Thursday, September 24, 2015

What's Your Hurricane Plan?

Lighthearted approach to a serious subject.  (Sign available from Amazon, here)

As we were watching for hurricane Erika's arrival, and immediately afterward, we ended up in several conversations with variations on this theme: what would you do if your house/boat was completely totalled, you had just the contents of your backpack and $80K from insurance? As you rebuilt your life, what would you do?

A colleague on the Galeon said that if we lost Cinderella, we should just stay aboard permanently and live on the ship (interesting, hmm...). I've always been interested in mobile, possession-light living, but maybe not quite to that extent and not indefinitely.  There were certain practical or sentimental or unique objects I had collected over the years that I would definitely miss. And the lack of any control or privacy would get old, too. It was a very flattering suggestion, anyway.

While I wasn't sure exactly what my hypothetical post-catastrophe life would look like, I was certain I would want to still be living in a small space, in touch with nature, mobile, not committed to any one location. That might not be another sailboat similar to our present one, or it might. It might also be a trawler, RV, or tiny house. Or a series of housesitting gigs in interesting locations. My trend was pretty clear.

Several people in these conversations saw the chance to start over as a chance to make a radical change. If they lost their boat they wouldn't buy another one. A woman said if she lost her house she'd prefer to replace it with an RV. Another said if they lost their house they'd take advantage of the opportunity to do something they'd always wanted, build a cabin in the mountains instead of rebuilding where they were.

What some of these folks said made me sad. If they were in a life that doesn't "fit" anymore, unhappy with their present lifestyle, why weren't they doing something to change it? Why did they need to wait for a hurricane to come along and sink their ship/trash their house/whatever in order to make that radical change? Why not just sell it, now, and get on with that "something" they were wishing for "someday?" Yes, I understand that they might not get as much money out of the sale as they would wish, or perhaps as they would get from the insurance totalling it. And inertia is a bitch, and family members that are left behind by your choice to make big changes can play guilt games.  But why, if they are mobile, are they marking time in a place/situation that they don't like and half-wishing for a catastrophe?

When we were first married and living in a townhouse in Boulder, Colorado we had some neighbors who at the time seemed impossibly old and wealthy (they were really middle-class and in their 50s, but we were in our 20s and broke, so by comparison they were old and wealthy). One day they announced a garage sale. They were selling everything -- their 4-bedroom home with mountain view, their two cars, all their furniture and most of their clothing, and going backpacking through Europe. Being newly married and starting a career and in an intense nesting phase, we didn't understand their actions.  Why dump everything they had worked so hard to acquire? We didn't understand then, but we never forgot them, either.  Now, though, we do understand. It didn't take a hurricane for them to break free of their inertia and take action toward their big change.

Charleston, South Carolina: And Just Like That, It's Over

After a fun overnight sail we docked in Charleston, one of my favorite stops.  In my mind, the city is synonymous with wrought iron and great food. The marina was friendly and withing walking distance of downtown. The visitor load was exactly right: enough people to be profitable, but not too many for us to be able to actually connect with those who wanted a deeper understanding of the ship. And I couldn't wait to show our chef the wonderful farmers market on Saturday, with everything from handmade spice blends to break dancing, and our traditional dinner out at Hyman's Seafood for salmon croquettes and cheesy grits, and another dinner somewhere for blackened fish.

In between, I was loving the slip where we were, and viewing the world going by.  We had a great view of passing shipping traffic and the Ravenal bridge. My geeky engineer side comes out, I love these modern cable-stayed styles, all diamonds and triangles.

The bridge, viewed from the water (image from here)

"What's on your mind?" Facebook asked.  Erika, I replied.  Hurricane Erika is on my mind. The forecast map that day looked like this, predicting the storm to be waaaaay to close to St Augustine for comfort.

We had left Cinderella in the care of friends and prepared for some wind. We had taken the headsail down and removed the bimini, but the slip we were in wasn't sheltered enough for a big storm. And moving our boat to the boatyard where we had a contract to haul us out for just such an emergency as this was more than we could ask of Jon and Katherine -- they had their own boat to prepare. 

And just like that, it was over.  We had to leave the Galeon and go back to take care of our boat.  Two of the senior people aboard were driving to St Augustine anyway for a series of meetings, leaving before dawn in two days. A single 4.5-hour drive erased the past two months of sailing travel, and jolted us from the 17th century back to the 21st. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Always Saying Goodbye

A beautiful day to be on the ocean, but the beginning of the end of our trip.  

