New Life

Eventually, my sense of wholeness was restored by some idyllic days of the most placid sailing I think I will ever experience. With all regular sail set and without the engines, the lazy puffing breeze gently willed us across the Atlantic. The sun was warm, the clouds were sometimes pink, and the skies were truly blue. Through it all, the Rose, made a regular two or three knots across calm seas.

Fine days like those, were opportunities for the crew to get much work done, keeping the Rose in good order, while offering trainees detailed looks at her anatomy. For instance, Jesse, the bosun, was replacing a long section of plank in the main deck, taking great care to fit a new piece in. We could see how getting the right gap between planks was important, in order to fill partially with felt material before applying the pitch that provides the outer seal.

During the day, after our work details, laying across the sun‑bleached deck became a popular leisure activity.

Late during the quietness of the midnight watch, with the ocean lapping at the hull of the ship, we would talk about life and observe the constellations. The bow watch became like a quiet space exploring the insides of each other’s thoughts, as we peered into the star lighted darkness out to the horizons.

Eventually, I was able to be involved with the watch below decks and a more useful line and sail handler. Being able to pay greater attention to Dave and others was invaluable. By God, even eating meals was becoming a satisfaction again!

It was another sunny and warm afternoon, on our journey before Madeira, when the crew setup something special for the trainees. A bosun’s chair was rigged off the starboard side. The purpose: A bit of water skiing, Rose style.

Under the guidance of John, the 1st Mate, virtually every available deckhand was called to man a whip suspended from the end of the forcourse yard, from which was attached the chair. The whip, a block and tackle arrangement, allowed vertical control of a giant hook, normally used to lift heavy loads from the pier or another vessel. A lanyard was also attached to the hook to steady the load, or, in this case, to haul a person, hanging on for life, sitting on a bosun’s chair.

Being a precarious looking contraption, the chair needed to be tested to get the trainees to try it. Debbie, the 2nd Mate, gladly volunteered to demonstrate. Her successful exhibition was enough to relieve most of our anxiety.

Andy, from San Diego, and Suzanne, from Germany, the other two trainees, went on before me. They were having a great time! Meanwhile, watching the deckhands, I was a bit embarrassed to think that the crew needed to work while we got to enjoy ourselves. Nevertheless, enjoy ourselves we did and, for our sakes, the crew was encouraging. Indeed, since we trainees were only there as part of the company for a week or two, why not a bit of decadence?

The Rose was moving at a good seven knots or better under power, during which I, seated upon the bosun’s chair, was handsomely lowered over the ocean. I had anticipated a certain coldness, my thoughts prejudiced by a preconceived notion that the Atlantic Ocean was a frigid body of water; perhaps, it must have been all those old German U‑boat documentaries or thinking about the Titanic. However, as they lowered me onto the blue ocean, I was engulfed with an incredible surprise: the pleasure of soothing bath water refreshing my body… from the second largest bathtub on Earth!

I was quick to adopt the chair as a ski and proceeded to pickup speed by planing outward, over and over! The thrill of being seated on the comfortable ocean, skiing along side the Rose towering above, will be always etched in my memory.


copyright © 2002 Challen K. Yee

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