O is for Oceanics- #AtoZChallenge

O” is for the Oceanics. That was such a fantastic experience! I’m so thankful I had that opportunity at such a young age. It really did change my life.

The Oceanics was a really special school. It was run by Chick and Stephanie Gallagher out of their apartment in New York City. They somehow managed to round up small groups of students and a few teachers and send them off on round the world adventures aboard various chartered square-rigged sailing ships.

I see a few organizations today trying to do something similar. Not the same tho, not gone long enough, not the right kind of ships, not the same atmosphere. I’m sure they’re still great experiences for anyone who is able to attend. I don’t think there’s any better way to create a confident, competent, creative, cooperative human being than the way they did it at the Oceanics.

Spending months at sea working together to sail the ship from point A to point B. Learning every aspect of how to do the job properly, we earned a sense of a job well done and self esteem. It takes a lot of teamwork and trust in each other to sail a square-rigged ship. Running up the ratlines to furl the sails in a squall with the wind howling and the ship rolling needs to be an immediate response with all hands on deck. Ask the worlds navies why they still use sailing ships as training vessels, they understand.

The ship was just one aspect of the Oceanics. Captain Jespersen was our sail training master. We spent time with him every day learning the names and functions of all the rigging and sails aboard. We sailed the ship from Pireaus, Greece across the Atlantic to Martinique. We spent our time aboard in school, taking regular classes in math, science (oceanology), world history, cultural studies, local languages (Greek, Spanish, Russian), literature, etc. We also learned seamanship, navigation, and how to take care of the ship.

We all stood watch when we weren’t in class. The traditional 4 hours on, 8 hours off. Standing lookout and tending the helm. In between, we kept busy sanding, varnishing, washing the decks, painting, tending to the rigging, splicing line, even helping the cook peel potatoes.

My favorite time aboard was standing lookout on the bow. Watching the dolphins play in the bow waves on a bright sunny day. Seeing flying fish popping out of a wave, to spread their ‘wings’ to fly across the waves before dropping back into the water. Picking out the constellations in a starry, starry night sky. 🙂

I can’t express how truly awesome it was.

And then, when we got to port we could go ashore once we were off watch. Or we might all go ashore together for an adventure. We spent a few days on the Greek island of Agistri hunting octopus for dinner and playing soccer on the beach. I spent a few days with a family in La Gomera (Canary Islands) improving my Spanish and learning more about the locals.

We sailed the schooner Ariadne across the Atlantic to Martinique. On arrival we had a well deserved break on the beach. A few of us hitched our way up the island to hike up Mt Pele. I still remember the deliciously sweet pineapples we had to snack on.

Ariadne

Ariadne

We left the Ariadne in Martinique to fly into Caracas and our South American adventure began. We had been studying Spanish since we left Italy. Now was the time to put it to use. Our plan was to travel from Venezuela to Bolivia, we would figure out the details along the way. We got into some really cool, out of the way places. 🙂

Plenty of the places we wound up had never seen anyone like us before. My red hair stood out like a torch, the locals would surround me and ask to feel it. Young Joe with his bright blond hair was extremely popular with the ladies. People didn’t know what to make of us.

We might show up in a group of 6-10 students (ages 14-21) and 1-2 teachers trying to keep us focused on our studies but also allowing us to get out on our own. We had lots of independent projects. I did one on comparing fairy tales in different cultures and another one identifying plankton I caught in a net on the way over to the Caribbean while we were still on the ship.

We made our way from Caracas through Venezuela to Cucuta, Columbia. From Bogata we headed to Ecuador. Quito, Otavalos, and Guyaquil. We took a boat out to the Galapagos to check out the wildlife and swim with the sea lions and iguanas. We made our way to the jungle and the rivers feeding the Amazon. We traveled down the Rio Napo to visit the indigenous shamans and learn about the plants and animals, (I had to try the ayuhuasca).