My Dad was extraordinarily good at maintaining friendships. He had many people in his life that he'd known for 30, 40, 50 or more years.  Me, on the other hand, I seem to make friends easily, but let them drift away just as easily.  Maybe it's a basic personality characteristic, maybe it's a function of our different lifestyles -- he enjoyed travel, but for his entire life home was within basically a 50-mile radius of where he was born. I, on the other hand, definitely have the wanderlust gene. Even before moving onto the boat, "home" is wherever I happened to be at the moment, wherever Uncle Sam sent me, wherever the anchor is set.  So each of us may have the best adaptive strategy for our different lifestyles, my ability to make friends and his ability to keep them.

But still, the trouble with being friends with adventurous people is that they're always going off on new adventures, and you're always saying goodbye.  Putting a damper on my excitement at the sailing, and looking forward to Charleston, was the awareness that this was the beginning of the end of our crazy tallship adventure.  (Little did I know how close that end was!) Part of me was deeply weary, and ready to go home and sleep in my own boat, but at the same time I wasn't ready to close this chapter. I was tired of the same conversations with visitors while at the same time I couldn't have the conversations I wished with some of my crewmates due to the language barriers.  I was tired of the hard work and the long hours and the cold showers and the do-it-yourself breakfast that was skimpy by our American standards. But I hadn't yet had the chance to learn all I could from David the cook or Skia the archaeologist. I hadn't heard enough stories about Spanish customs or caught Karen's infectious joy at everyday life or - - - The only way I could describe the contradiction was that I was ready for it to stop, but I wasn't ready for it to end. I wasn't sure the friendships I had made so far were going to be durable enough to survive the time apart. And I certainly wasn't ready for the price you pay for making friends with adventurous people -- the inevitable goodbyes that were ahead.  So I'm going to focus on the fun, silly times. (and I'll keep adding pix to this post as I find 'em.)

To quote from Winnie the Pooh (A.A. Milne) "How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard."

Playing in the galley on a calm day on passage, assembly-line style making croketas (sp?): David shaped rich little bundles of shredded chicken, flour, and butter, and passed them to me to dredge in flour and dip in egg; then they were passed to Aleix to roll in bread crumbs.  Then chilled, deep fried, and served with much laughter.

They called it "laugh therapy:" Aleix, Roger, Ramiro, and Braya unwind after an intense day with visitors. 

Partying pirate style in New London, Braya, Kiki, Xarlei, and local pirate Newport Jack

One VERY big glass of rum and coke at Karen's going-away party (Dan, Ramiro, Karen, Aleix)

"Team Zona Noble" got very good at setting up or breaking down this area full of breakables and elegant furniture quickly for every passage.  (me, Carl, Skia, and Jamie)

Face painting

Chef David with fresh vegetables donated by a friend of our newest crew member Skia at the start of our passage to Wilmington

Dan and Xoco, the boatswain, working on a splice

Fernando finding an odd place to nap in a bundled-up sail on deck

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Wilmington, North Carolina: Too Much of a Good Thing

The logo on this t-shirt from the local brewery looks a lot like our ship, doesn't it?

We were completely unprepared for the intensity of our 10 days in Wilmington, especially after the long sea passage. As we motored up the Cape Fear River around sunset, people lining the waterfront screamed out "Welcome to Wilmington!!" The people in town were really looking forward to our arrival, it seemed, and couldn't wait to come tour the ship.  They loved us.  They loved us a little too much.

There was a rhythm and ribs festival going on in the field next to where we were docked, and we were slammed with people.  Three thousand people in the first day.  The kind of crowd we had only seen before as part of the boat festivals like the Tall Ship Challenge in Philadelphia.  But Philly is a big city.  Wilmington? Wilmington? It's something of a smallish town in a rural area.  Where were all the people coming from?  Ah, must be because the festival is offering discount combo tickets to their event coupled with an El Galeon tour. The rush of people will calm down on Monday. (I thought to myself.)

