Sunday, August 30, 2015

Philadelphia/Camden: Crew Perks

Tall Ships Challenge crew pass -- my ticket to everything

When we met up with the ship in Philly, almost the first thing that happened -- after the round of hugs, and the stowing of our backpacks in our bunks -- was this conversation:

"Here's your crew id. You need to wear it at the festival, and keep it safe because you'll need it for the other cities on the tour as well."

I had no idea, when I put on the pass, that it was also a ticket to the red carpet treatment everywhere.

Crew members wearing a pass get on the shuttle or water taxi for free.  Crew members wearing a pass do not wait in line, they walk to the head of the line and show the pass. (Guests of crew members don't wait in line either.)  We rarely were able to pay for our own beers; bartenders and random strangers took care of us.  People thanked us for being there.  We got weird and wonderful gifts.  The manager of the water district in Camden gave me a rubber duckie. A random visitor, upon learning that Dan and I were the only married couple both working on the ship, gave each of us half a "Spanish doubloon" so that we would always be together. The royal treatment continued in other cities.  In Portsmouth we were given t-shirts with the image of our ship printed on them. In New York, we were invited for free sails on the historic schooner docked next to us; I even got to take the helm briefly.  (Dan noted later that I was rather reluctant to give it back...) I absolutely loved it. Yes, what can I say, I'm a Leo, I'm a sucker for the VIP treatment.

My favorite thing by far, though, was the courtesy tours of the other ships, including the behind-the-scenes stuff that the regular visitors didn't see.  We chatted with the other crews about how they solved the problems of everyday life at sea that we all face: How do you divide up your watch schedule? What are your chores? How does your ship do in rough weather? And of course the most important question -- how's your food? I thought we were going to lose our chef to Pride of Baltimore after he saw their beautiful galley. And L'Hermione  had the ability to bake fresh bread aboard! (Baguettes, of course -- they're French!) I got a great tour of the Canadian training boat Picton Castle as well, docked directly behind us, on one of my breaks.  You know, the one I got to cut to the head of the line, just flashing my crew pass. (*smile*) Everything they say about Canadian courtesy and politeness is totally true.

Taking the helm of the schooner Pioneer in New York

We played tourist in the public areas of L'Hermione ...

... and their captain gave our captain and crew a behind-the-scenes tour.  Here, explaining the watermaker. 

Crew dining area, between the cannons on L'Hermione.  Note the hanging baskets; no scurvy here! The ropes holding the tables can be adjusted to keep the tables relatively flat if the ship is heeling over on a tack.

Visiting the Canadian ship Picton Castle, docked directly in front of us in Philadelphia.  Note the crowds aboard El Galeon behind me; we had about 3,000 visitors that day.

"What I Did Last Summer"

Remember writing those essays on the first day of school?  On Facebook recently my friend Cathy awarded me "best in class" for what I did last summer, crew on this crazy tall ship adventure.  Yes, you are right, Cathy, and I'm gonna need a longer bucket list, because, how do you top this?

After spending months as tourguides on the ship at the dock, we went sailing!  Saint Augustine, Florida to Portland, Maine and back again, stopping in Philadelphia PA, New York City NY, Portland ME, Portsmouth NH, New London CT, Wilmington NC, and Charleston SC

So, what did I do last summer?  A whole lot of pulling on lines and coiling ropes, and everything is done the old way, by hand, with blocks and pulleys and muscle.  I learned the names of a lot of those lines; the little ones that furl the sails are called brioles in Spanish. (I have no idea what they are called in English.)  Brioles? Sounds like something I'd order in a fancy bakery along with a latte.
El Galeon has six miles of rope rigging. And I have real sailor-girl callouses on my palms.  Some days it felt like I had coiled every one of those six miles of rope!

It's a very physical life.  I spent my share of time doing this:
Teak decks need to be wet with salt water.  The salt holds the moisture and keeps the wood from drying, cracking, and shrinking ... hence preventing leaks.

And, more excitingly, this:
I have many pictures posed at the helm, most in period clothing, taken with great cameras by real photographers.  And those pictures are gorgeous.  This one? Not so gorgeous.  My (21st century) clothing is rumpled and my hair is messy, but this photo is definitely my all-time favorite. Why? Because this one is the real deal.  I'm on the ocean between Philadelphia and New York, and I'm actually steering the ship!

Sailed into big cities, and cute small towns.
I loved the contrast between our ancient ship and modern glass and steel skyscrapers in New York.
Walking around on our time off in Portsmouth
The crew became my family:
Photo by Karen Gajate, Smiling to the Wind
Then hurricane Erika was predicted to hit near St Aug, and we had to leave to protect our own boat. A four hour car ride, and just like that, it was over.  We were back from the 17th century to the 21st. I'm still (of course) processing the whole experience and there are things I want to write about in future blog posts.  Not a trip log, just "things of interest." Random thoughts from the voyage. Was I fundamentally changed by the voyage?  I don't think so, but then again this wasn't my first time at sea.  Still there are some new thoughts I hadn't thought before.