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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
Canberra Chris OZ Foray from Maine & Guam-Late November (426* d) RE: OZ Foray from Maine & Guam-Late November 01 Dec 03


As predicted for my day crewing on the James Craig there was no prouder heart ... however also no sicker stomach! I was not alone - they broke the record for medication use. Something to do with going out under steam rather than sail.

First thing they did was put me in a climbing harness, but then vetoed me going up untrained. So I watched the real 'climbers', both genders and most over sixty, balancing on a cable slung below the yardarm up to 100 feet up, while performing difficult and dangerous contortions, and bloody hard work. I have completely reset my opinion and expectations of that generation.

But there was plenty to do on deck on the fore-watch, especially short-handed. We worked some of the heavier equipment and machinery to do with the anchor and docking, and mainly worked the yacht-type sails at the front (I won't be technical!) and the square foremast sails. The processes of getting sails up and down, and shifted from side to side are confusing and complicated, and hard work. I thought I was pulling damned hard, til a 'little old lady' demonstrated putting your back into it!

There are also sudden reverses of orders, as conditions change, or mechanical hitches snarl up procedures. Even the watch system broke down and I found myself working all over the ship. Normal procedure gets overtaken by chaos but re-emerges. There is a lot of practical problem-solving on the run, mostly requiring very quick thinking, as 5% of everything snags somewhere.

You are ALERT every second for six hours. When the rope that has escaped the hand of your neighbour is holding the end of a spar below which ten people are balanced on a wire several stories above deck, your reaction time matters.

There was one hand who did some singing, while organising passengers into a line pulling ropes, but shanties soon degenerated into 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot' etc, but I would guess that used to happen anyway!

I don't know if I will sound any different, but my attitude to singing sea songs has been altered forever by a brief experience of doing or watching it for real.

The crew were just great people, with inexhaustible patience, courage and stamina. And what was once defined as 'grace under pressure'.

Thanks to Sandra for putting me up again at short notice.

Chris


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