But it didn't.  We were insanely crowded even during the week.  The publicity surrounding our visit must have been extraordinary.  People told us in some cases they had driven several hours to see us, and then waited an hour more in a line that snaked around the dock. While the income was fantastic for the ship, crowds are always frustrating for us as tour guides.  We didn't have time to really help people understand the ship or the historic context, couldn't tell our stories or get into conversations with visitors.  We were reduced to just traffic control, which gets both wearing and boring pretty fast. The people were very proud of themselves and their town whenever I told them that we had more visitors in Wilmington than we had in New York City. (Of course, I didn't tell them that our attendance was rather dismal in New York because we were marketed badly, or my friend James' theory that there just wasn't anything to do in Wilmington and we were benefitting from the lack of competition.)

Maybe it was the tiredness from dealing with the crowds, but my memories of Wilmington are just fragments. Spectacular sunsets. The going-away party for our popular ship's photographer. Buying t-shirts from the local brewpub for half my friends on the crew, because the logo looked coincidentally like our ship.  The local photographer who gifted us a poster-size print of a photo she had taken of the ship's arrival at sunset a day or two before.  A bright pink sailboat docked at our almost-empty brand new marina. Wandering the historic Cotton Exchange. A pretty top in bright tropical colors that I saw in the window of a consignment store on the main street. The very nice optician who helped us find a replacement for Dan's prescription sunglasses and arranged to have them sent to us since they wouldn't be ready before the galeon sailed for the next port.

But all those visitors, every day! The relentless pace was wearing us down. And although it was nice to be back in the South again, the heat was wearing also.  I was looking forward to sailing again, even the single overnight trip to Charleston -- and to Charleston itself, always a favorite city.


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Long Passage (Connecticut to North Carolina): Becoming a Family, Becoming Elders

Sunset at sea

We left New London for what would be the longest passage of our trip -- the 5 day offshore run to Wilmington, NC.  The weather for the first day was predicted to be stormy, then it would get calmer. I was really looking forward to the trip.  It spanned my birthday (yay! birthday at sea!) and the Perseids meteor shower (yay! stars! far from any cities, with no light pollution at all, and a new moon!) and I was curious to go around Cape Hatteras.  I expected the weather to change from chilly foggy New England to sunny warm South.  We were going to a port I hadn't known well but was looking forward to.  I would miss some of my crew friends who were leaving the ship, but we had also picked up some new crew and I was curious to get to know them better. Most of all I was looking forward to spending a longer time at sea without being as sleep-deprived as I get when it's just the two of us on Cinderella (yay! for a full crew divided into three watches!)

The trip began with rough seas as predicted.  We noticed who got seasick, and who didn't, and, most commendably, who got seasick and did their absolute best to stand their watch anyway.  We didn't really have a "party" for my birthday because of the rough conditions, which suited me just fine anyway.  I have no trouble with the idea that I'm aging, or with being the center of attention.  It's just that I want to be celebrated for something I did or accomplished, rather than simply for surviving another year. We did, however, have ice cream and sang the old familiar song. Amusingly, I learned that "Cumpleanos Feliz" and "Happy Birthday To You" both have the same number of syllables.  I didn't even mind that Dan and I ended up on the midnight watch again, because I was hoping for the sky show. Day 1 was a bust due to the heavy cloud cover, but at least I neither got seasick, nor rained on.

Day 2 and 3, though , the weather moderated enough for us to do minor maintenance during the day watches.  I learned to enjoy painting and oiling teak -- tasks that were by turns good opportunity to be alone with my thoughts, almost meditative, and chance for long conversation when doing a 2-person project.  The nights had magic skies above and bioluminescence below.  I learned the Spanish name for a meteor shower, which translates to "rain of stars." The sky was packed so full of stars, it seemed there wasn't room for all of them, and some fell out. The stars were absolutely dazzling and the weather was chilly but clear.

As we went southward and ever warmer, I packed away the fleece long underwear, hat, gloves and scarf that I had felt silly including in my luggage in June in Florida, but was glad to have during the night watches. By the end of the trip heat, and not cold, was our weather concern. It was so warm that we needed to rig a bimini over the helm for shade. The thing I most enjoyed was observing the way the crew became a tight family, helping each other, trusting each other, interacting in that confined space. 

Dan and I had been a bit concerned about we ourselves would fit in when we started the trip. We were far older than most of them -- heck, we were older than many of their parents -- and certainly far less strong.  We couldn't "pull our weight" (and where do you think that phrase comes from, if it didn't arise in this very context?) and what did we have to offer in other ways to do our share of work? 

We were participants in a society that respects seniors. And certainly, we were treated well by everyone … maybe, too well.  They were careful of us, helpful – I couldn’t even begin to do any strength related task or carry anything heavier than a bottle of wine without someone stepping forward to take the load. So, what’s wrong with that? I could bask in being the queen. 

