Saturday, December 28, 2013

And I'm Back!

Today I'm going to back to Sorlandet as Cook's Mate.  Jess, who was the cook in the summer will be cook again and we are both feeling like we'll have some good times on this next sail which will take us around the Caribbean and over to Europe.  We start in Barbados, have a week's alumni sail here and there and then return to Barbados to pick up the students for their second semester at sea.  The summer program was run differently - there were trainees and volunteers who made up the bulk of the crew, this time around it will be high school/university students who will be balancing a full course load as well as sail training, watch duty and all the rest. The benefit of joining the ship for second semester is that the students will be well versed in the ways of the galley!

So what do you pack for four and half months at sea?  Well, a bit of everything and a lot of underwear!  I've got everything from tank tops and shorts to woolen long underwear (Atlantic crossing, cleaning the walk-in) to jeans to shirts with ships on them to dresses to pyjamas to bathing suit.  Yup, I feel pretty prepared for anything (including lack of laundry availability for long stretches of time).  How much space does this take up you may ask?  Well I've got it down to a duffel bag, a backpack (normal sized, not "this bag carries my life" size) and a small purse.  

How is my job this time different from the summer you may ask.  Well, in the summer I was a deckhand so I spent most of my working time on deck, standing watch and helping with the sailing of the ship.  This time all my work hours will be spent in the galley (or one of the many areas the galley crew are in charge of) and time on deck is going to have to happen during my "off time".  Other changes?  This time I'm pro crew so I'll sleep in a cabin, not the banjer.  This time I'm a dayman, meaning I don't have to get up in the middle of the night (but also no mid-morning naps).  This time I'll get a small wage for the 70 hour work weeks.

I hope to be checking in here pretty often but it will depend on the availability of wifi in ports.  Comments and e-mails are always welcome!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A week later

I've been landside for a week now and figured I should have one last post here. 

The last sail was short (3 days) but good. We were a pretty small crew but it was all people I'd gotten to know over the summer and it was nice to have the ship to ourselves without having newbies to train. Since we were lighthanded and on a tight schedule (we left an hour after the festival closed, usually we leave the next day), it was motoring all the way. While underway we also had lots of extra cleaning jobs to do in order to have the ship ready for the new school year which started the day after I got off. After a summer of practice we were all great at cleaning and I was amazed at how much we were able to get through. 

Getting back to Canadian waters and flying the Canadian flag was great. I didn't realise how much I missed my homeland till I saw that maple leaf fluttering from the halyard. 

Sailing through the Tobermory area was beautiful. The tourist boats all swung by to have a look as we passed by Flower Pot Island and I made a note to myself to come back and explore more. 

We docked in Collingwood the morning of the 21st and almost everyone left that afternoon. It was a little sad to say goodbye to people I'd spent the summer with, many of whom I may never see again, but mostly I was happy to be with my family again!  

A week later and Sorlandet is never far from my mind. Maybe it's showing my pictures to interested friends and family (if you haven't seen them, don't worry, your turn is coming!), or seeing my shipmates pop up on Facebook, or the fact that today I'm off to visit one of my shipmates at her cabin. So yes, I miss it, tall ship life is like no other, but overall I'm happy to be back on land spending time with those I love. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

I love

I almost didn't finish this post; the sail to Green Bay felt more like work then the rest of the summer has. But then it was over, our last festival, our last sail with trainees; we cast off our mooring lines in the golden light of the evening and I remembered again why I chose to spend my summer here. 

Being outside for most of my day is wonderful. We've been fortunate that there have been more dry days then wet ones and even the wet ones aren't that bad when we're all in the rain together. 

Watching and listening to the water is something I never tire of. It has changed constantly this summer, it's been the turquoise blue of the tropics, the deep navy blue of Superior, stormy grey, wind rippled, flat as glass, reflecting the glorious colours of the sunrise, glimmering in the moonlight. Watching it from the decks or a porthole, listening from my bunk, I love it all. 

I love seeing nothing but water and sky as far as I can see. It doesn't feel isolating, it reminds me that the ship is a community and we take care of each other. We have all we need on board to keep us safe, clean, warm and nourished.

