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!

Shore Leave - Bay City

I love Bay City! It's been my favourite port so far. It started off with our liaisons dropping off laundry bags which were available for us to fill, leave on the dock and were returned the next day with clean clothes! We also had shower facilities available at the local Y. Showers that run continuously - fun times! 

In contrast to Cleveland, Bay City is full of little independent stores, cafes and restaurants, all within walking distance of the port. I was happy to find a wool store, a fabric store, rubber stamp and scrapbook store and stationery store! Also a post office and a (yes, singular) store that sells postcards. 

Although the food on board is great it was fun to find new places to eat - salads, wraps, curry etc. 

One night I went out with some of the girls from the ship, we had our "normal human being" look on, not our boat people look. 

There is a mini golf course in Bay City that I tried out one day. 

Followed by a gigantic ice cream cone. Obviously I had a hard time choosing a flavour. 

As I mentioned I finally found postcards and spent some time sitting in a cafe writing them. 

One more picture, the view from "my" porthole. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Shore leave - Cleveland

I didn't find Cleveland to be the greatest city, maybe it was the areas I visited but it wasn't my cup of tea. In our crew "goodie bags" we got a free one day transit pass, a ticket for the aquarium and one for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (those of you who know how much I'm into music won't be surprised I skipped the last). 

I did use my aquarium ticket though. It was a pretty straight forward venue - follow the path and see everything.   

Lion fish

This guy, who looks cute but is poisonous

Turtles with crazy necks

And a walk through tunnel with sharks and other critters swimming around. 

The transit pass came in handy for getting there,

As did my feet. 

I made it to WalMart a couple times to help get provisions for the ship. Fun but kind of weird to be picking out say, 10 boxes of cereal for people some who are strangers, some who you know. What kind to choose? Will people like Cheerios or Rice Krispies better? We already have lots of flakey cereal which no one seems to like so stay away from that!

One of my goals on shore leave is to call home. Thanks to wifi set up for the tall ships festival I was able to do that quayside with my iPhone and Facetime. I also enjoyed finding a cupcake bakery and a small cafe for a tea and (more) wifi. I didn't enjoy the lack of postcards and stamps. Will have to work on that in our next port, Bay City. 

Getting Ready for Port

I just saw this didn't upload when I wrote it. So sorry for the delay, or for reposting, whichever is applicable! On this trip coming into port means the start of another tall ships festival with lots of people coming to see Sorlandet. Naturally we want to show her off at her best so there's extra work to make sure she looks great. 

Because this port (Cleveland) is also our first port in the States we had to go through customs and coast guard inspections. So the inside of the ship needs to look amazing too. (The public open ship tours don't include the living quarters so while still clean, they aren't as crazy neat and clean as the deck areas.) I was on galley duty the day we arrived and came back from a volunteer meeting to find this list of extra cleaning to be done: 

Fun times! All this cleaning was for just one of the areas the galley staff is responsible for. Luckily it's a small area and now it looks amazing, organised and cleaner then normal (or it did two days ago, things have probably changed since then). 

I have a sneaky feeling I will be on galley duty the day we return to Canada as well… 

Sailing Along: Cleveland - Bay City

Day 1, Monday:
What an eventful 24 hours to start off this leg of the trip! We cast off around 10:30 with our regular group of volunteers and pro crew plus 35 new trainees. Their first day on board is always a busy one. There are safety drills, familiarisation rounds, rig training, learning to stand watch and a lot of "stuff you need to know" things going on as well as the regular running of the ship. Our first day was also the start of a race organised as part of the Great Lakes Challenge. Unfortunately a change of wind at 11:58 meant we weren't able to cross the start line on time (12:00-12:20) so we aren't participating. Neither are most of the ships, only 2 made it across the line in the appointed time. That's ok though, we're doing our own thing now and will still make it to Bay City on time. Because the race takes place under sail, not motor, we had lots of sails up (12? 15?) and the motor off. After four days of festival this made the maritime crew very happy! 

For most of the day we enjoyed nice weather, sunny, a bit of wind, etc. then during the evening things got exciting! Wind! Rain! Lightening! As the storm approached we were dousing sails asap. Even with most sails doused we roared along at over 9 knots for a bit. It took two people to hold the helm to course and we all were getting wet. Despite this the maritime crew were smiling more then ever - now this was sailing!  Some of the trainees didn't look quite as thrilled with the weather but after sailing with this group for a few weeks I trust their judgement and know our safety is their foremost concern. Not to say I wasn't happy to stand down, have a warm shower (yes, we have those on board), put on dry clothes and snuggle into bed. 

Day 2, Tuesday:
The next morning the weather had calmed down and we started motoring up the Detroit River, under the Ambassador bridge and through to Lake St Clair which is an amazing shade of aqua, almost tropical. 