In Peru we made our way from Lima to Cuzco (fantastic) and took the train to Macchu Picchu. That was back before it was overrun by tourists. We stayed at the Banos (hot springs) alongside the river and soaked in the hot springs at night after hiking back down the mountain. Another experience I’ll never forget. That place was magical, I could feel it.

We made our way across Lake Titicaca to La Paz, Bolivia to finish up the semester. We were all sad to leave. I didn’t want to go home.

I returned to meet the Ariadne in Martinique a month later. I had another semester to finish high school. We sailed the Ariadne from Martinique to her home port in Hamburg, Germany. Our crossing was fine sailing. We even stopped for a swim in the mid-Atlantic ocean. 🙂

I was sent ahead with a small group to prepare our next vessel in Denmark. The Irish brigantine “Phoenix” was our home for the rest of our voyage. We spent months sailing around the Baltic, around the top of Denmark, to Sweden, Finland, and even spent a couple of weeks exploring the USSR from Leningrad (St Petersburg).

Our graduation ceremony was on the pier side in Copenhagen.  After another semester of overseas adventures at sea and ashore. It got in my blood and I’m sure I’ll never get over it.

I sure wish I had a better camera back then. Take a look here for some photos collected by Brian who was along for the trip with me and Tom. (who met me in Nicaragua). You can see me in a couple of the photos (in the yellow foul weather jacket by the cannon). 😉

Advertisements

Songs of the Sea: Guantanamera

Wow! Another week’s gone by and it’s time for another Song of the Sea. This week, I found this old classic Guantanamera. I remember singing it along with my friends in school as we traveled around the world on the Ariadne.

It’s really a traditional song, from Cuba, but it’s still a good one to listen to and to sing along with.

I’m not actually sure why it’s considered a sailing song now that I understand the lyrics. But it’s one I’ve heard in a lot of sailors bars around the world, and it does make me think of those good old days, so I’ll include it here.

Guantanamera

 [Estribillo:]
Guantanamera, guajira guantanamera
Guantanamera, guajira, guantanamera
 
Yo soy un hombre sincero, de donde crece la palma
Yo soy un hombre sincero, de donde crece la palma
Y antes de morir yo quiero cantar mis versos del alma
 
[Estribillo]
 
Cultivo una rosa blanca, en julio como en enero
Cultivo una rosa blanca, en julio como en enero
Para el amigo sincero, que me da su mano franca
 
[Estribillo] (2x)
 
Mi verso es de un verde claro, y de un carmín encendido
Mi verso es de un verde claro, y de un carmín encendido
Mi verso es un ciervo herido, que busca en el monte amparo
 
[Estribillo] (2x)
 
And since I still don’t know Spanish well enough, here’s the English translation…

Guantanamera

Chorus))
 
Guantanamera, guajira* (Peasant) guantanamera
Guantanamera, guajira, guantanamera
 
I’m a sincere man , I’m from where growing palm (leaf), I’m a sincere man , I’m from where growing palm leaf
and before I die I want to sing my verses of my soul
 
Chorus
 
I cultivate a white rose, in july as well as January
I cultivate a white rose in july as well as january,
to my sincere friend, who give me sincerity
(2 x)
 
My verse is like a light green colour and also carmine
My verse is like a light green colour and also carmine
my verse is an injured serf which looks for refuge/protection
 
Chorus 2x))
It goes much better in Spanish (IMHO)!
I’ve known this song for a long time, but this is the first time I’ve actually seen any explanation of the story…

the lyrics to the song relate to a woman from Guantánamo, with whom he had a romantic relationship, and who eventually left him. The alleged real story behind these lyrics is that she did not have a romantic interest in him, but merely a platonic one. If the details are to be believed, she had brought him a steak sandwich one day as a present to the radio station where he worked. He stared at some other woman (and attempted to flirt with her) while eating the sandwich, and his friend yanked it out of his hands in disgust, cursed him and left. He never saw her again. These words are rarely sung today

Another history behind the chorus and its lyrics (“Guantanamera … / Guajira Guantanamera …”) is similar: he was at a street corner with a group of friends and made a courteous pass (a polite pick-up line, like “your mother made you good” or “you came from a star”, piropo in Spanish) to a woman (who also happened to be from Guantánamo) who walked by the group. She answered back rather harshly, offended by the pass. Stunned, he could not take his mind off her reaction while his friends made fun of him; later that day, sitting at a piano with his friends near him, he wrote the song’s main refrain.

