Note: I recommend reading this on my blog…
Welp. A lot has happened since my last blog post. Festivals of sail have come and gone, as has the offshore sailing season. The Maritime Museum hosted a celebratory gala aboard the Star of India for her 150th birthday, and now, as autumn is taking its hold, we’re preparing to take the Star sailing in November.
The Festival of Sail in San Diego was a huge success (at least from my perspective), thanks in no small part to the efforts of the Museum volunteers and staff. I stayed aboard Californian for the entirety of the festival, purely for convenience since I was sailing every day for battle sails and sunset cruises, but also to ensure no shenanigans went on with the visiting ships in town. It’s always fun to bring together different ships and crews, and this year’s festival saw the arrival of two newcomers: Tole Mour, based out of Long Beach, and Robert Seamans, often found in San Diego but usually doing maintenance during our festival. Having two new—though not completely unfamiliar—ships added some variety to San Diego’s festival, which also included our usual visitors: The Johnson twins, Pilgrim and Spirit of Dana Point, American Pride, Jada, and Curlew.
View of the visiting ships from Surprise’s main t’gallant yard.
Aboard Tole Mour was Orion, whom I had met on the Eagle and shared a rental car to Savannah with. I caught up with him and spoke with the crews of several other ships. The Museum hosted a party on Thursday night for everyone, and throughout the festival crews spent their free evenings sampling the many local bars surrounding the waterfront. I joined them on a couple of occasions and enjoyed conversing with people as enthusiastic about ships and sailing as I am. I’ve found that conversations between tall ship sailors pretty much consist of:
But, y’know, “boats” translates to any sort of technical discussion on the subjects of rigging, sails, ship specs, the all-important sea stories, &c.
The weekend following Labor Day was Dana Point’s Tall Ships Festival, where the usual suspects got together once again. This time we were not joined by Tole or Seamans, the former because she can’t fit in the confines of Dana Point Harbor, the latter because it was time for her to go to the shipyard. As fun as San Diego’s festival was, it was nice being a visiting ship as opposed to hosting the festivities. Taking Californian to Dana Point’s festival remains one of my favourite offshore sailing opportunities we get at the Museum. It’s a short, crew-only transit, usually made in the middle of the night, with no passengers to concern ourselves over. We can leisurely make our way up the coast and put in to Dana Point where there are showers close at hand, free lunches, and other ships and crews to meet. And Dana Point’s battle sails between all of the ships in the open ocean can’t be rivalled.
What you might call my highest achievement in Californian’s main hold…
On one of these particular battle sails we nearly ran into a blue whale! We had heard of blue whale sightings in the area, but we didn’t expect one to surface no more than twenty feet off our starboard bow! We had just been lining up for a good raking shot at Exy’s bow when it appeared. We received rapid orders not to fire and to ease headsails to get the way off the ship. I attempted to get video of the whale, but ended up with footage of the deck as I had to drop my phone to haul in a sheet.
The sunrise as we departed Dana Point.
After the festivals, I had a quick sojourn on a spur-of-the-moment-if-you-can-call-it-that-since-it-was-planned-a-month-beforehand holiday up to Seattle. The primary reason for my trip was a talk and book signing by my new-found favourite author, Jasper Fforde.
Fforde writes stories for people who like books and books for people who like stories. His Thursday Next series of seven (so far) books are positively brilliant. He provides a thrilling and humorous adventure story that is impossible to put down while at the same calls to attention the acts of reading and writing in a unique fashion. Honestly, books cannot get more meta than his.
There was a distant hum and a rumble as the reading approached. Then came a light buzz in the air like static and an increased heightening of the senses as the reader took up the descriptive power of the book and translated it into his or her own unique interpretation of the events-channeled from here through the massive imaginotransference Storycode Engines back at Text Grand Central and into the reader’s imagination. It was a technology of almost incalculable complexity, which I had yet to fully understand. But the beauty of the whole process was that the reader in the Outland never suspected there was any sort of process at all-the act of reading was to most people, myself included, as natural as breathing. -Jasper Fforde, First Among Sequels
Since reading the first book of his Thursday Next series, The Eyre Affair, on the suggestion of one of my English professors about a year ago, I have snapped up every book he has written and thoroughly enjoyed each one. Now, unable to wait for his next piece of brilliance, I am working my way through his books again and am finding them every bit as enjoyable as I did the first time around. I highly recommend them for any avid reader.
So, I took a plane up to Seattle just to hear Fforde speak for an hour and get a few books signed. I stayed at The College Inn in the University District of Seattle, which was the cheapest place in town and only a few blocks away from where the book signing was. While I was spending time in the great NorthWest (albeit for only four days), I took a day-trip up to Vancouver, BC to see their maritime museum, which was entirely fascinating. They have a tattoo and scrimshaw exhibit (with some artwork by Lucy Bellwood
. If you haven’t read her Baggywrinkles
comics, check them out!) that our Museum will be displaying in the coming spring, so I was interested in seeing that.
I also spent a good portion of my time gazing at all of the shipping that was going in and out of Vancouver. The most we see in San Diego is the occasional banana boat (Dole shipping) or car carrier, and your ever-present Navy ships. Seeing all of the bulk cargo and oil carriers moving in and out of an unfamiliar port kept me fascinated for a while. Eventually I had to find my bus back to the train station, though, so I did some walking and managed to get back to the station early. Which was a good thing, because going through customs back into the States was considerably more complicated than leaving. (It didn’t help that I was traveling on September 11th—not a wise move on my part).
