D'har's Journal
Lady Washington, Oakland to Eureka, March 2004

Notes in itallics are post-trip comments.


3/15/04

Re-packing, again...

When does a journey really start, anyways?...

3/19/04

Sittin' on the [Eureka] Greyhound, waiting to go. Holly & Harvey dropped me off, very kind. Quick well-wishes and they're gone. Parting rituals vary a lot amongst the different folks. Family, friends, young lovers; the pain of parting on their faces. The pain of watching them on others....

3/21/04

Yesterday, I went aloft. I furled sail. Today, I'll do it while we're underway. I just have to soak in the significance of that. It's strange - I really thought I would have a lot of fear and vertigo to fight through - but mostly it was a lack of confidence.

OOO - harbor seal playing off the starboard bow! SPLASH! DIVE! gone...

My trip down was nerve wracking, but uneventful. The Greyhound bus smelled like pee and disinfectant - the Samtrans bus was uncomfortable and I don't understand public trasportation. (How do I know it's the right place if I've never been there?!) As soon as we got into Redwood City limits I got off and found a nice Best Western and called a cab from the lobby. I lost the number to Yellow Cab, so the desk guy gave me another number. (the name of the company had "yellow" in it, but it sure wasn't Yellow Cab!) Man, when that cab pulled up, I wasn't sure where I'd end up! An old sedan with a fat Indian driver - beat up on the inside, old blue velor seat covers all rucked up - the whole nine yards! I just had to trust in providence (and my own two legs!) and get to the boat.

The driver was nice, he drove too fast and got me right to the boat.

(There's a lesson in there I think...)

I arrived at 7:30 am. Most everyone was still in their bunks. I think the first person I met was Julie on the Hawaiian Cheiftan (the boats were rafted up). She waved me over to the Lady Washington. There I met an enthusiastic redhead who introduced herself as "Elaine - rhymes with insane!"

The rest of the a.m. was spent getting settled in (in the aft! hee hee! Just luck - it just happened to be recently vacated and no one had grabbed it) and napping.

Note - the aft isn't as cool as I thought is was - constant drone of the engine & propeller - plus the head gets real stinky. When the First Mate asked the Engineer if there was anything he could do about it he said, "Well, it wouldn't stink if you didn't poop in it!" Engineer logic....

The crew kept asking why I was so beat & I told them it was because I didn't sleep all night on the bus. But, I never mentioned that I had started Fri at 4:30 a.m. and went to work, grubbed a spot fire for several hours, hiked for a while, *then* finished getting ready and got on the bus! It was such a long day, I kinda forgot about the mundane half!

I spent most of yesterday in a fatigue fog. So, when I found out that I was going aloft, I actually tried to get out of it. But, it didn't work. The boat has seat harnesses, so Jeremiah got me fitted and got me aloft! Up past the futtocks shrouds and back down. Sara came up and helped at some point. They were very good at talking me thru. The F. shrouds are nerve-wracking, but a few more times and I think it'll be a breeze.

it never became a breeze-more of a sick feeling that I became familiar and almost comfortable with. You have to hang from your arms to negotiate them well. I've never had faith in my arm strength, but Sara and Myuh just kept saying trust yourself - trust your arms, they'll hold you. The F. shrouds are always a huge leap of faith for me. And guess what - I haven't failed me yet....

Then we went on a battle sail. Capt. Ryan had me shadow Sara and we focused on the gear. Great sail! When we got back, they sent me up to help furl the course. Capt. Ryan and Elaine helped me that time. I squeaked several times - but no real vertigo.

Well - the crew is starting to stir, and I need to get moving.

What a first day!

3/23/04 (tue)

Sunday - adventure sail and battle sail. The Adv. Sail was weird ( no wind) and I felt lame. But the Battle sail was fun! I tried to get aloft to help furl, but they were really too busy to help me, so I came back down. I helped at dockside (furling). So far Sara's been the best to go aloft with. She rocks.

Monday was ed sails. "screaming yellow death" came aboard. I observed. I also went to the main t'gallent to cast gaskets.( w/ Sara) Whee!

On the way back I went to help furl, but we were motoring and it was windy so I got scared at the course and stayed there and Ann helped me furl.

Drew has me teaching today and I'm nervous.

Galley duty wasn't much fun. My hands are so raw it hurt to do the dishes. Last night I hung out in the hold w/ Jeremiah, Sara and Autumn (from H.C.). They're all so young. Reminded me of dorm days (I knew it would). I'm staring to feel like a real part of the crew now.

3/31/04 (wed)

The week of ed sails left me pretty wiped. I has time to write, but my head was always whirling with what was going on. I've learned a lot about the boat. I've been to all the major parts of the rigging. I've furled square and fore& aft sails. I even hung from my harness to furl the main topmast stays'l. Everyone has been very helpful and eager to teach me. The down side is that everyone is such an "expert," so I get 12 different instructions on the "absolute" best way to do something. I can handle two or three, but after that, it's just frustrating.

in retrospect, I don't think the crew was all that adament about their way of doing things - just my perception at the time. Lots of info - very overwhelming. I've enjoyed working witht the kids. I think I do pretty well. By Friday, I was really into the swing of things. That was the last day, of course. The weekend sails were fun. I went onto the Hawaiian Chieftan for the last battle sail. It was interesting, but I wouldn't want to volunteer or work on it. I'm glad I got the chance to sail on it tho, since it's for sale and no one knows what's going to happen to it. Also, it was great to be able to watch the Lady move.

I scuttle up the rigging fairly well now. No more fear. I'm not fast, but competent. That will probably be tested to the fullest soon.

