Writing 101: Ship Scenes

OK. I’m behind again. I’m trying to work through this Writing 101 challenge (again). I tried it before when I was at work and just could not keep up. Real life is once again interfering with my time in the blogosphere.

I’m doing the best I can but ya’ll are going to have to just bear with me. 😉

So, today I’m working on the assignment for Day 2. It’s actually Day 7. 😦

The assignment is to write about a place, describe a setting. They ask you if you could be anywhere you wanted to be, where would you be ‘right now’?

I’m having a hard time winnowing that down. I could imagine myself at the top of Macchu Picchu or chillin out in Ubud. I could put myself under the sea on a dive in the Great Blue Hole off Belize or the atolls of the Pacific Ocean. I could imagine myself at home with my family when I was growing up in Florida or sitting around the gangway on my old ship with some great friends.

But I think I’m going to go with a cruise. I can hardly remember a better time than I spent as a kid on those sailing ships. I had such a great time. It was such a fantastic adventure.

Yeah, I was probably my usual self at the time, bitching about having to holystone the decks on Sundays or having to do laundry by hand. But I’ve very rarely had as many awesome, intense, all encompassing feelings of exhilaration and pure joy. Of just being fully and completely ALIVE and in complete harmony with myself and my surroundings.

I remember sailing on the Ariadne across the Atlantic Ocean. We left La Gomera in the Canary Islands and sailed for Martinique in the West Indies. We had a couple of weeks to make the trip.

The Ariadne was a large, 3 masted schooner. She carried a German crew and a few passengers and our entire school of fairly rowdy teenagers. I was 16 at the time. I remember long lazy days split between classroom, projects, and learning the ship.

I remember lying in the itchy, rough manila net under the bowsprit. Looking out for ships, weather, loose containers or anything else of interest. I would cheer on the dolphins as they sped along with us. No sound but the bubbling champagne rush of the sea along the sides of the ship and the waves lightly slapping the bow as the ship sliced through the slowly heaving blue-green swells.

The sun shone brightly in the perfectly clear, china blue sky and made the infinite depths of the ocean glow with stars of vividly bright patterns in so many gorgeous colors: neon green, canary yellow, turquoise, violet, wine, maroon, and purple.

Not too hot and not too cold. The days were warm and the sweat dripped in my eyes as I worked to sand down the pinrails.The nights held a chill, just enough to appreciate my wool watch cap. The winds were fair and powered us along at a steady rate as we worked the ship to get the best speed we could out of her with sails alone.

The winds brought the smell of salt and seaweed, yet it was somehow so FRESH. Sometimes the light, clean, crisp smell of rain and dew in the mornings. We would find flying fish dead- or almost- along the bulwarks sometimes, as we made our way forward to the galley for breakfast. We collected them for the cook who might fry them up for us or pass them on fresh to Whiskey the ships shaggy grey and white mutt.

Breakfast was served family style with fresh bread, butter and jam. Ham, cheese, eggs, fruit and milk (while they lasted). Helping the cook wash the dishes and prepare the meals was another way we passed the time. Peeling potatoes was a daily chore, everyone liked french fries. Hot and salty, crispy on the outside and nice and fluffy inside. Just perfect, every day. 🙂

We spent 4 hours on watch divided between helmsman, lookout duty and odd jobs. Then another 4 in school tending to our studies in Math, English, Cultural Studies, Oceanography, etc and things like Celestial Navigation, Marlinspike Seamanship, Sailtraining, etc. The shipboard schedule was the same as the traditional worldwide merchant fleet: 4 hours on, 8 off, 24/7.

Night watch in the middle of the ocean is like nothing else. It’s just amazing to see the black velvet sky, awash with those STARS like blazing diamonds. Nothing else around you. Occasional sounds of a creaking line or a sail luffing in the wind. The ship is dark except for the running lights which are purposely made as so not to interfere with your ability to see at night. Listening to the soft hiss of the swells as they pass down your side as you gaze in awe at the night sky.

Tweaking out the constellations from the abundant array of twinkling stars normally masked by the bright lights of town is a challenge. Remembering the stories of those star clusters is another way to keep your mind at play. Acting lookout is a wonderful way to calm yourself. You can take the time to really THINK.

It doesn’t surprise me at all how many famous artists (writers) were seaman at some point in their lives. There’s just something about it. “It gets in your blood”. I’ve never had another adventure like that one. I’ve been hoping to ever since.

I’ll never forget it.



One thought on “Writing 101: Ship Scenes

  1. I enjoyed your story, it was very colorful and expressive. The visuals you created in my mind were illuminating. However I think you need to cut out the flab from the beginning. That was your thought process about the challenge and has no place in the writing. You’re article was moderately long and I almost stopped reading after the first few sentences as I got bored. But I persisted and glad I did; others may not be so accommodating. If you need/want to discuss the prologue of the task then put it in the commons with a link to your post. Ultimately that will get your post more views.


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