But there was something wrong with that. There is, I think, more than one kind of respect. There is the respect you have by virtue of your position, independent of the kind of human being you are. You are obligated to act respectful toward your boss, if you want to keep your job. You are obligated to act respectful toward local law enforcement, or toward the king, or as in our case, the seniors. That is what I feared we were getting, what I think of as structural respect. What I wanted was the kind of respect that is earned, because of our actions and our character, independent of our gray hairs.

My Spanish was coming along, but not fast enough.  The total immersion plus the wonderful Duolingo app on my phone had gotten me to the point where I could handle the vocabulary necessary for our daily lives, and I know they appreciated my effort.  I could say "There's a fishing boat off our starboard bow;" or understand the command to "Make that line fast;" or ask someone at the dinner table to pass me a fork or a napkin. But what I really wanted, and still lacked, was the language for deeper conversation. "What will you do when your tour on the Galeon is over?" "Tell me about your home back in Spain."  Impatient with my language progress, I complained to one friend, who told me that what I was experiencing is exactly the way a child learns their native language.  Concrete ideas and objects first, ideas and philosophy later.  

Still, with the weird Spanglish we all used, we haltingly had some of those deeper conversations. I loved that I had some friends who were less than half my age, and we treated each other as equals.  My vanity loved that they refused to believe Dan and I were in our sixties; we were supposed to be all stodgy and sedentary instead of swabbing decks and staying up all night. I realized I was becoming the repository for some heavy confidences from my colleagues, the kind of things that it's easier to talk about in the dark.   One had had some legitimately traumatic things that happened in childhood.  There had been the constant distractions of the social whirl and the internet while in port, but at sea without that buffer those awful memories came bubbling back up.   One was ready to settle down but was in love with the wrong person -- not someone who was unavailable, but someone with a fundamentally different set of values.  For these I had no answers or even suggestions, just a listening ear as they heard themselves talk through the issues.  One was terrified of heights, but with gritted teeth climbed the rigging anyway, and I expressed my sincere admiration for the achievement. One consistently "forgot" chores or did things halfway and left for others to follow through on, that one was last in line when there was work to be done but the first to show up when the dinner bell rang.  For that one, one morning I chose a private place and said, “Look, I totally realize that what we’re doing here on the ship is not what you thought you were getting into when you signed on. I understand you weren’t quite prepared. That’s no reflection on you.  But the mark of your character is what you do next. You either commit wholeheartedly to doing all aspects of this job to the best of your ability, or you acknowledge that this is a bad fit and move on, because what’s happening here now isn’t serving anyone.” I thought it was a private conversation, but ... somehow ... everyone seemed to know about it very quickly, not the details, but the resulting changes.

In those conversations and more, I began to get my own answer about leadership and about the kind of respect I had been given. I remember one interview with a tribal elder I heard when I still worked in Washington DC. “How do you get to be an elder?” he was asked.  There’s nothing formal, he replied. Just, when the hard questions come up, and there’s no one else they can ask.  That’s the way it felt – I felt totally unqualified and unprepared, but the hard questions came up, and in my mind we’re sitting in a circle, and I look around to find someone smart who is going to answer the question, and when I look back, all those faces looking at me, waiting to hear what I have to say.  

Thursday, September 10, 2015

New London, Connecticut: Lighthouses (Another Crew Perk)

The New London Harbor lighthouse (image from here)

I never really thought very much about the symbolism of lighthouses, although I enjoy visiting them for the historic interest.  Of course, as a sailor I think of lighthouses as guidance, shelter, warning of danger or reaching the comfort of safe harbor.  I think of the dedication, and in many cases, isolation, of the lighthouse keepers, what has been described in this article as a "quaint, unique, and altruistic way of life" that has now been made obsolete by the invention of modern inexpensive automated solutions. I sometimes think it would be fun and cozy to live in a lighthouse on a lonely rock, just the two of us, with a spectacular view, catching up on our reading and making pots of hearty soup, but that's not realistic ... I'm too much of a wanderer, and too much of an extrovert, for that life to appeal for long.  Not to mention the hard work.

So it was fortunate that our visit to the old whaling city of New London coincided with "National Lighthouse Day" (August 7th) and with the transfer of one of the local lighthouses from the government to the nonprofit New London Maritime Society. We were invited to the ceremony, which included one of the most interesting presentations I have ever heard from a bureaucrat, and for a private tour of the light.  Crew perks! I'll take 'em!