A to Z: Oceanics

I should have saved this post for today’s A to Z challenge, but instead I’ll tell you about my high school- the Oceanics. That was such a fantastic experience! I’m so thankful I had that opportunity at such a young age. It really did change my life.

The Oceanics was a really special school. It was run by Chick and Stephanie Gallagher out of their apartment in New York City. They somehow managed to round up small groups of students and a few teachers and send them off on round the world adventures aboard various chartered square-rigged sailing ships.

I see a few organizations today trying to do something similar. Not the same tho, not gone long enough, not the right kind of ships, not the same atmosphere. I’m sure they’re still great experiences for anyone who is able to attend. I don’t think there’s any better way to create a confident, competent, creative, cooperative human being than the way they did it at the Oceanics.

Spending months at sea working together to sail the ship from point A to point B. Learning every aspect of how to do the job properly, we earned a sense of a job well done and self esteem. It takes a lot of teamwork and trust in each other to sail a square-rigged ship. Running up the ratlines to furl the sails in a squall with the wind howling and the ship rolling needs to be an immediate response with all hands on deck. Ask the worlds navies why they still use sailing ships as training vessels, they understand.

The ship was just one aspect of the Oceanics. Captain Jespersen was our sail training master. We spent time with him every day learning the names and functions of all the rigging and sails aboard. We sailed the ship from Pireaus, Greece across the Atlantic to Martinique. We spent our time aboard in school, taking regular classes in math, science (oceanology), world history, cultural studies, local languages (Greek, Spanish, Russian), literature, etc. We also learned seamanship, navigation, and how to take care of the ship.

We all stood watch when we weren’t in class. The traditional 4 hours on, 8 hours off. Standing lookout and tending the helm. In between, we kept busy sanding, varnishing, washing the decks, painting, tending to the rigging, splicing line, even helping the cook peel potatoes.

My favorite time aboard was standing lookout on the bow. Watching the dolphins play in the bow waves on a bright sunny day. Seeing flying fish popping out of a wave, to spread their ‘wings’ to fly across the waves before dropping back into the water. Picking out the constellations in a starry, starry night sky. 🙂

I can’t express how truly awesome it was.

And then, when we got to port we could go ashore once we were off watch. Or we might all go ashore together for an adventure. We spent a few days on the Greek island of Agistri hunting octopus for dinner and playing soccer on the beach. I spent a few days with a family in La Gomera (Canary Islands) improving my Spanish and learning more about the locals.

We sailed the schooner Ariadne across the Atlantic to Martinique. On arrival we had a well deserved break on the beach. A few of us hitched our way up the island to hike up Mt Pele. I still remember the deliciously sweet pineapples we had to snack on.

Ariadne

Ariadne

We left the Ariadne in Martinique to fly into Caracas and our South American adventure began. We had been studying Spanish since we left Italy. Now was the time to put it to use. Our plan was to travel from Venezuela to Bolivia, we would figure out the details along the way. We got into some really cool, out of the way places. 🙂

Plenty of the places we wound up had never seen anyone like us before. My red hair stood out like a torch, the locals would surround me and ask to feel it. Young Joe with his bright blond hair was extremely popular with the ladies. People didn’t know what to make of us.

We might show up in a group of 6-10 students (ages 14-21) and 1-2 teachers trying to keep us focused on our studies but also allowing us to get out on our own. We had lots of independent projects. I did one on comparing fairy tales in different cultures and another one identifying plankton I caught in a net on the way over to the Caribbean while we were still on the ship.

