redroanchronicles: (chronicles-sailaway)
Okay, so you've seen Master & Commander, right? Think back. I know it's difficult to see past the glory that is Paul Bettany and the even greater glory that is Paul Bettany playing the cello. (It's okay. I'll pause while you enjoy that image for a moment, and in the meantime I'll answer a question that I know you're wondering about: he was pretty much faking it with the cello -- "Our fingers are in the right place, and our bowing is good, but you wouldn't want to hear the sound we were making. You could follow the tune, but it sounds a lot more like you're trying to climb inside a squirrel than I think Mozart had intended." -- but apparently he did learn to play pretty adequately for his later role as Charles Darwin in Creation.)

Damn you, Paul Bettany. You're side-tracking me again, as so often happens when I think about you and your glorious cranium. I came here to talk about ships, which is where I started with the whole Master & Commander thing. So you know those amazing tallships that you see in these "age of sail" sort of films like Pirates of the Caribbean and Horatio Hornblower? Did you know that in many seaports around the globe, you can find these same sorts of ships still sailing? The ones I'm familiar with are replicas, but supposedly there are some originals still floating about, too. That's the word on the street.

If you're me, this is very exciting. If you're me, that means that you could actually climb aboard one of those ships and manfully restrain yourself from making Hornblower references. If you're me, it means that you can finally find fellowship among other people who know sea shanties by heart.

Which is exactly what I did when the Historic Seaport's lovely little topsail ketch, The Hawaiian Chieftain, stopped in Humboldt Bay.

I don't really have any terribly witty and amusing anecdotes to share with you, I'm afraid. I had an excellent time, though it was incredibly, bitterly cold out on the water. The crew, most of whom are volunteers and who joined the crew in much the same way that one might run away and join the circus, were absolutely fantastic and had delightful stories to tell. (I won't even mention their period garb, but suffice it to say that they looked quite dashing.) I was afraid I'd get horribly seasick, but I didn't at all (though on the open sea, I must say, there probably would've been a different outcome). We were out on the Bay for three hours, but it seemed like much less.

The rope-handling skills! The hats! The peacoats! The mast-scaling skills! I tell you, I was this close to attempting to start a spontaneous rendition of "Barrett's Privateers." And they probably would've known the words, too.


Sorry. I got carried away. That happens with these things. We did sing a few sea shanties and sailor songs together though, and I tried not to be too proud about actually knowing the refrain to "Wild Rover." (I have much to thank you for, Great Big Sea.)

Unfortunately, the Hawaiian Chieftain was sailing solo this trip, as her sister ship the Lady Washington -- which was one of the stars of Pirates of the Caribbean -- is in port to have a new mast, new engine and other updates fitted to help bring her up to California emission standards. (I know. Emissions! On a tallship! But they sort of need an engine these days so they can keep to their schedule and maneuver in busy ports.) Next time they come around though, I'm hoping to embark upon a Battle Sail, which is as bad-ass as its name implies.

This fine gentleman is named Andrew. Captain Andrew. He was kind enough to help me strategize vantage points where I might be able to get some shots of the ship from shore when they set out for another sail the next day. (I ended up running late and suffering foul weather, so unfortunately I didn't get the shots, but I don't even know if they bothered with the trip anyway. I don't know that I'd want to sail in that sort of miserable weather with a group of little kids.) Then I ran into him at the bookstore and gave him a ride further into town where he needed to run an errand. I must be growing as a person, because shy-me would never have talked to the captain of a beautiful, beautiful boat. Shy-me definitely would not have offered a stranger a ride anywhere. I believe shy-me has been dashed upon the rocks of MY NEW AWESOME and swept away to sea, and I can't say that I mind. Andrew and the rest of his crew are awesome people and I'm delighted to have spent a few hours in their company. Their salty, seafaring, bearded company.

More photos from my 3-hour tour (A 3-HOUR TOOOOOUR!) can be found here, with an additional set here. The latter group are photos I took for my fellow trip-goers of their awesomeness in action; one young man helped the captain pilot the ship, and several other adventurous souls paid an additional donation to the Historical Seaport's programs and got to scale the aft mast. (I have no idea what technical terms I am using. I am making them up as I go along. They climbed up some ropes and onto a crow's-nest thingy and it looked both incredible and terrifying. I think I'll do it next time.) I helped haul away ropes a few times and it made me feel both useful and powerful. And, strangely, like I needed to grow a beard.

The Historical Seaport is based in Washington State and does tours all up and down the west coast, more or less year-round. They are essentially a living history program, and trust me when I say that they make learning awesome. They offer free tours of the ship to the public, all sorts of paid sailing trips and transits, and educational programs including sailing trips to schools all along their routes. In large part, these programs are funded by scholarships from the Seaport and donations from the public, and it's really a worthy cause to support. If you live in a coastal area, there just may be tallships near you, too; if you're intrigued, search for them on the interwebz! (Apparently there's a huge one in the San Francisco Bay Area; several members of the Chieftain's crew appeared to be having mental orgasms just thinking about it.) It's an amazing experience. And it'll make you feel closer to Paul Bettany.

I will tell you, from my now-vast stores of experience, the problem with going for a joyride on a beautiful tall ship: it's really difficult to talk yourself out of laying down the shackles of your humdrum existence and picking up a peacoat, instead. Volunteering on these ships can be as easy as stepping aboard and sailing away, and even for someone like me -- afraid of the ocean, prone to motion sickness, and not really known for an adventurous spirit -- it's hard to resist the whispering of the open sea and the snap of wind in the sails.


redroanchronicles: Juno - Kiss Me (Default)

August 2011

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