Sunday, June 28, 2015

Norway to Ireland 2011: The West Coast of England

Four years ago this week, I had the adventure of a lifetime. Two weeks on a square-rigged ship sailing from Norway to Ireland. I kept a journal, but never published the entire thing and now I want to close the gap. If you're just visiting for the first time, please read the entries that precede this to get the full story.


Day 10   Tuesday               June 28, 2011
Another 18 hours and too much to tell. I’m going to forget something.

Out on the bowsprit
Last night on watch we started setting sail again. First, four staysails starting in the bow. For the first and maybe only time I went out on the bowsprit to untie the sizing on two of the three staysails. That’s the most pleasant place to be on a sailing ship I think. After the staysails it was up in the rig to let out the store stump, the store mers, and the fore stump. This may have been the most satisfying hour of the whole journey. This was now about 10 p.m. and the sun was setting on the port side. It was absolutely gorgeous and I was totally at ease. There were five of us and we felt as if the ship belonged to us. What a rush!
Sunset under sail

I forgot to mention that before we touched the sails, we had to brace all of the yards. Now that’s hard work. We moved all 15 yards to a port tack in about 45 minutes. That requires uncoiling about 50 lines, pulling like animals on 1/3 of them, and then coiling them back up. You don’t stay cold for long with that kind of action.

I was so sore when I hit the sack that I thought I’d be asleep in minutes, but not so. First the 12-4 watch gathered in the companionway for a chat (they should have been on deck!) and then Christian decided to open a bag of cheez doodles in the bunk below me and munch on them one at a time while watching a movie. Ah, the joys of the banjer!

During the night the 12-4 watch decided to have a songfest while working (?) and that was annoying. Have to speak about that with Henrik & Nils in the morning. Maybe they can kick some ass for us tomorrow! There’s a strong feeling on our watch that we have the best teamwork and produce the best results of the three watches.

The morning dawned sunny and sparkling. We’re now fully in the Atlantic, although the western coast of England is still in sight and we discovered that the 4-8 watch had put us on a starboard tack. The big question on everyone’s mind is how long we’ll sail before going back to power and whether we’ll get to Waterford Wednesday night or Thursday during the day. We’re approximately 100 miles south of the Irish coast right now. For the first hour of the morning watch we were at the white board again with our third lesson in tacking a full-rigged ship. We learned that we will do another tack later today and now that sail is set, it’s an “all hand on deck” operation, just as it will be during the races.

At our request we also got more stories about maritime history. We learned about the astonishing inhumanity of the slave ship captains and more details about the training ship Denmark. Both Henrik and Nils are Danish and Nils trained on the Denmark. These guys are amazingly experienced sailors with fascinating life histories. Henrik actually has a wife and children in Thailand and hopes to start a diving business there when he’s done sailing.

After lunch we did the tacking. First, the Captain gave his “Clas’s Corner” daily update. He said that Waterford won’t allow ships to enter the port on Thursday so we’ll be coming in at high tide late on Wednesday afternoon. On the approach tomorrow, I guess we’ll be getting the ship ready, part of which is polishing all the brass fittings on board, and there’s a lot of it. And we paid for the pleasure!

Of course, everyone is salivating about the Guinness and Jameson that awaits. There’s talk today also about parties on all the other ships. It’s probably a good idea we’re coming in early so we have time to party and then recover before we have to travel again for hours. I learned about a better Irish whiskey than Jameson, but I can’ remember it now. Starts with a T; I’ll have to have Allan write it down.

Lines for the braces
Back to the tacking. Actually, it was jibing, tacking with the wind, or to put it bluntly, ass of the boat first! To do that, all of the lee lines had to be slacked and the lines for the lee braces coiled in a special way so that they will run free and not get tangled during the jibe. Then it’s haul away on the main braces, the mizzen braces, and the fore braces in that order, all of it on whistle signals.   it in my hands. I imagine doing it for the races would get you calloused before they were over.
Clewlines and buntlines
The ship is too big and the deck has two levels so the AB in charge can’t be seen by most of the crew. For primarily trainees who’ve only been together for six days and only done the exercise twice, we did pretty good, I think. I didn’t wear gloves this time and I could really feel it in my hands. I imagine doing it for the races would get you calloused before they were over.


Next Up: Arrival in Waterford, Ireland

To see all of the photos from my adventure, visit: OsloOslo to Waterford, Waterford and Dublin 2011.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Splash!

I bought a small cruiser late in the season last year and got her on the water a couple of times before I had to put her on her cradle. I had all winter to get excited about setting her back in the water again. It was excruciating!