We made our way from Caracas through Venezuela to Cucuta, Columbia. From Bogata we headed to Ecuador. Quito, Otavalos, and Guyaquil. We took a boat out to the Galapagos to check out the wildlife and swim with the sea lions and iguanas. We made our way to the jungle and the rivers feeding the Amazon. We traveled down the Rio Napo to visit the indigenous shamans and learn about the plants and animals, (I had to try the ayuhuasca).

In Peru we made our way from Lima to Cuzco (fantastic) and took the train to Macchu Picchu. That was back before it was overrun by tourists. We stayed at the Banos (hot springs) alongside the river and soaked in the hot springs at night after hiking back down the mountain. Another experience I’ll never forget. That place was magical, I could feel it.

We made our way across Lake Titicaca to La Paz, Bolivia to finish up the semester. We were all sad to leave. I didn’t want to go home.

I returned to meet the Ariadne in Martinique a month later. I had another semester to finish high school. Our graduation ceremony was on the pier side in Copenhagen.  Another semester of overseas adventures at sea and ashore. It got in my blood and I’m sure I’ll never get over it.

I sure wish I had a better camera back then. Take a look here for some photos collected by Brian who was along for the trip with me and T. (who met me in Nicaragua). You can see me in a couple of the photos (in the yellow foul weather jacket by the cannon). 😉

Daily Prompt: Toy Story- Sea Snark

Daily Prompt:Toy Story– What was your favorite plaything as a child? Do you see any connection between your life now, and your favorite childhood toy?

I’m not sure if my sea snark qualifies as a toy but playing with it (sailing) was my favorite thing to do while I was growing up (other than reading).

I used to take my little sailboat our almost every day, usually after school. Sometimes, I would even sail it TO school 🙂

Made out of Styrofoam, it was indestructible. Unlike the Titanic, it was actually unsinkable 🙂 We DID test that quite regularly 😉

I had SO much fun with that little boat. 🙂 I would go by myself. I would take out my friends. My brother would run circles around me with his outboard powered dingy, but I didn’t care. I always loved just sailing. Letting the wind drive me where I wanted to go. It was so engaging, so peaceful, so enjoyable. I STILL love sailing and go out every chance I can.

As a kid, I never would have imagined that I would wind up ‘sailing’ for a living (that’s what we call shipping out- ‘sailing’). I was on track to be a doctor back then. My grandparents were both pharmacists. My fathers mother was one of the first female pharmacists in the state of NY 🙂 (I definitely take after her) 😉 I made straight A’s in school and I did love studying all my subjects in class, especially math and science.

What happened was: I got sick and tired of taking the same classes over and over again in school. For example, I had been taking algebra since at least 5th grade. I always made straight A’s. I just couldn’t see the point of taking it AGAIN in 9th grade.

So, I started skipping those classes that I’d already taken. I was still making good grades. I could still keep up with the work. After all, I HAD already taken those classes (more than once). I’ll never understand why parents put up with the school systems dumbing down their kids so much!

Eventually, my family got tired of hearing about my transgressions from the school district. My grandmother decided I needed to go to a boarding school, to keep me from skipping 😉 Well, I give her credit. She tried. She really did.

Along with my Aunt Helen, my grandmother and I went on a road trip from Freeport NY, up through Niagara Falls (loved the Maid of the Mist) into Canada. We came back down through the Detroit area (went to a concert there- grandma wore earplugs 🙂 ). Visited family friends near Chicago. Stopped at a dozen fancy schools before we made it back to NY.

I have to admit, I was a total BITCH the entire trip. I didn’t want to go to any fancy-schmantzy rich kid boarding school! I would never fit in. I liked my life the way it was. I loved my town where I grew up and I could spend my days hanging out with my friends on the beach. Sailing, swimming, fishing, even sometimes jumping off the bridge to let the current carry me out to the Gulf so I could swim back in 😉

Yeah, I was also hanging out at the amusement parlor and the pool halls, sometimes the bars 😉 I was drinking and other things I wasn’t supposed to be doing.

