Thursday, January 06, 2005

Nicole: Wednesday night

2200 Wednesday
It's night. The sun left us quietly this evening, sinking slowly into a silver sea. I had hoped we would lose the shore today, our first day underway, but we are hugging the Florida coast with the hope of catching some slight breeze. We motored most of the day, an unfortunate state of affairs for a ship such as this.

I barely know where to begin by way of relating my experience since arriving. The ship is beautiful, in a weathered way. There are 7 miles of line and I do not begin to know what is attached to which in any useful manner. Orders are given in a language I do not speak and I scramble to be helpful in any way I can. I learn by pulling on things and watching what moves.

There are 21 of the Bounty's crew and 12 of ours and together we are the image of a motley crew. The regular crew comes and goes, as is the wont of sailors, and many have worked on several ships. The captain is much respected and mostly invisible. His job is less sailing the ship than managing it and I do not envy him that task. I assume he will be grateful when we leave the range of cell phone reception so that he may have some peace.

The mates are the ones from whom we take most of our instruction, and they lead the watches, of which there are three, A, B, and C. The individual watches bunk in close quarters, because we wake together and it is convenient to wake everyone in the same place, and not to worry about disturbing a bunk mate on a different watch. Then again, it is curious to hear myself speaking of disturbances because the ship altogether is a loud place. A bell is sounded every half hour to mark the time. The engine room is so loud one must put on ear phones to reduce the noise when checking the gas and the bilge. The sewage system has fans that whir continuously (just near my head where I sleep.) The air conditioning is loud in the aft crew quarters. The 'tween deck is the most spacious of places to sleep, but people are continuously walking by on watch, opening the door to the engine room and calling out that a hatch is open or standing above their heads listening to the Coast Guard updates that come across the radio.

We climbed into the rigging today and unfurled the sails to express our wish for wind. In the afternoon, when it became apparent that our wish would remain unanswered, we climbed again and furled them all once more.

I find it easier to be in the rigging with a job to do, as it takes my attention away from the distance between myself and the deck, and the precarious nature of the balance that prevents us from meeting. We are mandated to wear safety belts, but not to clip them on. I still do, but most of the crew does not. Somehow the feeling of safety provided by the belt is tempered by the notion that it is as likely to break my back as it is to save my life, should the circumstance arrive. Mostly, I concentrate on the task at hand and the glorious view. We choose the risks we take, and this is one of mine.

Today from the cross trees (high above the deck) I watched seven dolphins dance at the bow of the boat. I'm not sure I know how to play like that, but I wish I did. Maybe if I spent enough time this close to the place where the sun hits the sea I would learn.
posted by Nicole