The big day happened two weeks ago Tuesday.
I had arranged to meet the marina guys at the boat and they would move it to the water's edge, use the crane to drop her to the water and then motor her to our slip. When she was being lowered into the marina, I noticed that the guys were each carrying fend-off poles which I thought was a little curious. I soon found out why.

Rod, the service manager, very gently and quietly said "Usually before we do this, the owner gets the docklines ready on the boat, puts the fenders out and has the batteries back in place so we don't have to spend extra time waiting for the boat to be moved out of the way." Ooops! I was so much a green new boat owner and they were so patient and non-judgemental. I thought to myself "I'm going to like these guys alot, but I hope I don't wear out my welcome with the thousand questions I'm in need of asking."

My brain is overloaded with trying to anticipate all of the things I've decided I need too acquire or fix to get Querida ready for the season. She's in pretty good shape for being 36 years old, but there are definitely signs of aging and there's also a number of broken or non-functional items that I'd like to replace as time and money allow.

Her bottom hull is in great shape, which is probably the most reassuring fact to recognize. Her hull above the waterline is in need of cleaning and buffing, but I think that will need to wait until next year. She'll sail fine the way she looks now and I really don't want to wait another couple of weeks just for that.

The batteries probably need to be replaced and I need to get a trickle charger, but the sails and rigging are in fine condition. There's a fair amount of really old and expired supplies on board which we'll need to dispose of, but that's just part of the job any new owner has. Now we need to turn our attention to working on becoming better sailors and enjoying the summer breezes.


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

What does it mean to turtle your boat?

Wanna know where Tripp and I have been for much of  the past three days? Lake Nokomis in Richfield, Minnesota. Because we've haven't actually sailed our boat in the past two years, I thought it would be great fun to rent a buoy on a lake in the Minneapolis park system. Lake Nokomis is the closest option to where we live. Having a boat already rigged and ready to go at any time seemed a much better proposition than trailering the boat to a new location each time and having to step and unstep the mast over and over again.

We spent the past 3 months getting the boat ready for the sailing season. We bought a boom tent and a jib sleeve and re-rigged the halyards and purchased backup tackle for all of the rigging on the boat. We had to fix a problem on our truck so that the trailer lights worked. Got all that done and launched the boat on Sunday, June 8. We had a nice sail in very light and fickle winds and put her to bed with a  satisfied feeling.

Six days later, Saturday morning, June 14, our region was visited by very strong winds and a phenomenon known as "gravity waves". The next day, when I read in the paper about boats being tossed about on Lake Minnetonka and Lake Nokomis, I got a funny feeling in the pit of my stomach.
Later that day we went straight to the lake and this is what we saw. Nice photo of a dad and his young daughter playing on a paddle board. See the boat in the upper right hand corner with the centerboard sticking straight up in the air? That's our boat. An eyewitness said that the wind picked the boat right up out of the water and flipped it over in one very fast movement. Buried the masthead into the bottom of the lake bed, into the mud. Of course, we didn't know this until we drove up there on Sunday. We worked for a couple hours to free the boat using the primitive knowledge that we had at the time, but to no avail. Discouraged and demoralized barely scratches the surface of our emotions that day. Neither one of us slept much that night with visions of a wrecked boat and no idea of how to retrieve it.

I spent two days reading various opinions online and playing scenarios in my head for our next move. None of this gave me much confidence. I decided to call the Minneapolis Park Board and see what they recommended; this had to have happened to others before us. Sure enough, they suggested that I call White Bear Boat Works which I promptly did.

Jason at White Bear Boat Works talked me through the issues that we would be facing and told me that what I planned to do next was the right thing to do and that we could easily do it and save ourselves $1,000 which is what he would have charged us to do it himself. He spent 20 minutes with me and assured me that we would be able to make this happen.

It took us 2 1/2 hours this afternoon (Jason thought 1 hour), but we were able to pull the mast out of the mud, right the boat, tow it to the dock, load it onto the trailer and bring it home where we can dry out all of the components and clean the rigging and the sails. It took 20 minutes to drain all of the water out of the boat. I suspect that she took on somewhere between 100-200 gallons of water during the three days she was upside down. When the masthead broke the surface of the lake it had mud 3 inches thick over the top 24 inches of the mast. Yuck!

Here's what the mast looks like right now.There's still so much mud in the mainsail channel that I can't raise the sail to the proper height.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Norway to Ireland 2011: The English Channel


Even though it's been some weeks since my last post, I'm going to continue to publish the journal that I kept on my Tall Ships adventure last summer. This episode is at about the halfway point in the voyage when we went through the English Channel.