It was really a lucky stroke of fate what happened when my grandmother got me back to her place in Freeport. She was so fed up with me after that search for an acceptable school for both me and her, she took me to the library and threw the book at me. Literally! She told me that it was a book listing ALL the accredited schools in the country and if I could find one in there that I liked, I could go there.

The book landed on a table in front of me. Opened to a page with a picture of a square-rigged ship in full sail. I was hooked! I grabbed that book and started reading that thing like my life depended on it (turned out it really did in a way).

The book gave details: the Oceanics School (http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1310&dat=19720827&id=nN1VAAAAIBAJ&sjid=5eADAAAAIBAJ&pg=6581,6541976). Based in New York City, the school would charter these large traditional sailing ships for months long cruises with their students aboard. The ship sailed around the world and the students learned to operate the ship. They held classes on navigation, seamanship, oceanography, cultural studies and languages of all the countries the ship visited.

I was so excited. I told my grandmother “that’s it!”. That’s the one I want to go to!! She was aghast!! She told me “no way”. “No way are you going to ruin your life with those damn boats like your father did!!” Up til he bought his dream boat, the “Island Girl”, my father was an engineer. A ‘respectable’ professional career man. My grandmother would never forgive the Island Girl for my fathers decision to quit the corporate world.

When I got home and told my dad about the Oceanics school, he was almost as happy about it as I was. He said “you’re going”, and “while we’re at it, we’ll send your brother too”! “You can’t skip school when you’re on a boat in the middle of the ocean” 😉 So, soon enough my brother and I were off to sail around the world. We had some absolutely fantastic adventures sailing the 3- masted schooner Ariadne from Athens to Martinique!

That trip changed my life. I returned without my brother to sail the Ariadne again from Martinique back across the Atlantic. I had some incredible experiences with some wonderful people. It DID change my life.

I will be forever grateful to the Gallaghers (especially Stephanie) who took a chance on me and then helped me SO much. Even after I graduated from the Oceanics, Stephanie was instrumental in getting me set up in the Ocean Marine Technology program in Texas that got me started on the way to earning my license.

Because of the chance to go to the Oceanics, I am STILL sailing. Almost 35 years later.  🙂 I recently upgraded to Master Any Gross Tons and can sail pretty much any ship on the ocean. I still love the traditional sailing ships best but there just aren’t enough of them around to make a living on. Too bad 😦

So, yeah, you could say my favorite plaything when I was young is still my favorite plaything now. 🙂

Here are a couple of great links. The first one is by Tim Harris of the ship Statsraad Lehmkuhl which he sailed on as a cadet with the Oceanics in the early 70s. The next one is of the same ship in a storm. The last is a link to the ship itself, in case you’re interested in sailing her 😉

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=iokDVlHybtE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_YWgRBmVtY

www.lehmkuhl.no

PS- the featured photo is one I took at the Maritime Day celebration in Galveston last month. The ship in the background is one of the ones I sailed as captain on (Ensco 8500 series). I started with the sea snarks and worked my way up to those!

PPS- I forgot to add that I posted this to Terri Webster Schrandt’s Leisure Link the other day. She has a cool blog, this is the first time I’ve seen the leisure link. I’ve seen these blog ‘parties’ before but still not sure I’ve got the hang of it. Check it out over there and join in. 🙂

Ships Rigs: Schooner

I wrote an earlier post about how sailing ships are rigged. I figured I would start with the biggest and most unusual to see today, and work my way down to the more common types you’ll see around you every day.

So the first post was about a ‘ship’ rig. Today’s post will be about a ‘schooner’ rig. I mentioned before that sailing ships rigs are first classified by how the sails are set. Either fore-and-aft or square rigged. A ‘ship’ is set with square rigged sails, a ‘schooner’ is set with fore-and-aft rigged sails.

I saw a nice one in the news the other day. The Juan Sebastian de Elcano was in Pensacola a couple of weeks ago and was open for tours by the locals. She’s in Charleston now. Check it out if you can. Here’s a picture of her. She’s a real beauty!

