10. PARTING SHOTS

hmsrose

Parting Shots

The last experiences that I would like to share with you is when Rose was approaching Los Palmas, in the Grand Canaries. That was another beautiful blue skied day, but with a good steady sailing breeze. The waters seemed extra broad and blue as we maneuvered the ship, under all the glory of sail power. Several times, we brought her about, tack upon tack, making use of the fine conditions.

I remember Dave, putting me through as many sail and line handling orders my simple abilities could handle. Some of the others were wondering why he was making me run to and fro, on deck and aloft, from mainmast to foremast, taking care of one thing or another, all in a gruff sort of nonstop manner. To the bystander, it looked as though pigtailed and barrel chested Dave, barking orders from the deck, was trying to run me into the ground.

However, I think we all knew, that this was my last opportunity, when Rose was still in the open ocean preparing to enter Los Palmas. This was the last time I would be able to handle all these many lines and sails, to climb and traverse the rigging on a sailing ship when it mattered. It was one last chance to be free, a sailor on one of the greatest wooden sailing ‘men‑of‑war’ afloat.

I was called to help furl in the foretopgallant sail. Climbing up the ratlines, way up high, you can see the horizon in all directions, until you get to that point where you’ve got to step across those futtocks.

 

Perched high above the sailing ship’s deck,
my belly flat across the t’gallant yard…

Fisting in armfuls of sail,
the wind blowing across my back…
I looked down at one of the most wonderful sights,
I could never have imagined:

The spritsailed bow, far below,
white crested waves, flowing around its curved sides…

The rise and fall of the frigate,
bestriding the world…

Like some magnificent, mythical sea‑horse,
galloping, surging, leaping….

 

There is more that is memorable than what I have written, for instance: Sight‑seeing around the islands, getting to know the crew and other trainees (especially Andy from San Diego), drinking foreign beer, meeting other folks from other sailing vessels, trying to communicate with the locals, partaking the Portuguese and Spanish cultures, eating food at strange restaurants. For now, those experiences will need to rest in the comfort of my memory.

Challen K. Yee
5‑25‑2002 copyright © 2002 Challen K. Yee

Comments are closed.