up an additional crew for the Atlantic run down to St. Thomas (to make 3 total on board). I did not get good vibes from this guy, he seemed a bit strange, but my captain wanted an extra hand for offshore. We crossed the Gulf stream and the Bahamas without much trouble and left out the Northeast passage heading due east out into the Atlantic to catch the trades south. The first night offshore the new crew member took the 11 to 3 watch. Linda and I were down below sleeping and the new crew was on his watch. At about 2 am I woke up from a bad dream and could not shake the feeling of danger. The boat wasn't “creaking” right, nothing was really wrong..she was just sailing a bit "off". After a few minutes lying there listening to the boat I decided to have a quick look on deck. As I walked towards the companionway I noticed the crew member who should of been on watch SLEEPING in his bunk. Now, with a feeling of urgency, I bounded out into the cockpit. I looked off the port beam and there, less than 150 yards away, was a Cruise ship. At the angle the cruise ship was traveling she was going to graze our bow with her quarter. I grabbed the helm, yanked hard to starboard and fired up the engine. I punched the turbo diesel full throttle. In my haste (read panic) I forgot about the sails and nearly ripped the mast off jybing but she is a stout boat and took the hard blow without damage to the rig. It was such a surreal moment and my brain kept trying to deny what was happening but at the same time the moment I saw that yahoo sleeping in his bunk I knew that a ship was about to run us down, I knew it down to my bones. The captain rushed out on deck to see what the heck was going on but no explanation was necessary once she saw that huge wall of white hull behind us. In the traffic jam of thoughts going on in my brain I wondered if there was anyone at the helm of the beast and would they even know if the props chewed away at our beautiful sailboat? how cold was the water? the dark black water. The captain and I both stared forward away from the bright lights of the ship as if urging Parrothead forward, I was a little afraid to look back. Even at full throttle we were nearly sucked into the cruise ship’s wake/prop. I could feel the lift of her stern as the ship edged closer and closer in spite of our mighty little engine working double time, but at last we made head way and soon cleared of the monster. Once we got the boat back on course and got our heart rate down to a cool 150, we woke up and confronted the new crew. When the discussion about proper watch keeping got uh er a bit heated (read we chewed his butt off) he began to rock back and forth and made a growling noise, seeing this odd behavior stopped us dead cold and we decided to back off and let it go (we may of been a bit slow but we were not stupid). His behavior got more strange the further we got off shore. After another near collision the very next night Linda and I took over all the watches and we tried our best just to stay clear of him. He mainly hung out in his bunk (rocking and growling).
Now let this be a lesson for all you captains out there, TAKE NOTE: When interviewing a potential crew member remember: a little strange behavior on shore makes for psycho behavior off shore.
As any good sailor would, my sea stories usually focus on hardships and near death experiences. Landlubbers hearing these stories always look at me as if I were crazy and then would ask why the heck I'd go out into the ocean. But it is amazing how one fleeting moment of the true beauty of being offshore can completely eclipse hours of being wet and tired.
Once in the Atlantic, with seas off our beam, my boat fell off an especially large wave into a trough. In the trough, we were surrounded by a wall of deep blue water about as high as the spreaders (beautiful!). Anyways, it was a bright sunny day, we fell off this big wave into a trough, and off my beam in the wall of the next wave is a 20+ ft pilot whale. The whale was above me looking down into the cockpit, and I was looking up at him into the wave. He was maybe 15 feet away, running parallel to the boat, his head even with the cockpit. I had the pilot whale’s complete profile from nose to tail and our eyes met! Never in all my imagination would I of thought I’d have to look up to see a whale. That is the great thing about the ocean, it defies even my wildest imagination, God sure knows how to dazzle this sailor gal.
There is more to that story, a fierce Atlantic storm and the boat sprung a pretty bad leak, all the while dealing with a seasick captain and a very disturbed crew member, but I haven't had time to write it all down (I thought I did but can't find it). Anyways, my love affair with the sea began when I was a baby in Hawaii and to this day she still captivates me, how blessed I am to have such a love.
Boat projects are kinda on hold but I am still working on the bow anchor roller and still a bit confused about the choice between HT and BBB. Sailors I respect have differing opinions on the merits of HT and G3, I'd love to reconcile myself with 1/4 HT and a larger anchor but don't know if in the end I want to be a pioneer in anchoring techniques, I will leave that up to someone else..maybe.