i_id: (Default)
The Lady Washington that I served aboard is made of tar and iron and fir and oak, but she is not a relic of the 18th century. She's a replica. Most tall ships still sailing these days are: The Lady, the Bounty (All three of them), or the HMS Surprise; all replicas of one sort or another.

The original Lady Washington was built around the 1750s, in Boston, at the time a British colony. There's no knowing what name she was given first - those proto-Americans kept horrible records. But in the course of the American Revolution, she was re-Christianed, despite the renaming of a ship being bad luck. But there was a war on. These things slip through the cracks.

Whether or not she was involved in the war, we don't know. I kind of doubt it. There is a Letter of Marque from the time for a ship named the Lady Washington, of her approximate size, but 'our' Lady Washington was a squat little thing, built wide and round to hold as much cargo as possible, and not the sort of ship to be privateering up and down the coast. In all likelihood, the only guns she boasted were a pair of six-pounders and a stern swivel or two to scare off small boats of nefarious intent, all four manned by only one gunner among her twelve-man crew.


Bos'un-gunner Sara touches off the starboard gun in its usual roar of flame and
smoke. Poor Sara, everyone else in the picture is wearing rain gear, but she's in
period-appropriate wool, kneeling on a rain-slick deck. Now that's dedication.
(Picture credited to Alabama Holman, the "Pixie Pirate.")

Our replica doesn't have six-pounders, but we do have a pair of threes, which throw up a fine enough blast, especially when you can echo it off stone walls or the glass faces of buildings. Prefabricated warehouses, also, toss back a perfect reverberation. We don't load shot, of course, not even for our ferocious battles with the Hawaiian Chieftain. (Not even when they fling moldy bread.) We judge whether or not a shot was true by the echo off her steel hull. You can really hear a good shot; the report comes right back to you, sharp and clear.
 
The battles were, in many ways, the best part of the job. Frantic and ponderous all at once, we put our two ships, nearly 300 tons between the pair of them, through their paces, spinning them around each other by changing sails, stealing one another's wind. Our captain's favorite move was box-hauling the spars, putting them at right angles to one another to effectively stop the Lady in her tracks. Chieftain, hot on our quarter, would be forced to fly right past, and all we had to do was swivel towards the wind to not only take a good shot at her stern, but take the weather-gage.


On the left, the Lady Washington heading towards the camera, and on the right, the Hawaiian
Chieftain in profile, approaching a buoy in very, very crowded Lake Union, Seattle. That little
electric boat in front of the Chieftain harassed her every time we went out to fight.

In a good three-hour battle, each ship would fire twelve to twenty shots, generally in twos (Although the Chieftain, with her modern deck layout and enormous bos'un and mate, could occasionally muscle all four of her guns down to her main deck to rake us with a broadside of four), wind depending. On a calm day, we might sit with our sails slack most of that time, trying to entertain three dozen passengers, all asking why our battle isn't more like the broadside-to-broadside cinematic fights of Pirates of the Caribbean.

Well, that's a movie, folks. At sea, real battle was slow. Two ships on the open ocean might take days, even weeks maneuvering for the perfect position. A chase could take you halfway from the coast of Spain to Brazil before you'd get close enough for a single shot. Very, very good gun crews might shoot three rounds in five minutes, but the wind was everything. And you didn't want to be shooting them while leaving your boat where they could shoot you back. You wanted to fire with your boats at right angles, either into their bow to take down spars and crew, or up their transom and hopefully destroy their rudder, their means of steering. Either one meant a disabled ship, with the right shot. Firing into their broadside, the best you could hope to do was kill a few crew and maybe destroy a gun, or maybe sink their ship, your valuable prize.


That's me, in my period costume and not-period (not flattering) safety harness, watching
the Chieftain try to take for position across Bellingham Bay. If I remember right, this
was a nearly perfect sail, sunny with a moderate breeze. Just look at those waves.
(The Lady won, of course.)

So our battles are not as exhilarating as they could be. We don't board, we don't damage, we shout friendly invective. ("Rufio! Rufio!" always gets a response, in the same cadence, of "Movie quotes! Movie quotes!") But we have three hours, not three weeks, before we have to set our spectators back on dull dry land. We want to give them a little taste, just a flavor of something real in our imitation.

[This post was written for [info]therealljidol  Week 12, and is part of a series of entries looking back at the time I spent last year on the Lady Washington. I hope you enjoyed reading it, and please come back for more. I also delight in explaining terms, so please ask away. Thank you for being here.]
i_id: (Voyager)
The tradition of setting coins under the mast of a ship is an old one, older than Rome. A sailor stands a good chance of dying without a grave, of never being buried. Never would a sailor be laid to rest near the graves of his family, with the ritual coin set under his tongue to pay for his passage into the afterlife. The coin under the mast is that coin, surety for the afterlives of all souls aboard. Under the foremast of the Lady Washington, in the hole in her keel for that sturdy timber, there are three such coins, one for each time the mast has been set in place.