The rest of our stay in New London, like the town itself, was "nice, nothing special." We were there for 10 days and I think I was getting just a bit tired.  We had been warned that the town had gone through some rough times and was a bit sketchy in some places, so initially we were a bit wary of long wanderings. Later, one of our local sponsor/helpers told us that it wasn't as bad a it looked; "The town has a tough exoskeleton," is the way he described it.  Heart of gold, and all that.  Exoskeleton. That's the mental image I will forever after have of this town.

Cutting the cake with a sword at the lighthouse title transfer ceremony

We were docked on a nice big pier directly behind the Amtrak station.  We had the benefit of visitors coming to pass the time while they were waiting for their train or ferry.  But the downside was that our tour guiding was frequently interrupted by the train whistle ... it was loud.

We had several pirate-themed parties aboard, with face painting for the kids...

...and a mermaid on the capstan.

Bagpipers on the quarterdeck ...

...and sea shanty singers.

Several of our crew members dressed up and enjoyed the fun as well!

Our ship's captain is a lighthouse fan.  Here she's checking out the fourth-order Fresnel lens in the tower; one of the staffers from the New London Maritime Society arranged for this private tour for us.

View from the top.

Lovely in both directions.

Beautiful iron stairs in the tower, and rope railing in the brick wall.

We took a boat out to the newly-acquired Ledge Light, The story goes that it was originally planned to be a standard tower-shaped structure until some wealthy waterfront homeowners demanded to look at something "prettier" from their porches, and funded the creation of this structure, more interesting architecturally. 

Juan, the lead carpenter, is also a history buff and he joined us on the tour.  He and Dan are good friends and co-workers even though neither can speak much of the other's language.

An extra treat ... from the top, we watched as a submarine returns to the base

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Portland and Portsmouth: I Could Stay Here For a While (Maine and New Hampshire)

Watching the boat parade in Portland, from the deck of the Galeon

We got Wow! receptions in both of these New England cities.  Huge boat parade in Portland, both other tall ships and local boats participated. Lots of visitors to our ship, we were crazy-busy in both places.  I actually don't like that quite as much as the quieter locales.  Of course the income from ticket sales is a big benefit, the more the merrier, but when it's that crowded we don't really have time to engage with the visitors and help them understand the ship and its history.  It also wears us out.

But the towns were lovely; several of the crew commented that they'd like to come back for a longer stay maybe next summer. (No one said anything about the long snowy gray winters, though!) We enjoyed walking around the just-right-size historic downtowns.  The weather was cozy; sometimes foggy, but warm (not hot) and sunny most days, and snuggly sweatshirt weather at night. As in so many places we've visited over the years, I tried to imagine myself living there.  Sometimes I wonder if I'm really a wanderer at heart, or merely a seeker for that perfect town: just the right size, opportunities for both outdoor recreation and intellectual stimulation, good weather, restaurants, it's a long and not perfectly articulated list. A place other people pay money to visit on their vacations. We used to joke that the easiest litmus test was to compare the number of bars to the number of bookstores. (Or churches.  I once read that in Wyoming in the old west days there was some kind of rule that the town couldn't have more bars than churches ... which is why so many tiny one-room churches were built, so they could also have another bar.)

While the people of northern New England were good to us, the waters of the area were less kind.  Ten-foot tides and lots of lobster pots made for tricky docking and navigation.  I spent almost the entire 4 hours of one of my watches on the foredeck looking for floats in the fog and communicating back to the helmsman with hand signals -- outstretched arm signalled apot in this direction off the bow, number of fingers meant how many tens of meters away -- while he or she steered a zigzag course to avoid tangling the lines in our props.  We weren't always successful; twice a diver had to go down and cut away the lines.  And there was one time that I had to make up a new signal: thumbs under armpits, elbows flapping. Sorry about that, never mind, I just had you alter course to avoid a bird! This combination of tides and fog and rocks and pots is the reason we've never taken Cinderella up north.  Yes, we'd like to come back again for a longer visit someday ... but it just might be that we'll come by land.

Modern tug helps historic ship to dock in the big tides

Cute streets -- we teased our chef about this restaurant named "David's" in Portland 

And equally cute streets in Portsmouth

The ultimate bars-to-bookstores ratio -- it's a two-fer! This used book store also serves wine and beer!

