Christmas in July
Less than a week after my spring semester ended, I was on my to Newport, Oregon, to what would be my home for the summer—the tall ship the Lady Washington.
Now, several pirate festivals later (by the way, we’re not pirates, probably the most frequently asked question---we’re a replica of the original Lady Washington, which was a merchant sailing vessel and the first American flagged ship to sail around Cape Horn in the late 1700’s), I’ve found myself a little tanner (or maybe that’s just dirt), and a little more knowledgeable about how to sail a 18th century vessel with over 6 miles of line.
I’m currently sitting in a café in Westport, Washington. Looking out of the windows I see the ocean and the Hawaiian Chieftain and the Lady Washington waiting to embark on another open ocean transit. As per the weather report, it should promise to be a rough one too. The motion of the Lady Washington has been described to be like a belly dancer. A less romantic description refers to her as the “Vomitron”. There are three kinds of sailors—ones that have been seasick, ones that will be seasick, and liars. I remain in the middle of the three groups. But, I’ll let you know how well I fair after the next three days on the open ocean.
I’m enjoying my first official day off since I got on board in the middle of May. After working 12 to 16 hour days, seven days a week, I am fully appreciating this opportunity to sit down, and make a list of all the things I want to do today. Because really, if you know me well, you know how good I am at “doing nothing” and “kicking back”.
So far, working on the boats has been great. My cooking skills have vastly improved; preparing three meals a day for 20 people is one of the best crash courses in cooking I could ask for. Here are a few of the many things I’ve learned over the past two months:
-Small red peppers should not be added to ANY dish by the DOZEN, and then blended up.
-There’s a very good explanation for why ice cream for breakfast is generally frowned upon. (About two hours after the fact, dealing with public becomes increasingly difficult, and all you get is a bunch of sailors who need to take a nap.)
-Sailors (men in particular), need their mommy.
-Sometimes you just have to go to church in pants that have hand prints on the butt.
-A once a month shower is okay.
-It’s possible to “grow” your own gloves, “build up” your own shoe, and acquire your own unique perfume.
In addition to cooking, I’ve taken on the role of attempting to ward off “boat plague”. In order to accomplish this, I’m taking a “naturopathic” approach—lots of vitamin C, tonics and elixirs consisting of flax seed, cod liver oil and chlorophyll. This ties in well with the point I made earlier about sailors just needing their mommy sometimes. Basically, I really think there’s something to these drinks and all the essential oils, incense, and other hippy-dippy stuff, physiologically. But honestly, I could be giving them water with food coloring, and just tell them it would help, as the biggest benefit comes from the feeling that someone, just like your mom would do, is taking care of you. Placebo effect, but it’s more than that. It’s the warm fuzzy feeling you get from being tucked in at night, and from a bowl of warm chicken noodle soup. Anyway, I have this little menu of drinks people can pick from, one of which is called the “Green Drink” (for good reason). I made it for one of the women on the boat, and a little bit later in the day she came up to me told me that she thought the drink had made her breasts bigger…??? I haven’t experienced similar effects, and have been drinking the “green drink” for some time now. Regardless, by the end of the day, I had several more requests for green drink, as well as one very concerned male sailor. He (I think jokingly) said that for the next couple of days he took a tape measure to his bust line just to be sure. The placebo effect can physically manifest itself in interesting ways, so who knows…maybe I’ll end up with a crew of boat plague free, but busty, sailors…
One of the things I like best about working on these vessels is getting the chance to visit all the quirky little port towns we stop in. Most of the towns we dock in, I’ve already been to via land. But, stepping into these towns, from a replica of a 18th century tall ship, as a tall ship sailor, is a COMPLETELY different experience, and sooo cool. In the majority of the towns we’ve been to, people automatically recognize us as tall ship sailors. This may be because the town is so small they know everyone in it, and just put two and two together (the tall ships are in town + I haven’t known this person since I was in the second grade = they must be from the boat). Even more likely it’s that special odor tall ship sailors seem to maintain. It’s a mixture between pine tar, garlic (particularly if you’re the cook), and afore mentioned shower issue. I’d like to think that we just radiate this “from the sea” pheromone. It seems more idealistic then just saying we smell bad.
Here’s some of the miscellaneous adventures/cool things I’ve had the opportunity to do since getting on the tall ship this summer:
-I’ve completed in a curling match, wearing my period sailing clothing
-Shot off three- and one-pounder guns
-Crossed the Columbia River bar twice
-Watched a whale surface between the Lady and the Chieftain (much cooler if I had got a photo of it) while we were crossing the bar
-Participated in the First Salmon Ceremony with the Chinook Indian tribe as well as taking part in a reenactment/trade with the Lady Washington Crew and the Chinook
-Purchased about five carts full of groceries AT LEAST once a week
-Made 12 pies in one day
That about empties my head for now...