Tar and twine. )

The Lady at her home dock in Aberdeen, WA.
The Lady Washington at her muddy dock in Aberdeen, WA,
sails all furled and flags flying, taken from the bridge above.



This entry was written for [info]therealljidol . More information about this part of my career can be found in this entry. Thank you for reading!
i_id: (Voyager)
On board ship in Astoria, or, Here's what you were missing in the foc's'l, Kris. )

This entry is nonfiction, and was written for [livejournal.com profile] therealljidol: Week 9: Marching Orders. Constructive criticism is always welcome, and I'd love to know if anyone is interested in a series of posts like this, detailing daily life on board a tall ship.
i_id: (Musical Ambush!)
The last month has been a busy one.

Five days of Disneyland is a fairly grueling holiday. But it is so worth it. We did everything. And then we did everything twice. Indiana Jones was the ride of preference this time, followed by (for me) Thunder Mountain Railroad. Sky, I think, burned herself out a little, but I know she'll be back, and happy to be so. (You addict.)
And Mom had fun. As in, glowing like a child fun. I think she pushed her physical limits, which is good for her. She didn't always keep up, but I don't think she felt left behind. She really loved the interactive rides like Midway Madness and Astro-Blasters. And I think she liked the Tiki Room, too. Oh, and Pirates. That's a ride that's just her speed. We did it at least half a dozen times. My beloved Space Mountain was too wild for her, alas. And for Bonnie's friend Tamy, too. But fun was had by everyone, and it was a fantastic time.
Next time (because of course there will be a next time), I'll schedule an extra day into the stay so there can be a day of rest in the middle of it all, a day to catch our wind, enjoy the hotel's hot tub, and rest weary, pavement-pounded feet. (Which reminds me; the toenail I destroyed there finally came off tonight, with a tug and sting.) And more time after, for recovery.

Which brings me to the other three quarters of the month. We flew back from Disneyland on Saturday night, spent that night down at Grandma's, and reached home before noon on Sunday. And Monday morning, after a night of wild packing, Dad and I took off South. It's a solid four-hour drive to Aberdeen, which is far out on the real coast, south of the Penninsula near the mouth of the Chehalis River. Gray's Harbor, named after the captain of the original Lady, is just downstream.
The Lady herself is moored in a half-built, rather shady park at the junction of the Chehalis, the Wiishkah, and Walmart, where the banks are objectionable but the rent is cheap. She was built here, though the old boathouse is now no more than a cement foundation on our pier. Our neighbors are a very stately heron, two harbor seals, three angry river otters, and a drug dealer.
I helped bring the ship here, just before Christmas, and here she's been ever since, under her first major maintenance period in too many years. The new engine, a Skania, is a big, beautiful thing now that the exhaust system has been wrangled into compliance. The new foremast is 40-odd feet* of Doug Fir, turned on a lathe that looks more like a hadron collider than a woodworking implement. It's gorgeous.
The seaport, our official home base, is a massive shop a few miles from the dock. It contains everything one could need to make a ship; tools beyond imagining, everything from the 100' lathe to a set of ancient and powerful sewing machines. It's also home to our offices, tucked away at the edges. It took me a few days to get to speak to our accountant about taking up my official job as purser, but I was kept quiet busy. Corset-stitching leather, soaking strops and footlines in raw pine-tar. Pine-tar, by the way, is glorious stuff. Thicker than chocolate syrup and just as smooth, it stays liquid in all but the most frozen temperatures. When it hailed one day, the hailstones falling into our out-back tar cauldron made themselves each a tiny cup of hardened tar before I could get the thing covered.
Dipping my hands into the tar was both pleasure and irritation; it coats seamlessly, perfectly, and warms at the very touch of sunlight. But scrubbing it off my hands to do anything else too easily half an hour each day, the abrasive orange soap undoing any benefit to my skin of the theraputic tar. And everything I wore, of course, has been forever changed. My poor Western hoodie.
I spent about a week there, mostly doing the small tasks that need no great skill or strength, but are nonetheless vital, meticulous, and time-consuming. For four days, I sewed leather chafe gear onto various pieces of what would become standing rigging. For two more, canvas. The night before we were due to put in the mast, Paul and I spent six hours nailing both leather and canvas to the trestle-trees, the tiny platform that joins topmast and t'gallantmast, very high above the deck, and to the cheeks, large wooden bolsters that brace that platform.
The day the mast went in was, of course, wet and breezy, both of which are an inconvenience when trying to sway a 3000lb, forty-foot-long piece of wood through a hole in our deck, a smaller wholein the foc's'l sole, and a still smaller, carefully-carved hole in the keel of the ship herself. But fit it did, with no disasters. Well, except that no one thought to track down a 2010 coin for the mast-step.
The mast, of course, was a very large step, but only a step. Once the lower, largest piece was in, we, with windlass and handspikes, hoisted the topmast and t'gallant, and then the three yards. Sails had to be bent on, blocks sorted out, and dozens of lines led over, under, even through each other and roved in their proper places, a long, long process of trial, error, and climbing up and down and up again.
During all of this, I was doing various projects, mostly at deck-level. I made three mast-boots, the canvas skirts that cover the join of mast and deck and keep rain out of the cabins below. One for valuable mistakes to learn from, one for the new foremast, and one to replace the shredded, 12-year-old boot on the incumbant main mast.
Aloft is stil a world of discomfort for me, but I did a fair amount of work on the rigging. I helped to seize the shrouds, the thick hawsers that run from the chainplates up to the foretop, holding the mast up side-to-side, once they'd been tensioned, and I spent hours in those same shrouds, twenty feet up, lashing fairleads for the foremast gear. All with seine twine, of course. The ship is held together with 60-gauge seine twine and rigger's tar.
About a week ago, we started hearing real impatience from our Powers That Be. And sometime between then and Thursday, word trickled to us that, instead of the Coast Guard inspection originally scheduled for Thursday (for which we had no chance of being ready), we would be going on our shakedown sail on Saturday, accompanied by thirty or so locals who had donated time, money, attention, or all three during this extended refit period.
We pulled it off, to all of our surprise. All of our square sails ran in and out with nothing horribly fouled. There were a few instances of hung-up sails or spaghetti in the rigging, but nothing major, or even that embarrassing. The Lady Washington is a sailing ship once again!