At the end of the river, coming into Lake Huron I was on helm. I helmed under my first bridge - kind of a big deal as they need reliable helmspersons on then due to the exact course we need to take. One of the ABs was my stand by and gave me a hand with some fast helm turns so I wasn't completely on my own (which I am very thankful for!) 

Day 3, Wednesday:
Lake Huron has been beautiful. We had sails up this morning before going under motor as we came into our anchor spot for the night. There were plans for a swim call but the water was too rough so we had lots of time to enjoy a BBQ on deck (twice in a week!). 

Glossary - Pro Crew

Kind of obvious but just to clarify:

Pro Crew: people paid to be on this ship. Other then the maritime crew the pro crew is made up of a cook, cook's mate, medical officer, and 3 program staff (who take care of trainees and volunteers). 

Maritime Crew: the people paid to sail this ship. I've heard the maritime crew, if the had to, could sail/motor this ship on their own. Among the maritime crew there are different positions and ranks. 

First off, the officers. There is always an officer "on watch" and they have navigational certificates as well as sailing experience. In order of rank the officers are the Captain, Chief Mate and First Officer. 

Also on each watch we have an AB (able bodied seaman) on duty. The 4-8 watch has 2 ABs. Not sure why, my first sail there was only 1 but another AB joined so there are 2 now. The ABs are the lowest ranked of the maritime crew and do a lot of the physical work: cleaning, sail manoeuvres, maintenance, etc. as well as organising all the volunteers and trainees as far as work to be done while on watch is concerned. 

Other then these positions we have a chief engineer (obvious what he's here for) and a bosun (kinda like an amazing maintenance man for a ship). 

Our pro crew come from around the world! We have crew from South Africa, Australia, Denmark, Germany, Canada, the States and Norway. 

Us in the lower ranks are divided between volunteers (have more experience, mostly those who have spent a year on the ship as part of Class Afloat, on board for longer periods of time) and trainees (those who are sailing for a week or two, what I was on my first sail). Generally speaking we do all the same jobs with the volunteers taking on slightly more responsibility and leadership. 

An exception to all this is Halley. She was originally hired as program staff and still fulfils that duty, teaching us about knots, navigation, sails and all things seamanship; however she's also now part of the maritime crew as an Ordinary Seaman (under an AB). She switches back and forth filling in where needed and generally being useful. I highly suggest you read her blog post describing her role here. Click <a href="
so-what-is-it-you-do-again.html?m=>here to go!</a>

Friday, July 5, 2013

Fourth of July

As far as I know this is the first Fourth of July (and I learned not to call it July fourth, to avoid endless teasing by the Americans onboard) I've spent in the States. In the afternoon I went to WalMart with the ship's cook to buy some provisions for the barbecque we had onboard! That's right, we have a barbecque on the ship!

Once open ship was over for the day the barbecque was set up on the main deck and the Chief Engineer took on the task of grilling dinner for around 25 crew. 

Our cook, Jess had a well deserved "easy" night and stood by to monitor doneness of burgers, hot dogs and corn on the cob. 

It was a party atmosphere on deck! Portable speakers were found and music played as we all had a chance to relax and socialise together - something that doesn't often happen with the ship running 24/7. 

Later that night we watched fireworks off the bow as I started my night watch. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Welland Canal Locks

Today was spent going through the Welland Canal. We left Hamilton at 3 am and got to the first lock around 9. By 7 pm we were through the last lock and this evening we are back in open water. After a day spent looking primarily at cement walls it sure feels nice to have all this space!

The concept of locks is really neat. Over 43.5 km we changed 99.5 m in elevation! But when sailing it's fairly tedious. The cement walls, waiting for locks to fill, etc. the maritime crew have been on all day - at a lock they all are on deck with specific jobs to make sure it all goes well. I really appreciate it but it does make a long day for lots of people!

The last lock was a baby one compared to the others we went through today but no one was complaining!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Ship Life - Cleaning

The ship gets cleaned every day. In port we usually do it all after breakfast and with everyone working it doesn't take long (about an hour). At sea cleaning is done as part of watch duties, usually in the morning. 

There are three general areas that need to be cleaned: the deck (swabbing anyone?), the heads (ie. bathrooms), and banjer (the dorm style area). This morning I was part of the group cleaning the banjer. This involves wiping down all surfaces (walls, sea chests, tables, beams) as well as floor cleaning which is a 4 step process (sweep, wet mop, squeegee, dry mop).  We had around 14 people working on that area so we were done in 45 minutes! Yay! 

Enjoying a bit of free time now before we get ready to leave. Tomorrow we'll be sailing/motoring through the Welland Canal.