Lady Washington, Oakland to Eureka, March 2004
Notes in itallics are post-trip comments.
When does a journey really start, anyways?...
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....
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!
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
(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!
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.
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
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)
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.