Sunday Update: Today, we went out again, with about half the passengers. Smoother still, even our MOB drill. And while it rained again, it was light, and we were prepared with our foulies beforehand. Tomorrow, we have our rescheduled Coast Guard inspection, and maybe, just maybe after that, the anticipation of a day-off.
In summary, I'm sore to my very bones, from barked fingers to smashed toes, I haven't had a day off since February, and I am still pleasantly floating from having gotten to sleep into 9:00am this morning. But for every complaint, I have at least two accomplishments glowing through my skin. It's a heady feeling.

And I have glow-in-the-dark stars above my head.

Monday Update! We passed our CG inspection with modest colors, and in reward, our boss is taking us all out to lunch at the Mexican place tomorrow, aaaaand we get the day off. A day off! A -whole- day off! Oh, and the boat is gleaming clean, inside and out.
i_id: (Default)
For the moment, we're right at the mouth of the Columbia. I can see the Pacific in the distance, if the weather's clear. Of course, if it's clear, it's too cold to be on deck looking for oceans.

We're moored at the Pier from Purgatory. Picture this: A wood-and-cement pier the size of a high school campus. At the shore end, a fish packing plant. A solitary begging sea lion. A huge, rusting exploration ship with an oil-slick boom wrapped around it. At the sea end, a rabble of tugs and small barges. In the middle, us.

The wooden parts of the dock are so rotten that the unwary foot (like mine) can break right through to the empty air beneath. Frost at night makes them look more solid, but don't be fooled. In many spots, scraps of plywood, particle board, or scrap steel cover gaping holes. In one place, a four-foot shard sticks straight up into the air, thrust there by some battering from beneath. The wooden underpinnings are just as bad, beams two feet across rotting out in the middles, growing grass and weed and even ferns. The pilings on the outside are breaking away, some of them as much as three feet from the pier, bobbing with the violent waves. Against this, us.

Coming in on Friday, the wind was blowing strong, rushing us against the dock. Our first meeting was painful, snapping our vulnerable sprits'l yard clear through the middle. It rather set a tone.

A hard pier does not rise and fall with the tides, as a boat does. So we're constantly having to re-rig our docklines, adjusting them for a four foot rise or a twelve-foot drop. And our boarding ramp, normally running politely and discreetly alongside us down to a floating dock, has to be rigged across the entire deck, up to the pier's massive rail. At lowest tides, it's more like a ladder than a ramp.

The weather is foul, too. Clear as a bell, most of the time, but with a bitter clear cold that robs the strength from your hands and makes a yawn into an ice pick through the throat. Frost thick enough to make a snowball. Saturday night, it snowed, a fine dusting that didn't even redeem itself by sticking. Today, the wind blew steadily at 30-50knots, shoving us hard against this horrible dock. Our fenders failed, one after another, and damage began to occur. Every meal was interrupted by having to rush on deck and fix something, adjust something, rasping our hands raw with frozen rope and climbing down into the perilously narrow, surging gap between boat and pilings to adjust, lash, evaluate. Finally, as darkness fell and we held lamps over our heads to help our crewmates, we changed tactics, trading out broken fenders and fenderboards for tires found on this garbage-heap of a pier, but too late. We've broken a chainplate, one of the underpinnings of the rigging that holds our foremast itself up. A more serious injury than the sprits'l yard, which in all honesty, we use maybe twice a year. If it can't be fixed here, we may have to limp home to Aberdeen without any of our foresails.