I love night watch. It's a special time with only our watch on deck, taking care of the ship as we watch the stars and the sunrise. Getting up at 4 am. hasn't been the chore I thought it would be. 

I love morning naps. It's a great to know at 8 am you've already put in some good work hours as you go to bed while others begin their day. 

I love the people I'm working with. They have a lot of great qualities; most of all I've really appreciated the respect they have for each other, their patience and how awesome they are at sharing their knowledge. 

I love learning. As adults I don't think we often get the chance to immerse ourselves in a subject where there is so much to learn. It amazes me that every day I am learning new things and I'm trying to soak it up. 

At the end of the day I love the satisfaction of a job well done. 

I love being part of the tradition of tall ship sailing and sharing it with others. It's truly a privilege to be a part of it and I something I remind myself of daily. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Sailing Along - Chicago to Green Bay

We left Chicago around noon on Monday with our last group of trainees. I was on galley so I missed a lot of the leaving and sailing excitement that day. 

By dawn the next day about 80% of the volunteer/trainee crew were suffering from some degree of seasickness. We were less then 24 hours into the journey so there was still lots to teach but we just did the bare minimum to keep the ship going safely, letting people rest if needed, providing water and plain foods and comfort for those who were most miserable. (I'm sure you're wondering… it appears my body deals with seasickness by being extremely tired. Also I find it better to stare at the deck then the horizon.) By afternoon the seas had calmed some and everyone was looking a lot better. For the first time this summer we rigged safety lines (ropes to hold as you creep around) on deck. 

The following day was better again. People had colour and normal activities resumed. Thankfully the rest of the sail was smooth and we arrived in Green Bay safely. 

Overall it was a pretty uneventful journey. We got all the sails nicely furled as they won't be set again until after the new school year begins. We are all glad this is our last festival weekend. One last time looking at a field of tents, having our home open to strangers and answering the same old questions. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Shore Leave - Chicago

Chicago has been lots of fun. To start with I had a day off (second one this summer, to be honest that's more then I was expecting) and spent over 14 hours away from Sorlandet. That's the longest I've been away from the ship since July 1 and it was a really nice break. 

I made the most of my time off and saw a lot of the city in a short time. The art gallery here is fantastic and I enjoyed the impressionism collections as well as the special exhibit, Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity. The other highlight was the Thorne Miniature Rooms. 68 rooms done to scale with historical accuracy. They would be amazing in full size and were so much more incredible in mini. 

Across from the gallery there was a nice surprise - Pret a Manger! My favourite UK sandwich store. We picked up lunch there and ate in the park. 

I walked up and down the main shopping streets, Mighigan Ave and State St and also made my way to a store I've been wanting to visit for a while: Trader Joe's! Yup, a grocery store was on my tourist to do list. 

The tall ships crew got free passes to the Shedd Aquarium which was great as normal entry is usually $35! We also got to skip the line which would have saved over an hour. I went right for the large animals: belugas, sea otters, dolphins and pengiuns. I also hit up the sting ray touch pool, sometimes I just can't supress my inner child!

Another crew perk was free architecture river cruises. Yay! There is such a variety of architecture here, it was interesting to hear more about it althougn I couldn't absorb information nearly as fast as the guide could recite it!

I did my run on the last day, along the waterfront. I went by two beaches and at the end of my run I jumped in for a swim. So nice!! Not the cleanest water ever but no scarier then Guelph Lake in August. 

The ship was docked at Navy Pier, Chicago's bigget tourist attraction. Lots of people, lots of tourist stuff. I didn't spend much time checking it out. 

A lot of volunteers and some procrew ended their journey in Chicago so it's been a bit of a sad time saying goodbye. One more leg with trainees, one more festival and then a quiet sail to Collingwood. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Sailing Along - Duluth to Chicago

This has been the longest sail of the summer - 9 days at sea! It's really nice as you get into the rhythm of sea watches and everybody, ship included, is happier at sea then in port. For many of the volunteer crew this is the last part of their summer's journey so it's a little bittersweet as we count off last night watches and last days at sea. 

