Megan (jehoshabeath) wrote,

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Schooner Sailor

I am now officially a schooner sailor in training.

I went into work early today at 7:30 am so I could get off at 4 pm this afternoon. I stopped by my boss' cubical to bid him a happy weekend, slung my bag over my shoulder, and headed off to the docks. I managed to walk right onto the train at Capitol South just as they were warning about the doors. A quick transfer at L'Enfant Plaza, though I just missed the green train there. I caught the next one, found an open spot by the door, and waited patiently for the next station. Construction greeted me above ground, but in a few moments, I regained my bearings and headed west for the water.

One of the crew members met me at the gate and let me in. I heard some cheerful music playing while the crew swept the decks of the schooner. I couldn't help but smile as I passed the little sailboats - the ones that I had helped to scrub a couple weeks ago. I saw some spots on them that I think we missed... Around there and I had finally reached our ship. The captain greeted me with a hearty handshake and welcome. I got to work straight away cleaning up the boat. Another of the crew members showed me around.

That's the jib, this is the foresail, and that's the mainsail. Don't get them confused! When you take the foresail cover down below, put it on this side. You always put it on the side opposite of the jib sail cover. The captain told us to tie down one part of the mainsail that was sticking out and getting in the way. When the other lady started to do it, the captain turned to me and asked if I had ever done that before. I thought a moment, shook my head, negative. So I got a lesson on how to do that. The sail ties are kept in a canvas bag on the port side of the ship. After tying the sail down, I was sent off with a towel to dry some puddles in the forward seating area.

Once the deck was clean, seating areas dry, trash bags hung up for disposing bottles and such, sails uncovered, and ice put in the cooler with the beverages, we had a little time to sit. It was not too long before the passengers started arriving. We had two sheets for them to sign - one was a list of our passengers for that cruise and one was some kind of agreement that I think had to do with safety. The passengers trickled in gradually. I found a seat to stay out of the way.

We set off at about 6 pm. The loud horn announced our departure to other ships out on the water. We cruised easily out into the river. To prepare the sails, we loosened the lines that went up and over the sails. We also put some slack in the lines that held the booms - or at least, I'm pretty sure this was what we slackened. This allowed the booms the freedom to move some as the sails caught the breeze. Everyone was warned to watch their heads, since the wooden boom at the base of the sail could swing back and forth as the wind changed. We also got a short lesson on life-jackets. With preparations made, we were ready to raise the sails. We waited for the orders and then went to work. I didn't directly assist in raising any of the sails, though I stood by in case assistance was required.

When the sails were up, the engine was turned off, and we cruised along. The radio was used to coordinate traffic when other vessels came alongside and passed us. At one point, we radio'd a boat that was coming along toward and decided to call two signals - in other words, to pass the other boat starboard-to-starboard (the opposite of traffic on the highway). I am guessing that one signal would be the sign to pass port-to-port. I wonder if this is in any way related to the lookout calls in the age of Titanic - 1 bell signaled an object to port, 2 bells signified something to starboard, and three bells indicated something directly ahead.

In any case, we had a very pleasant cruise. The sun had been warm (I thought a sunburn was imminent), but the sun got lost in a haze of cloud and a cool breeze sprang up. The passengers all sat back and enjoyed the sail. One young passenger took the helm for quite a while as his father and the captain directed him. One of our crew sung a ballad. We had a large dog on board who seemed quite content to sit and enjoy the fine trip. I didn't have anything to do but observe the radio and helm activities and the passing landscape. It was very relaxing!

On the way back, there was a call for the hands to lower the sails. I jumped up and took a place on the starboard side near the foresail. They lowered the jib first, and then it was our turn. As the sail was lowered, I took in the sail, bundling it and pulling it taut. We then tied it down. By this time, the sun was getting low in the sky and the boats all had lights on.

The captain made a very smooth landing back at the pier and everyone clapped in approval. They all seemed very happy as they left. The captain wished them all the best and thanked them for coming out to sail. He also stopped to shake my hand and said, "I hope you enjoyed it." When I told him that I had very much enjoyed myself, he replied, "Good. Come back." "I definitely will!" I exclaimed.

We then headed our separate ways. I tagged along with a couple of the crew for dinner and have just returned home. I am tired! I can hardly wait to go back, though. I won't be able to for a few weeks, since Field Day is next weekend and July 4th is the following weekend. I have a lot to learn about schooners and sailing - vocabulary, methods, knots, culture, etc. But this is my first step towards becoming a crew member aboard a schooner. I am so pleased and excited!

Tomorrow, though, I will be visiting W3LPL's QTH for a tour.
Tags: sailing

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