Ahh - the transit. Capt. Ryan said it would be rough, but still...

none of us were prepared for the ordeal we went through. Only Ryan had been through this kind of transit (and worse) before. He said - "we're going to be hammered" many, many times, but some things can't be explained... We were headed out of S.F. Bay from refueling by 2 p.m. Under the Golden Gate bridge an hour or two after that and out to sea. We started watches around 4:30 - 5 pm. I'm on Watch A w/ Mindy (our 1st mate and watch leader), Martin and Jeremiah. I couldn't have asked for a better group.

(this is where I fell asleep on my journal)

4/01/04 (Thurs.)

O.K. - So basically on Monday, we started out from San Francisco. It's Thursday, and we're at Bodega Bay for the second day. We hit NW winds at 30+ knots gusts and 11-foot seas at 11 seconds - plus wind waves. Talk about getting the shit beat out of us! I was on a night watch, and it got scary. Most of the crew was down w/ sea sickness. I was fine and I even enjoyed the ride! Wrestling with that tiller though, that was really tough. I'm bruised thru and thru. I didn't get scared until our second watch (that would have been the second night out) when both Mindy and Martin were so sick they could hardly stand, and Myuh was working on the pump that broke (the poop pump no less!) and I was on the tiller.I couldn't hardly keep the course. My instructions were "go for NW, but error on the side of land." In the middle of our watch, Mindy had taken two plots where we lost ground. (I think it was six nautical miles in two hours) she woke Capt. Ryan and he came up and turned the boat around. What a difference! The tiller still threw us around quite a bit. In the end, even with following seas, we had to have 2crew on the tiller. By the time I woke up, we were anchored in Bodega Bay.

As I read my own words, they seem entirely too inadequate for the experience I went through. We were all in a kind of fatigued euphoria at the time I was writing this passage. When I remember that watch when we turned around, my toes go cold and my mouth goes dry. I was hanging on to that tiller with every bit of strength I had. Not just physically, but mentally and spiritually too. That tiller was the only thing that kept me on the boat, that kept the boat on course, that kept everyone safe, and I was on that tiller. I didn't rationalize the responsibility, but I felt it. The seas seemed bigger than God, and our boat but a thimble. A deep and terrifying understanding of my own smallness crept into my bones from my feet that night. It's taken a long time for it to percolate into my mind. I'm very glad it didn't start in my brain, or I'm not sure how I would've reacted.

Entwined throughout, within, and between the fear was the most exhilerating, freeing feeling I've ever had. I was riding my sea-steed through fearsome waters that cared not for me - nor could it deny me. I swear (corny as it sounds), I felt the blood of my ancestors waken in my veins, and laugh and sing in terrible, beautiful voices. I was not the first to ride waves like these on a crazy, moonlit night. Someone rode them with me, and thrilled in the memory of being alive. I had a moment when I embraced this feeling, when I welcomed my ancient past, and death was not important. I would never die. We will never die. I knew who I was, for a moment. It's gone now, lost in fear and insecurity and banality. How will I ever get it back? And here we sit. Boredom is setting in. It's especially affecting the ADD group (Drew, Myuh, Elaine, Ryan - though he hides it better). I can relax, mostly. But Ive been hit with a pretty severe case of homesickness today. Harvey called and told me my fish died. That's a bummer. Someone was messing with the circut breaker and it probably go too cold. I'm going to curl up in a ball for a while.

I hadn't really thought of it before, but I think I was on a fearsome adrenaline down.

That was as far as I got in my journal during my journey. For me, writing takes refelecting. When I first got on the boat, it was all I could do to deal with the moment. I didn't have the wherewithall to reflect on yesterday. But then, even as boat life became routine, so too did this philosophy of the now. I didn't see the difference until the boat was in Eureka, and I had a foot in both worlds. When we know what's ahead, we spend too much time looking back. On the boat, we focused on the moment. The Capt and cook planned. The Education Coordinator and Steward had to plan too. But us jack tars? Be ready for watever's next. Learn from what just happened. But mostly, be here now.

Our transit from Bodega Bay to Eureka was blissfully, thankfully, happily uneventful. Even the malcontents were contented with their boredom (and there was a TV and DVD player on board). The seas were easy. Sky was forever blue. The waters were greens and blues that defy words. Even the land was beautiful and largely uninhabited. We sprawled in the sun on the warm wood deck. Most everyone was doped to the gills with dramamine. There was, blessedly, no puke.

Little blue jellyfishes floated in patches large and small. We call them Cobalts locally. Debbie found their scientific name and said it with glee over and over. (It was fun to say).

A large pod of gray whales parralled us for a very long time. Spouts and humps and flukes to our hearts content.

There was sleeping and music and very simple happiness.

The tiller didn't bruise a one of us.

Two days after leaving Bodega Bay, we smoothly motored over the infamous Humboldt Bay bar at about 11pm.

It took me 10 hours to bus down to Redwood City.

It took me 6 days to motor back on a tallship.

I was curled up in my own bed by about 1:30 am. I already missed being rocked to sleep.

I will never be the same.

 

The crew while I was on board;

Captain Ryan "Evil" Meyer
1st Mate: Mindy Doroski
Engineer: Jeremiah "Myuh" Gempler
Bosun: Carley Tallman
Bosuns Mate: Allen Kerstetter (spelling?)
Purser: Ann Meyer
Ed Coodinator: Drew Little (who isn't)
Steward: Mary "Wendy Lady" Shifflett (spelling?)
Shopkeeper: Martin Johansson
Cook: Jesika Starr Rowley
Topmen: Sara Kowalczyk, Elaine Eno, Debbie Goodman

Fair winds and following seas, may your hearts compass always be true.
-- D'har


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