 

She’s got 4 masts, all rigged fore-and-aft and also square rigged on the foremast. So technically, she’s a brig-schooner. Or she could be called a topsail schooner. Whatever you call her, she’s a beautiful ship and I imagine must be a dream to sail on. 🙂

She’s very similar to the Ariadne. The ship I was privileged to sail on during my younger days. The difference is that the Ariadne was a little smaller, only had 3 masts and didn’t have the square sails. I actually got to go to high school aboard the Ariadne and the brigantine Phoenix! I was SO lucky! That experience definitely changed my life for the better. Here’s a picture of her.

The Ariadne was a true schooner. She had 3 masts, all fore-and-aft rigged. The Juan Sebastian de Elcano is a brig-schooner which means she has square sails on her fore mast. There are all kinds of variations to the main 2 types of sail plans (fore-and-aft or square rigged). There are ships, schooner, brigs, brigantines, barques, barquentines, in the larger class of vessels and then a few more in the smaller class. I’ll write more about them later. 🙂

Share Your World- Week 4

Here’s another one of Cee’s Share Your World challenges. She always has such interesting stuff on her blog. Not only these Share Your World challenges, but lots of different photography challenges and other interesting stuff. Here are my answers to this weeks questions…

Where did you live at age five?  Is it the same place or town you live now? I don’t remember exactly where we lived when I was 5. I remember we moved around a lot back then. My dad was doing contract work as an engineer for different companies. He would travel around from job to job. We lived in a cab-over camper on the back of a pickup truck. My mom, my dad, my brother, me, our dog and our cat. 🙂 We lived in lots of different places, all around the country (New York, Arizona, California, Iowa, etc). We didn’t settle down until I was about 6. That was in Florida, West Coast, near St-Pete/Clearwater.

No, it’s not the same place I live now. I moved here to Texas (Lake Jackson) when I was just barely 17. I wanted to go to school to get my USCG licenses so I could become a ship captain. This town had one of only 3 programs in the country at that time that you could go for only 2 years and come out with something really useful. I didn’t have the money for a 4 year program and wasn’t really into spending that much time in school anyway. Turns out, I did spend that much time in school, and more. It took me 5 years to finish the 2 year program. At least I was able to work after the 1st year! That wouldn’t have been the case if I had gone to the 4 year schools. Now, there are a few other programs around the country. They offer pretty much the same thing I went through, but you come out in MUCH better shape! They give you a LICENSE now instead of just an AB ticket!!

You are invited to a party that will be attended by many fascinating people you never met.  Would you attend this party if you were to go by yourself? Yes, of course I would!

Did you grow up in a small or big town? Did you like it? I grew up in a medium size town, tho it felt small. I grew up in Madeira Beach, FL. Johns Pass to be specific. It was part of the Tampa-St Petersburg area, all of the towns ran together so it was really one large town or small city. Johns Pass was very much like a small town in itself. We had a real community. Everybody knew everybody and all their business. Everything you needed was there. We had a grocery store, hardware store, a 5 and dime, a few tourist shops, a few mom and pop motels on the beach, a laundromat, a few restaurants, quite a few bars, the Charter Boat center where a lot of people worked, the party boat docks, a couple of ice houses, and fuel docks for the fishermen, even an aquarium with dolphins and sharks until they tore the old bridge down and ‘remodeled’ the whole place.

my dads house was on the 1st finger bay, straight line from the bridge and a little to the right

my dads house was on the 1st finger bay, straight line from the bridge and a little to the right

the Old Johns Pass Bridge

the Old Johns Pass Bridge

Everything was within walking distance. School was about 3 miles away and there was another shopping center over there. If you needed anything else, you could catch the city bus and it would take you anywhere you needed to go. Yes, I really did like it, I miss how it was then, it’s changed a lot. It’s really nothing but a tourist attraction now. Just condos and tourist shops. They destroyed the entire community when they built that new bridge and replaced all the fisherman’s homes with shops selling cheap trinkets. I don’t like it at all, what it has become. It’s a real shame. 😦

The New Johns Pass, "#1 tourist attraction in Pinellas County."