Day 7     Saturday              June 25, 2011
True to the captain’s predictions yesterday, we should be entering the English Channel by nightfall today. We’ve been steaming for almost 24 hours now and the combination of our speed and the fact that the waves are coming right into our bow (we’re only 20 degrees off the wind) has made for an incredibly active ride. We woke this morning to rain and heavy seas so the first part of the morning watch was spent learning to make a Bensel, another way to make a bight in a rope that's different from the splicing we learned yesterday.

After mid-morning, the Captain passed the word that we should change the braces (in spite of the rain) in preparation for a coming wind shift and resumption of sailing once we pass Dover in the channel. That meant our watch needed to slack a couple dozen lines, haul away on 9 braces and re-coil all the lines.  It took about an hour and was really hard work, but quite satisfying to get praise for having done it well.

The 8-12 watch in the English Channel
Lunch was heartily welcomed by everyone, both for a break from the morning’s work and because everyone was famished.  Other days lunch has been followed by immediate napping, but today most of us went right back on deck. Water was now covering the deck on the lee side of the boat and the sea was coming over the bow. The lookout had been shifted from the bow to the quarterdeck to avoid being swept overboard and safety lines were now set on the main deck to allow sure footing across the open deck. I shot a couple of short movies both from the quarterdeck and bakken.

The heavy weather continued into the evening and through most of the night. I had lookout at 2100 hours and about halfway through the hour we encountered fog which also lasted all night. The 2nd Mate (Steiner) gave us a look at the ship’s ASI which thoroughly convinced us that we had zero chance of being run down at night, even in fog.

Day 8     Sunday                 June 26, 2011
The only weather change in the morning was that the sea was calmer, which also meant that the wind had dropped. Great. So far we’ve sailed only two of the five days and motored the rest. She’s a beautiful boat and all and I’m on vacation, but all of us, including the crew, came to sail!

I had the helm for the first hour of the watch and the only excitement there was when the Captain asked me to change course by 15 degrees to avoid a fishing boat “going in circles in front of us.” However, as soon as I gave up the wheel, we were directed to set three sengestagseils, one at each mast. Now we’re getting somewhere!

Except as soon as we tied them off and coiled the lines, we were given buckets of soap and water, and brushes, and told to wash the deck. Seriously!! Actually, with the fresh breeze yesterday for about 18 hours, we shipped a ton of salt water and the salt isn’t good for the varnished floors below decks, so we scrubbed and rinsed the entire main deck.

Watching Windjammer in the banjer
I should give a mention to Jan Petter Hanson, an Oslo filmmaker who works for Munch Films. He and his daughter are along for the ride and he’s filming and interviewing everyone for a piece that will be shown on Norwegian television in the fall. I doubt I’ll get to see it, but it shows the tremendous love and respect that the Norwegians have for the Christian Radich and her two companion vessels, the Statsraad Lehmkuhl and the Soerlandet, and I love that. Yesterday, he had a crowd around his laptop because he’s got bits of the movie Windjammer on his hard drive and lots of behind the scenes footage. I feel like I’m in heaven!

Day 9     Monday               June 27, 2011
I’ve only got about 20 minutes before we go on evening watch, but I just realized that I haven’t written anything since this time yesterday. We had some excitement this afternoon when I’ve normally made my entries.

Penzance Bay
Penzance Bay lies on the south coast of England just east of Land’s End, England’s westernmost spit of land. I’m told that Gilbert & Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance was inspired by this bay, at least the name. Don’t know if that’s true, but I’ll go with it. The officer of the watch (Steinar, I think) took a little detour into the bay to take us close to a small island topped by a magnificent castle the name of which I haven’t yet heard. While making this side trip, a Sea King helicopter flew by a couple of times and we joked that it was probably Prince William at the controls.

During the morning watch we got another soaking with some spectacular lightning and thunderclaps. This turn in the weather required that we take in what little sail was yet flying, the three last staysails.  We went to bed last night with a good bit of sail up (although it wasn’t doing much), but overnight the wind died and the other watches took in all but the three staysails.

Before the rain we had a lesson on tacking since that’s what we’ll need to do on the run up the west coast of England on the last leg to Waterford. Making a tack in a full-rigged ship is about an hour’s work, most of it in preparation. The actual change in the position of the ship takes about 15 minutes.

Nils then told us a couple of sailing stories from the annals of the British and Danish navies. One was about a shipwreck in the Scilly Islands in which an English widow removed the gold teeth and fillings from the drowned sailors that washed up on shore and the other was about a Danish shipbuilding company which planted trees to be used in the construction of a ship for the king that matured in 2005 after the government had forgotten about them in the ensuing decades.

Next up: The West Coast of England