Thursday, May 24, 2007

Maritime Festival and Craig

The last two weeks have been an incredibly hectic and exciting time. We spent most of last week preparing for the Charleston Maritime Festival we were hosting over the weekend. On the Spirit of South Carolina, we had a lot to get done in order to get our USCG attractions vessel certifications, prepare to anchor for the start of the Charleston to Bermuda race, and prepare for Sunday night’s Parade of Sail. Unusual for me these days, I spent only half a day in the office out of the entire week.

Although the festival did not start until Friday morning, the festivities began on Tuesday with the arrival of the Pride of Baltimore. A Columbian naval vessel, Gloria actually reached the harbor in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, but she anchored out until Thursday when she made her official entrance with a 21-gun salute and her crew standing on the yards singing. Pride of Baltimore, however, came in Tuesday at about 6:30 with most of her sails set (no stunts'ls or ringtail though) and we exchanged fire in greeting. A couple of our crew then booked it over to their docking spot to catch their docklines and welcome them to town. Later that night we caught up with them in town, hanging out until the wee hours and properly setting the tone for the rest of the weekend.

Wednesday the other two tall ships docking by us—Schooner Virginia and Spirit of Bermuda—arrived. Because they arrived with little warning…or at least as little as one can with huge sails that appear on the horizon hours ahead of the ship’s true arrival, these two vessels did not get quite the same greeting or fanfare from us. Although our guns had been stored aboard, the charges were all across the street because we do not have a locked storage area aboard. I personally found this somewhat embarrassing when Virginia fired a shot and we were unable to return.

Thursday was an incredibly stressful day. I was in our Education Tent helping Sarah get everything set up for the weekend (yes, I missed the previously mentioned 21 gun salute), but the company all of the festival chairs, tables, linens, tents, etc were rented from were really slow in supplying what we’d ordered. When we finally finished up for the day, I had just barely enough time to get all cleaned up and, get ready for it, dressed up (clean and in a pretty skirt!) for a dinner at Hibernian Hall. This event was actually a really smart move on the part of the foundation. They combined a fancy C2B event with the requisite Captain and Mates event for the festival. It was rather entertaining to wander around trying to figure out which people were racers versus bigwigs with the foundation versus the tall ship sailors. One thing I really noticed at this event was how many people I actually knew. There were a number of people who give a lot of their time or money to the foundation that were there, so I spent more of my time talking to those folks and sailors than to the people I work with. For getting to town less than two months ago, I was pretty impressed by how many people I actually knew.

Friday morning was probably the craziest part of the festival for me. Sarah called me just as I was leaving the ship for the Ed Tent, asking me to bring towels. Apparently, the city had never turned off the sprinklers that were under our tent, soaking the things presenters had set up the previous day, including a Scholastic Book Sale. We spent the morning sopping up water, blow-drying books, and apologizing extensively. We hadn’t even gotten our own booth set up yet when the festival opened and it was time for me to race back to the ship to prep for the C2B race start.

I do not know whose idea this was, but the start of the C2B race was brilliantly planned. Because the Spirit of Bermuda was in town, we went out and anchored across the harbor from them, forming the official start line of the race. To do this, we brought out the official race starters (timers, counters, radio people, a woman on flags, and of course gunners). We also had some members of the media. The C2B is over a 700 mile race, so the majority of the entrants are larger vessels. In total there were eighteen beautiful boats entered, most leaning towards 70 feet. They were sailing around as a swarm preparing for the race and getting into position. It must be fairly tricky though to be reliant on the wind while getting your vessel into position and ensuring that you can move quickly at the right moment but not before. It was particularly breathtaking to watch eighteen large sailboats fly by, some hauling up their colorful spinnakers, within two minutes.

After the race began, so did the real work. Getting off the dock and setting the anchor were the easy parts of the day. Using the windlass for thirty-five minutes to haul the 500-pound anchor back in, that could be defined as either backbreaking or bodybuilding. Once we’d accomplished that sweat-inducing task, we raced around to prepare for docking and tours. The other seven tall ships had opened for tours at 10:00am; it was now a little after 1:00pm. Docking is always an adventure on our dock because of the currents and the channel. Docking in such a way that we can rig both gangways is just plain miserable. In order for either gangway to be rigged, we have to position the ship within two inches of its where it was the first day we set them up. This may not be a big task with a smaller boat, but 150 tons and 140 feet combined with our weird currents made it take about thirty minutes to dock. As soon as we’d managed that, we had to race around to prepare the deck for tours. It was a little after 2:00 before I could head back to the Ed Tent to relieve Sarah.

Saturday was fairly uneventful, at least as uneventful as a busy day can be. That evening Sam (our Bosun) and I joined a group from Pride and headed over to a small crew reception on the Prince William, a Brig from England. We somehow connected with the Bosun of that group and got an exclusive tour, checking out literally everything aboard—including Bosun’s locker, climbing in bunks, and the Engine room. The Prince William is an interesting combination of traditional vessel (how can something with square sails not be somewhat traditional) and modern ship. The ship has WiFi, air conditioning, push button toilets, and even an enclosed bridge for the Mates to stand during watch (the ship’s wheel, however, is out in the weather so the trainees aren’t quite as lucky).