The New Johns Pass, “#1 tourist attraction in Pinellas County.”

We lived across from Dons Dock on the finger bay.

We lived across from Dons Dock on the finger bay.

As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? I used to want to be a doctor (I think I was influenced by my grandmother- she was a pharmacist). Then, I figured out that I really don’t like sick people all that much, so I decided to be a veterinarian. That lasted until I was shipped off to high school to sail around the world on the traditional square-rigged sailing ships. That did it, I decided to become a ship captain. I wanted to sail around the world and get paid for it. I’ve been sailing ever since and FINALLY got my Master Mariners ticket only a couple of years ago. 🙂

Ariadne, one of the ships I got to sail on for high school

Ariadne, one of the ships I got to sail on for high school

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up? I’m grateful that I got to spend some good quality time with my best friend. I brought over a pot of stew and we had a couple of hours of good conversation. 🙂 I’m looking forward to one more Icicle Race on this coming Saturday!

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.

 

Daily Prompt: Toy Story- Sea Snark

Daily Prompt:Toy Story- What was your favorite plaything as a child? Do you see any connection between your life now, and your favorite childhood toy?

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/09/12/daily-prompt-memento/

I’m not sure if my sea snark qualifies as a toy but playing with it (sailing) was my favorite thing to do while I was growing up (other than reading).

I used to take my little sailboat our almost every day, usually after school. Sometimes, I would even sail it TO school 🙂

Made out of Styrofoam, it was indestructible. Unlike the Titanic, it was actually unsinkable 🙂 We DID test that quite regularly 😉

I had SO much fun with that little boat. 🙂 I would go by myself. I would take out my friends. My brother would run circles around me with his outboard powered dingy, but I didn’t care. I always loved just sailing. Letting the wind drive me where I wanted to go. It was so engaging, so peaceful, so enjoyable. I STILL love sailing and go out every chance I can.

As a kid, I never would have imagined that I would wind up ‘sailing’ for a living (that’s what we call shipping out- ‘sailing’). I was on track to be a doctor back then. My grandparents were both pharmacists. My fathers mother was one of the first female pharmacists in the state of NY 🙂 (I definitely take after her) 😉 I made straight A’s in school and I did love studying all my subjects in class, especially math and science.

What happened was: I got sick and tired of taking the same classes over and over again in school. For example, I had been taking algebra since at least 5th grade. I always made straight A’s. I just couldn’t see the point of taking it AGAIN in 9th grade.

So, I started skipping those classes that I’d already taken. I was still making good grades. I could still keep up with the work. After all, I HAD already taken those classes (more than once). I’ll never understand why parents put up with the school systems dumbing down their kids so much!

Eventually, my family got tired of hearing about my transgressions from the school district. My grandmother decided I needed to go to a boarding school, to keep me from skipping 😉 Well, I give her credit. She tried. She really did.

Along with my Aunt Helen, my grandmother and I went on a road trip from Freeport NY, up through Niagara Falls (loved the Maid of the Mist) into Canada. We came back down through the Detroit area (went to a concert there- grandma wore earplugs 🙂 ). Visited family friends near Chicago. Stopped at a dozen fancy schools before we made it back to NY.

I have to admit, I was a total BITCH the entire trip. I didn’t want to go to any fancy-schmantzy rich kid boarding school! I would never fit in. I liked my life the way it was. I loved my town where I grew up and I could spend my days hanging out with my friends on the beach. Sailing, swimming, fishing, even sometimes jumping off the bridge to let the current carry me out to the Gulf so I could swim back in 😉

Yeah, I was also hanging out at the amusement parlor and the pool halls, sometimes the bars 😉 I was drinking and other things I wasn’t supposed to be doing.

It was really a lucky stroke of fate what happened when my grandmother got me back to her place in Freeport. She was so fed up with me after that search for an acceptable school for both me and her, she took me to the library and threw the book at me. Literally! She told me that it was a book listing ALL the accredited schools in the country and if I could find one in there that I liked, I could go there.