Pictures borrowed from [livejournal.com profile] emo_snal , respected crewmate.

(If you want me to define any boat terms, feel free to pipe up.)

Lady: Day 2

Nov. 6th, 2009 07:08 pm
i_id: (Here's Matt!)
Here I am, ensconced on the Lady Washington, at dock in The Dalles, OR at their shaky little "cruise ship dock." It's been an almost overwhelming two days since Dad dropped me off.

Yesterday morning, the boat was in Arlington, OR, 50 miles up the river. I'm being eased into the chores of shipboard life, but the crew has enveloped me already. The very first thing I did aboard was pick a bunk out of those available in the main hold, the room-sized room that serves double triple quadruple poly-duty as dorm, galley, dayroom, dining room, gift shop, and meeting room. There are better quarters available forward, in the capacious foc'sle, but I'm a few rungs down the seniority ladder for that. I'll get there. I move one step closer today, with a senior hand leaving.

We each get assigned to a watch, and rotate through projects, steering, or watch, which is when we stare ahead into the wind until our eyes water searching for bouys and floating logs. Half of the way down the river today, I alternated between watch on the bow and scrubbing brass with a tiny scrap of waxed wool.

And then all hands were on deck for the locks, of course. We passed through two of them today, at the John Day Dam and the Dalles Dam. They fall 105 and 80 feet, repectively, and their locks, though smooth, are unnerving. There is the feeling, as the water falls and falls and the walls rises above out mast-top, that you are being lowered into a grave.

The Dalles lock let us out right in front of the town, and so here we are. Some part of the crew is going out to a bar, but I'm staying behind to listen to Carrie (the crewmember who's leaving) read Conan aloud in the foc'sle. My hands are burning from the day's wet rope, and I haven't yet made it up past the futtocks, but I feel good. I'm learning the ropes.

Away I go!

Nov. 4th, 2009 12:53 am
i_id: (Here's Matt!)
Hiatus time, oh god! November 5th through December 21st, 2009.

The thing is, I am moving out to sea. Not The Cruise, but certainly a cruise. I've been granted a position on the Lady Washington, Official Tall Ship of Washington State, there to be a seagoing bookkeeper and wrangler of tourists. I get to wear a great costume, learn sea shanties, scramble around in real rope rigging, and once and for all eradicate any fear of heights. I also will be learning tons of stuff for The Cruise, like navigating by sextant and splicing rope and handling a ship (though the LW is many orders of magnitude larger than any boat I will ever own) in open waters. Good practice, good experience, good opportunity all around.

Downside! This is a period sailing vessel. Her rigging is tarred manila rope, her sails are canvas, her hull is wood, and the only thing wireless aboard her is... everything. You think they used wires in 1730? No internet. While we're on the Columbia, I maaaay have coverage on my aging uberphone, which means I'll have AIM for my downtime. Keeping my fingers crossed here. Otherwise... Ya'll will hear from me sporadically.  The ship's schedule is here, if anyone wonders just where I am.

The best way to get in touch with me is my phone's email addy, which is ockette AT tmail .com and you all know how email works. AIM is the same as it's always been.

I'm also doing NaNoWriMo. 6500 words and counting. I hope to reach 12000 before I reach the boat, which will be very close to the farthest I've ever gotten on NaNo. You NaNoers can find me on that website as TheHats, where I'll be updating whenever I can make it ashore to a hotspot.

Anyway, I'm going to have an awesome time. I'll miss the interwebs, but you know I'll be back.

RPwise:

Clair has figured out that the werecurse ended with Halloween, through she still has dead samples of the werepathogen in her blood. So she's come home. They will keep her busy for some time, as she tries to figure out if they can be used as a vector-virus to carry her drugs. She will share her findings with Otto, of course, and Eiko. And to a lesser extent with Doctor Grey.

Clair[fused] will be staying at home, having finally convinced her Norman to take a break from the corporate-political world. They're doing fine, and her shoulder is healing nicely.

Some, having gotten himself exorcised from the ghost world, is staying home to get over that particular trauma, and is fully occupied in cleaning up after Halloween, taking his sons to school, eying Nyoka's magical experiments nervously, the last of the harvest with Jon, and conducting a fuller exploration of the world on which he lives. Maybe he'll find fire lizards.

Doctor Cockroach is... I'm very sorry, Eek, I've dropped the ball. He's going to have to go back to Bikini or something for the time being.

Narrows pups over here.

I think that's it. Any questions, email at the above addy will get to me faster than commenting here. I'll post about the trip and nano and everything when I can, and we'll see how it goes.

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