View of English Bay and the Pacific from the Vancouver Maritime Museum.
I made my way home to San Diego, where it was time to prepare for the Star of India's 150th birthday! A fundraising gala was held on board the Star at the end of September. We towed her out to a mooring buoy in the middle of the bay where guests were ferried aboard and partied on the ship until midnight. Before that could happen, though, there was a lot of setup to do. I spent the week before the gala helping with getting the ship and YC (which Star was moored to at the buoy) ready for the party. This predominantly involved the movement of a lot of PFDs. Some movement of which was done erroneously on my part, but ended up all right by the end of the week.
Star’s ‘tween deck all decked out.
On the day of the gala, I helped move the YC to the buoy, then got the Star tied to the YC. I spent the remainder of the afternoon and evening aboard Californian. We took the first load of VIPs over to the ship and were expecting constant movement back and forth throughout the night but, thankfully, didn’t have as much work as we had thought. We fired a four-gun rolling broadside (that was almost a great success were it not for a private boat right in between us and the Star…) and took a couple groups of people back and forth, but because we were the least manoeuvrable of all the ships available for ferrying (we also had our Pilot boat and had chartered the fishing boat Premier), us Californians got let off early. While the party was winding down on the Star (which I heard was extremely well done and well received), I hunkered down aboard Californian, wanting to get some sleep in before maintenance work and sailing the next day.
Star of India all lit up in the middle of the bay.
On top of all the excitement going on with the gala and preparation for the Star sail, we’ve had a couple of offshore trips to Catalina aboard Californian. Our offshore sailing season this year wasn’t quite what it has been in the past. Our first scheduled trip that was to take place in July and have us visit most of the Channel Islands over a span of eight days was cancelled because we didn’t have enough ticket sales. We made it to Catalina in August, though, for a special archaeological sailing trip. That one went over very well and looks like something we’ll be repeating in the future.
It also brought to light some issues with several essential items aboard the ship: The oven and the head. We had an unplanned fire drill when something caught alight between the stove and the backsplash. Everyone responded admirably to the mini-emergency, and the fire was put out without getting dry-chem all over the galley. Later on in the voyage our cook reported a fireball coming out from under the oven, and the oven itself went kaput. She prepared our meals for the remainder of the trip with only the stove and the broiler. Our marine head in the main hold became clogged twice during the voyage, which our first mate had to clear. This wasn’t too unusual, especially since one of our passengers broke the oft-repeated rule of no toilet paper in the head, but we had been having issues with it for a while. Our captain for this trip happened to be the director of the Maritime Museum, and these incidents actually resulted in something positive. The death-trap of an oven was condemned, and we got a nice, shiny, new one just in time for the October trip to Catalina. And we’re to be getting a new head soon.
The October trip was our now-standard kayaking adventure sail for four days. That also seemed to go over well, though we were no where near selling out on tickets. We had a marketing representative from the Museum aboard, though, taking pictures and video, so hopefully the Museum will get on some good advertising for these trips in the future.
Weekend sails aboard Californian have actually been more action-packed than sailing offshore has been. For a few weekends we’ve been ripping out of the bay, flying along at speeds fast enough to, well, break stuff… One Sunday saw water gushing in through the hawse-holes on the leeward side. As the heel angle increased, we went to take in the t’gallant and ended up breaking the yard. Well, not completely. A part of the yoke that had previously been repaired (though we didn’t know that until we got the yard to the deck the next day)
had snapped off, and the yard became dislodged from the mast. It was still held aloft by its halyard, lifts, braces, and gear, though.
We waited until we could run downwind back in the bay before we went aloft to assess the damage. After easing off the braces, it was simple enough to push the yard back into place around the mast and rig a temporary parral to keep it there. It certainly was an exhilarating run in the bay. The funny thing was, though, it didn’t look like we were going to have any wind at all when we got underway. The lightest puff tickled our flags, and we were bobbing slowly out of the harbour before the wind picked up and we were screaming. I’m convinced our luck stemmed from the young girl we had do the traditional “wind dance” when we were losing hope on ever catching a breeze. That changed quickly.
A couple weeks ago I took an AB course at the Maritime Institute. While it wasn’t quite as much fun as the STCW class was (a lot of sitting in a classroom all day, plus homework at night), I learned a lot of useful information and am a step closer to getting Coast Guard certification. The marlinespike seamanship portion was the most fun for me, though I heard many of my classmates say it was the most difficult part of the course. I already knew most of the knots and information. The hardest parts for me were cargo stowage and crane parts. Even so, I managed to get 100% on both the safety and deck exams! I stayed up half the night before the exam studying and making flash cards, though.
Now it’s time for the event of the year: The Star of India's 150th birthday! This weekend she'll be going out to sea and sailing under her own power. I'm going to help get her prepped and ready to go tomorrow, and then she's sailing Saturday through Monday. I'll be aboard on Monday, for my first time sailing the Star.
Finally, my tall ship career has been set into motion! At the beginning of October, I applied for a job on the Tole Mour and have been accepted! The actual job application process was a little daunting for me. The Maritime Museum has always handed me jobs, and I’ve never really had to do any work to get a job before. My cover letter and resume were looked on favourably, though, and after a phone interview and a couple of weeks, I received notice that I got the job! It’s a winter maintenance position, running from 2 December through 21 February. For a portion of that time Tole will be coming down to Chula Vista for yard work, so I won’t be too far from the Maritime Museum for long. Not much sailing to be had, but I’ll get some experience working on a different ship, which I’m quite excited for.