Tiki the parrot!  Mascot of some visiting "pirates."

The far northern latitude gave us very early sunrises; the sky started showing the first hints of light at 4 AM. Also long beautiful sunsets.  Good night you two little port towns of New England; we'll be back!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

So Maybe I Should Talk About the Actual Sailing

We never got to be on the ship with all the sails working -- but isn't it a beautiful sight? Check out the El Galeon website for more pix.

Over not quite 3 months, the ship was planning to travel from Florida to Maine and back again.  We were certainly looking forward to some sea time.  And it would be a lot different from our usual travels on Cinderella. Bigger ship and bigger crew -- fulltime engineers! Someone else worrying about the navigation and logistics, and someone else paying the dockage!  With a full crew, we organized into 3 watches: 8-12, 12-4, and 4-8.  They had picturesque Spanish names: the first watch was guardia de prima, the midnight watch was guardia de modorra (literally, "watch of drowsiness") and the 4-8 was guardia de alba ("watch of dawn.")  For us, four hours on and eight hours off was a luxurious amount of sleep on a passage, even if we did seem to be assigned to the midnight watch for more than our fair share of the trips.  (I flatter myself thinking that it was because we could be relied on to stay awake and actually, you know, watching during those late nights.)

But there was a downside to this being a commercial trip instead of a pleasure cruise.  My friend Ellen always claimed that the most dangerous thing you could have on a ship is a calendar.  And that was the other difference from travel on Cinderella - we had a calendar.  A calendar makes you leave when the weather is not ideal, in order to make your next port on schedule.   And that was also true for our first sail of the cities tour.  On Cinderella, we'd just wait for better weather, but on El Galeon that wasn't an option.  So our first sail started with us fighting 20 kt headwinds that kicked up uncomfortable gray-green waves in Delaware Bay as we left Philadelphia under cloudy skies and headed to New York City.  It was conditions that would be miserable in Cinderella; on the Galeon it was merely inconvenient.  For a couple of the crew this was their first-ever sail.  "Is it always like this?" one asked me.  No, don't worry, kiddo, you're just getting the crappy part over with first.  After this, everything will seem easy.

And the second day was easy indeed.  Sparkling blue skies, and when we turned out of the Bay the wind that we'd been beating into moderated and shifted to behind us -- perfect for sailing.  We were all energized and enjoyed the beauty.  The motion was gentle rocking, we unfurled two of the sails and glided across the water.  Magic.

We saw dolphins and some whales by day, bioluminescence at night.  We drew the midnight watch for August 12 and spent all of it looking skyward.  The Perseids meteor shower was brilliant on a moonless night out in the ocean away from any city lights.  The Spanish name for meteor shower is "rain of stars."  Yep.  Great name.

Sadly, that first trip was the only one in which we got to sail.  The Galeon doesn't have a real keel and only draws about 10 feet.  In the old days, these square-rigged ships could only sail downwind.  "If the wind ain't blowin', this ship ain't goin', " I tell the kids who visit us.  The combination of "downwind only" and "sailing with a schedule" meant that for all the other trips, we motored to our destination.  Too little wind is far better than too much, though!  When the weather and sea conditions permitted we did light maintenance during the day, but there was plenty of time for just looking.  I oiled a lot of teak on those days.  I like painting; it can be meditative, or you can be chatting with another crew member if you're working together.

That lack of keel makes us roll quite a bit when underway if the waves are coming at us from the side.  Not an uncomfortable, snappy roll, it was slow and predictable, but a roll that took some getting used to.  I got my "sea legs" and learned to walk across the deck only toward the uphill side -- walking downhill on a rolling deck, if the ship rolled any more in that direction the downhill slope got steeper and it was a sure recipe for a faceplant.  In the old days in bad weather you would shorten sail very literally, lowering the sails closer to the deck.  Decreasing the amount of canvas that was working decreased your speed, which could be a good thing if there was too much wind.  Decreasing the weight aloft also helped decrease the side-to-side roll of the ship.  Our modern version of that?  We would sometimes drop the spars all the way down to the rails of the ship if we were going at an angle where we couldn't sail anyway.  Less weight aloft made us more comfortable, and the sails on deck made for some nifty private places.