Another highlight of Saturday night was out at the bar. Otto, the educational director of ASTA, went above and beyond to drive Sam and Mike (Second Mate of Pride) crazy. Otto truly appears to buy into the legend and lore of tall ships without actually understanding the filth, work, professionalism, and pride that goes into working them. He started out by asking what sea shanties they sang when raising sail (something no sailor worth his salt actually does) and then, seeing their absolute revulsion continued to asking questions that got them increasingly riled up. It was quite entertaining, and possibly would have been even more so if I had not been sitting between them.

Sunday was probably the best day of the festival. We were all exhausted by then and I was losing my voice teaching people about how groundwater flow works, however, knowing it was the last day and we were going to test our sails led to a fun level of anticipation. Additionally, Sunday morning is when my friend Craig arrived for a little visit from Michigan. We snuck out of the Ed Tent for a while, visiting some of the other tall ships and asking my new friends the most obnoxious and classic questions possible (“Does this vessel actually sail or are the lines decorative?” “Does the awning—now renamed the Cocktail Sail due to a brilliant answer—keep you cool while sail handling?”) It actually became difficult to come up with newer and more creative questions as we wandered, but what was even more entertaining is that I got asked one of the classic stupid questions on another vessel. Apparently if you look like a sailor, it doesn’t actually matter whether you are on a boat you’ve sailed or not.

After that, we taught Craig how to make newspaper pirate hats and let him loose with the children. Of course, as the Pendalouan gang would expect, he was fabulous (And yes, he can teach you how if you want it for Special Day this summer). As the festival events ended at five, it was time to once again race back to the ship for (da da dah) the Parade of Sail.

This is probably the time to point out that most of our crew had some Parade of Sail jitters. Although all four of our sails were bent on, we’d only actually raised two of them…both at the dock. Additionally, our sheets and tack systems are not finished yet, so we had some temporary sail controlling set-ups in place. The good news is, we did it. We raised all of our sails with a barebones crew. We even managed to tack to come back into the harbor without anything going wrong. And, for a little while we sailed, the engines still on, but in neutral. Oh yeah, and we looked good!

What was really incredibly about the parade is the response we got from the community. This was in essence our coming out party (Mike from Pride kept calling us the Debutante Boat). We led the parade, while Brad (our cannon happy Executive Director) fired at each landing crowded with people. Every time we put up a sail, we could hear the people from shore cheering for us and the small boats crowding the harbor tooted their horns. People kept popping on their VHFs to congratulate us. There were thousands and thousands of people on the docks and piers in Charleston, on James Island, and on Sullivan’s Island. They looked so incredibly swarmed with people that it almost seemed like there should more than a few getting pushed into the water by the throngs.

Craig was on one of those incredibly crowded piers and was able to get some great pictures of us and the other vessels under sail, which I will hopefully upload in the near future. His visit, though ending today, has been a great one. Monday we did some ship work in the morning before taking the afternoon off to visit the beach. We returned in time for the Festival Volunteer thank you party. That was pretty incredible, because many of the volunteers were the same ones that have been involved in the ship from the beginning and they were pumped that we’d finally sailed. All evening people kept coming up and congratulating us on our sail, showing us pictures and telling us how many people had been where they watched us from.

Tuesday I got a whole day off (!) so Craig and I visited Boone Hall Plantation, where we fell in love with huge Live Oak trees covered in Spanish Moss. We actually managed to participate in every tour, presentation, and activity the Plantation offered, although the highlight was probably the tram tour. The driver of the tram clearly enjoyed telling people what was going on with the company (Boone Hall is America’s oldest working plantation) and bits of natural history. This included discussing extensively how snakes are on the move right now and how many snake trails he’d seen on the road that day. This culminated with us coming upon a black rat snake on the road, at which point he grabbed his snake stick (an actual metal contraption used in catching snakes, not some stick from the woods) and muttered about how the rattlesnakes were easier and more fun to catch.

Now, it is finally time for Craig to head home. He has been a real hit here on the Spirit of South Carolina. Admittedly we are a bit short handed, but regardless, he’s been offered a job by both Bosun and Captain (as a former supervisor, I of course, offered a great reference). This may be in part because we had our new deckhand quit yesterday, but is more due to his willingness to scramble aloft to tar the shrouds. Sadly though, he heads to the airport in no time at all so he probably won’t be staying aboard and working the lines with us. (Think about it Craig…think really hard. Money and credit hours mean nothing…really)

2 comments:

Leah said...

Beth,

I'm really glad that you write this! It's great to keep up to date on your happenings. Sorry I haven't written back yet, things have definitely slipped through the cracks on my end! Oops! I spent this past weekend in Baltimore however, somewhat closer to you (I think?) anyway, it was gorgeous! Email me or I'll you, someday :) Miss you're smiling face!

Anonymous said...

Beth! I'm so glad you wrote down details from my visit! It was truly something I'll never forget. Sadly you forgot some details. Remember that one person that made us sleep on the deck of the boat for some reason?!? Or when I sat down at the terminal and someone said to their friend, "It smells like something is on fire or burning in here...." Thanks so much for your hospitality, I hope you find your couch friends soon.

~Craig

Remember, if your ship falls apart from a bad tar job, you don't know where I live...

You should choose as your life's work whatever feels the most like play.
-Harvey Oxenhorn