We started our sail with a Great Lakes Challenge race. It was about 300 miles long and took us a few days to finish. We crossed both the start line and finish line within the allowed time - a first since I've been back on board! The finish line was reached around 11 pm. and I (along with many others) was woken up at 10:30 to be ready to take in sail. Finish line crossed. Sails doused. Then up we went in the rigging to furl everything. It was done in a very orderly way, no rushing, lots of care taken and warnings that this was not the time to be falling overboard. I was up on the royal (topmost sail) again and was sure glad I'd been up during daylight so I had an idea of where to find footholds.

There were a few crew birthdays to be celebrated during this leg. On board birthday celebrations usually include cake and ice cream and a lot of people singing. Rather like birthdays on land. 

During our sail our engineer instituted evening quiet times. About an hour without engine or generator noise. They were lovely! Sailing along as the sun set listening to the wind and the waves. Unfortunately we can't do this often as the motor is often running and the generator powers our navigational equipment. 

There was one day of heavy fog. For over 12 hours our fog horn was going. One long, two short blasts every two minutes. I had that responsibility for a while and got very good at having conversations in two minute chunks!

I'm continuing to learn so much! This week we had a rip in a sail so down it came and up went a replacement sail. (Very easy to find in our newly organised, that was an all day project, sail locker.) I went aloft to help "bend on" the new sail.  It was a fun experience and one that doesn't come around too often. One of the girls who sailed on this ship for 8 months with Class Afloat hadn't done that before!

Another new skillI got to try was tailing the line on the winch. Not a very hard job but one that comes with responsibility as if you mess it up it can be a bit dangerous. In this case we were using the winch to haul our anchor into a new position so you don't want unexpected slack in the line holding the anchor!

We anchored a few times so we'd be on time for going through locks and arriving in Chicago. Days at anchor are great for cleaning and organising! It also means we don't stand sea watches and by some luck of the schedule I got a night with 10 hours in bed! It was great to get a good rest this far into the journey. 

We ended the sail with a talent show that was alternately entertaining, hilarious and touching. 

The next day we sailed into Chicago where 44 hours of deck tours must pass before we can sail again. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Happy Birthday!

Quick post to say Happy Birthday to my friend Kate who turns 10 today!  Wish I could be there to celebrate with you!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Shore Leave - Duluth

The first night in Duluth we hosted a party for the crews of all the ships at the festival.  BBQ hotdogs and platters of fruit, cheese and crackers. And a watermelon basket because we can be fancy like that! 

On the last morning of the festival the Sons of Norway brought us breakfast. It was delicious! We ate on deck and the officers put on their dress uniforms. 

We were docked just down from the Great Lakes Aquarium. Happily, crew members got in for free! I enjoyed this model of the great lakes…

…and sailing a toy boat along the route we've been taking. Going through the locks was interesting, my boat capsized a couple times!

Most of the tanks were freshwater, like this one showing the fish that live in Lake Superior. 

I got out for a run one day. One of the nice things about living on a ship is the nice waterfront paths to run along. 

Duluth was nice, Canal Park, where we moored, was a nice area to wander around in although it was a little touristy. So far Duluth wins the postcard contest as there were lots available at several stores.  

The festival was the usual mix of crowds and vendors (a lot of them are the same at each festival; Baja Smoothie, kettle corn, Great Lakes Challenge merchandise). 

Now we are off for a 10 day sail to Chicago - hooray!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Sailing Along - Thunder Bay to Duluth

A short two-day sail this time. We had the same group of trainees on which was  so nice as it meant we could build on the skills they already learned instead of starting fresh.

Lake Superior lived up to its reputation of being a cold lake. The temperature has definitely dipped into single digits up here!  Combined with a headwind it made for some cold times! For a while there was a wool blanket kept on deck to wrap up in when you were on lookout. Even with that it was chilly!

The second day the wind died down and we motored through the Apostle Islands. We anchored that night and had a BBQ and the Watch Olympics which are always an entertaining way to spend an evening.