The book landed on a table in front of me. Opened to a page with a picture of a square-rigged ship in full sail. I was hooked! I grabbed that book and started reading that thing like my life depended on it (turned out it really did in a way).

The book gave details: the Oceanics School (http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1310&dat=19720827&id=nN1VAAAAIBAJ&sjid=5eADAAAAIBAJ&pg=6581,6541976). Based in New York City, the school would charter these large traditional sailing ships for months long cruises with their students aboard. The ship sailed around the world and the students learned to operate the ship. They held classes on navigation, seamanship, oceanography, cultural studies and languages of all the countries the ship visited.

I was so excited. I told my grandmother “that’s it!”. That’s the one I want to go to!! She was aghast!! She told me “no way”. “No way are you going to ruin your life with those damn boats like your father did!!” Up til he bought his dream boat, the “Island Girl”, my father was an engineer. A ‘respectable’ professional career man. My grandmother would never forgive the Island Girl for my fathers decision to quit the corporate world.

When I got home and told my dad about the Oceanics school, he was almost as happy about it as I was. He said “you’re going”, and “while we’re at it, we’ll send your brother too”! “You can’t skip school when you’re on a boat in the middle of the ocean” 😉 So, soon enough my brother and I were off to sail around the world. We had some absolutely fantastic adventures sailing the 3- masted schooner Ariadne from Athens to Martinique!

That trip changed my life. I returned without my brother to sail the Ariadne again from Martinique back across the Atlantic. I had some incredible experiences with some wonderful people. It DID change my life.

I will be forever grateful to the Gallaghers (especially Stephanie) who took a chance on me and then helped me SO much. Even after I graduated from the Oceanics, Stephanie was instrumental in getting me set up in the Ocean Marine Technology program in Texas that got me started on the way to earning my license.

Because of the chance to go to the Oceanics, I am STILL sailing. Almost 35 years later.  🙂 I recently upgraded to Master Any Gross Tons and can sail pretty much any ship on the ocean. I still love the traditional sailing ships best but there just aren’t enough of them around to make a living on. Too bad 😦

So, yeah, you could say my favorite plaything when I was young is still my favorite plaything now. 🙂

Here are a couple of great links. The first one is by Tim Harris of the ship Statsraad Lehmkuhl which he sailed on as a cadet with the Oceanics in the early 70s. The next one is of the same ship in a storm. The last is a link to the ship itself, in case you’re interested in sailing her 😉

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=iokDVlHybtE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_YWgRBmVtY

www.lehmkuhl.no

Falado of Rhodes Sunk Yesterday in the Vicinity of Iceland

Iceland Review Online: Daily News from Iceland, Current Affairs, Business, Politics, Sports, Culture.

I found this on a discussion in the traditional sail professionals group on http://www.linkedin.com.  I am sad to see yet another tall ship go down. I love these old ships and I’m sorry to see the level of seamanship is nowhere near the traditional skill levels.

I was lucky enough to start out under sail-training with Captain Jespersen of Denmark who was a real traditional sailor. He was sail-training master of the Danish ship Danmark. He was a fantastic teacher. I’ll never forget the time I was sailing on the Ariadne (3- masted schooner- German flag) and the Phoenix (brigantine- Irish flag) as a student with the Oceanics School. I spent a total of about 8 months on those ships and those lessons have sunk into my bones. The lessons I learned then have come in handy many times over the years. Traditional sail takes a long time under “mentors” (or a good bosun!) to learn it properly. I don’t see people getting trained in any useful way today.

Yeah, the companies I work for send you to USCG/IMO (STCW) required BST (Basic Safety Training) now. You MUST go to this class now before you can go to sea on anything other than inland or under 100 GT. IMHO, that class is a total joke. They send you there and then you’re on your own. After all, you’ve been “trained” now. You already know everything you need to know. Yeah, riiiighht.