I love watching (and helping!) the ship transform from a floating museum to travel mode, like Cinderella's coach at midnight.  The canvas and rope-wrapped "casks of rum" on the quarterdeck change back into inflatable lifeboat pods; the burlap comes off the enigmatic lumpy thing at the base of the mast to expose a fire extinguisher; and the top comes off the pedestal by the wheel to reveal the engine throttles.  The gun deck changes from a museum to storage for the oversize fenders; the movie and music is turned off and the hatch open to reveal engine room access.  And our crew changes from tour guides to sailors.

It's raining stars!!  (Image from here.)

New York City: Baggage Check

Lower Manhattan from the water

I have many memories of New York, not all of them pleasant.  After my mother died of cancer and we completed the first round of settling her affairs, we drove away with a big orange sun lighting Manhattan's towers and I hoped I'd never ever have to return to the city.  But I did, for my dad's final illness.  The circumstances surrounding his death were bad news; you don't want to read the details and I don't want to write them, but I really didn't want to have anything to do with New York after that.  (Let's just say that he was working very close to the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001; he developed an odd cancer; he died of complications of chemotherapy; and the doctors were stunningly not forthcoming about details.  In fact, self-protective lies were most assuredly involved. the hospital was either incompetent to recognize what was going on, or too gutless to admit it; either way is a problem.)  Eighteen years almost to the day after we drove away, though, the Galeon entered New York harbor., Again I saw an orange early-morning summer sun on the horizon reflected in glass-and-steel skyscrapers.  Manhattan, I thought, had looked better in the rear-view mirror as we left than it did approaching it again, but here I was.

I seriously considered just working for the 10 days of our visit, not even leaving the boat.  I offered to trade days so some of my friends could have more time off to explore New York and I'd take my time off in a friendlier port further north.  But to make it worse, we were being marketed as a "pirate ship" with several expensive evening events that included open bar.  I didn't want to be aboard for those drinkfests either.  So, I don't want to be on the ship, and I don't want to get off the ship ... sounds like I'm setting myself up for a crappy time in the Big Apple, doesn't it?

We had some fascinating visitors to the ship and the long conversations I had with them helped my sour mood.  A professor who was teaching a course on the spice trade asked piercing questions for about 2 hours. A fortune teller in a flowing burgundy gown came by; I saw her later reading palms at a kiosk on the street.  My favorite visitor by far was the modest and unassuming circumnavigator Richard Ashton, author of "This Old Man and the Sea." He was absolutely delighted to learn I had read his book and not at all put off when I admitted I had found it at a marina book swap. Visitors with interesting stories like these more than make up for the ones who just come aboard to take selfies.

The crew perks helped also; as we gratefully accepted the invitation of the schooner Pioneer docked next to us for some sunset sails in the harbor.  Fun comparing notes with them about the differences that several hundred years of naval architecture made from the Galeon's era to theirs, in the way the ships sailed.  The harbor was too crowded and busy to be described as peaceful, but the sailing trips were relaxing and pleasant, and the scenery included wonderful landmarks like the Statue of Liberty and the new tower that replaced the World Trade Center. We watched the Fourth of July fireworks from aboard the ship (not a bad deal, tix for everyone else cost $150 per head, and the bartender generously left us with the partially used bottles of liquor when they closed down).  We did finally walk around town some, found a cozy Irish pub, visited the Museum of Math (feeding my inner engineering nerd; I loved it!). There was quite a lot of damage from Hurricane Sandy almost 3 years ago, and many areas had scaffolding of renovation or new construction. My friend Beth brought her husband Lenn and pirate-obsessed six-year-old son to visit, and afterward we went out for lunch and a beer (thanx for the visit, guys, you were the high point of our week!).  On one of our strolls we got to the edge of the WTC memorial but I immediately got uncomfortable and we left fast. Internet on board continued to be an issue for us, primarily because I never found an adapter to plug my laptop into European 220V power, instead we found an accommodating Starbucks just a few blocks from where we were docked to meet our connectivity needs.

In the end, nothing either wonderful or terrible happened.  New York will never be a favorite place for me.  I did, however, gain some better memories to overlay the bad ones, and bought myself a touristy souvenir coffee mug as an acknowledgement.  Still, when the time came, I was delighted to set sail for our next port, and not just because I was looking forward to being on the water again.

The "concrete canyons"

We were docked at South Street Seaport, near the financial district

They turned the ship into a "pirate ship" for a night party with DJ and crazy lighting

But it was a primo place to watch the fireworks

And friend Beth's visit was the best part of our stay