All in all a pretty uneventful sail/motor!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Ship Life - Standing Watch

Standing watch is what defines ship life for me. Standing watch means you are part of the group working to keep the ship running and safe. 

The day is broken into four hour watches. Each watch is covered by the same group of people known as a "watch group". These people end up being the ones you spend most of your time with as you work together and are on the same schedule so have the same downtime as well. As well as the group of deckhands each watch will have an officer and an AB on duty. My watch is 4-8 and before you ask am or pm I will say both!

So, what do we do during watch? There are four physical positions that need to be filled at all times:

Helm - as you may have guessed this is the person helming, or steering, the ship. If we are in a narrow channel or river an experienced helmsperson will be on (the narrower our course the more experienced the person) but in open water everyone is given a chance to helm. There is no auto pilot on board so when we are underway there is always someone at the helm. 

Stand-by - kind of like co-pilot. This person is available to help handle the helm in stormy weather or to take over should the helmsperson suddenly faint away or something. 

Look out - standing on the bow, watching for other ships, fishing buoys or other things that might interfere with our safe passage. 

Safety - twice an hour we walk through the ship to make sure all is safe. Mainly we check for fires and floods. 

We rotate through these positions generally every hour or half hour and generally in a specific order although the pro crew may change things depending on other work needing to be done and who is available and able. 

In addition to the physicals the people on watch are available to work on sail trimming, maintenance and cleaning. There will definitely be cleaning every day. My watch group cleans the heads (toilets) which isn't as bad as it sounds and is actually my favourite cleaning job on board. 

At the end of a watch we will come together to hand over the care of the ship to the next group as well as debrief them on any pertinent information. As part of the Norwegian tradition on board we will wish the next group a good watch in Norwegian. "God vacht!" 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Shore Leave - Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay is our shortest stop this summer. Arrive on Saturday, leave on Tuesday. We were here for Lake Superior Day on Sunday and also open for deck tours on Monday (though not many people came on Monday).  

The lines were the shortest I've seen. This is just as they started letting people on and it didn't get much longer, at least while I was on duty. 

On Monday the whole volunteer crew had the day off! The only one this summer. Not so bad for me but some of them have been on since June 4 and won't get off till August 21! 

We started with breakfast at Hoito's, a Finnish restaurant famous for their breakfasts. 

We did a little shopping and then I went back to the ship and met a friend who gave me a driving tour of Thunder Bay, lent me laundry facilities and took me to see the Kakabeke Falls. 

Although I look at water everyday it's not water like this! Very mesmerising, loud and awe inspiring. After dinner I returned home to our three masts and Sorlandet. 

Sailing Along - Bay City to Thunder Bay

We started out with really nice weather, set some sails on day 2, had a swim call etc. 

For this leg there was a youth leadership program, only 4 girls joined the program but they rock! They are learning so much and are a great addition to our team. I'll be sad to see them go next weekend 

No pictures of this but we sailed through a squall that had us dousing sails asap, getting things set for high winds and an all hands call that eventually ended with "pieces of meat hanging around" being told to go below decks. 

We sailed up Lake Huron, around some neat islands and through the locks in Sault Ste Marie. There were 4 side by side, pretty neat. Not at all envious of the card stopped for construction on the bridge!

Lake Superior was beautiful and cold (as expected). One night when I got off watch at 8:00 it was 8 degrees celcius! 

It was so nice having a six day sail. The next leg, to Duluth, will be short, 48 hours or so. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Swim Call

The day we left Bay City was super hot as the whole weekend had been. In the morning our Chief Mate, George, mentioned their might be a swim call. Now, one thing I've learned on board is that plans often change but happily this wasn't one of them. 

In order for a swim call to happen the waters have to be pretty calm and we need the ship to stop moving (obviously!). We were under engine, not sail, so that made it fairly simple.   

For safety we launch the man overboard boat and it's manned by a team of two who monitor the swim area as well as crew on deck doing the same. Everyone was eager to get in the water so the crew swapped in and out of supervising roles so that everyone could have a turn to swim. There are two ladders set up for getting out of the water, and in as well if you don't fancy jumping off the side!