A couple of days later on a breezy afternoon, Rose got underway. One of our first assignments as trainees, once out in open ocean, was to assist with removing the gaskets from the sails. I was directed to assist with the mainsail, having to climb up the ratlines, step across the futtocks and untie the sail from its stowed, or furled, position. Before leaving port, the crew taught us about the many safety precautions related to going aloft and, by the way, when the ship is rolling and pitching, you definitely keep them in mind.

About fifty yards off the starboard side, there was a pleasing distraction. We could see several dolphins creating their graceful arcs over the waters. From our vantage point high above the deck, we could easily see the happy creatures beneath the surface, swimming at a good clip through the blue sea.

With the sails set free from their gaskets, the 1st Mate proceeded to give orders to set and trim the myriad of braces, sheets, tacks, downhauls, and halyards. For a new trainee, it meant to learn, not only a new language, but the location and the proper handling of each and every line, pin and cleat. After each evolution, all lines were secured in good seamanlike fashion, otherwise they would be redone. This was not simply for fine looks, but rather for proper care and operation.

Once the yards were braced and the sails were set for the first leg of our transit to Porto Santo, I searched for the ideal spot, by the bow on the leeward side. Upon leaning over the rail, my stomach began reeling from seasickness and in one great heave, threw up my dinner. I vomited a curious purplish orb that was so much an awesome sight, I shall never forget. It soared gracefully away from the ship’s side into the gently heaving Atlantic rollers.

It takes a stalwart spirit to learn how to be a good crew member, because it doesn’t all come natural except for with time, practice, and proper direction. But I’d say about getting started: it was darn confusing!

Fortunately, an experienced sailor is assigned to every new trainee and I was no exception. Actually, since there were only three trainees aboard, each of us received far more attention than we would otherwise have had…

One of the experienced deckhands that worked with me was Dave from Maine. Dave was a pigtailed, barrel chested fellow who helped keep me pointed in the right direction. Separated from the society of landsmen, he was perfectly at ease being part of Rose’s living history. He was like an incarnation of a symphony of ocean, sail and rigging. He had a generous dash of seagoing swagger together with a soft spoken New England intellect, making him, what seemed to me, the quintessential example of a tall ship sailor.


copyright © 2002 Challen K. Yee

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