Saturday, June 09, 2007

What storm?

A week and some efficient repairs later, the crew of the Spirit of South Carolina has only two comments on last Saturday night: What storm? Barry who?

Our new focus-besides anticipating our second sail ever, occurring tomorrow for drill practice-is not melting. This week has been Michigan's August heat wave and then some. The hot air is so thick with moisture that physical exertion makes our lungs think we're drowning in a hot spring. Showering has become superfluous. One, dryness is never achieved after the shower. Two, the ripe body aroma reappears within the hour.

The locals keep telling me that this isn't the worst of it, but I am not so certain. There is no way our species has been able to survive down here if the sustained temperature and humidity are significantly higher than this week.


We Don't Say Skipper
The tall ship industry's personality is a funny one. Everywhere a tall ship travels, other boaters-whether on a 42-foot Benetau or a puny motor boat-think they are part of a special grouping with the ship's sailors, like we all have something in common. What is impossible for them to understand, however, is that the professional sailing mariners will never agree.

Although tall ships are really in a class completely their own, if we were to think of another group of mariners as part of our "club," it would be those out on the workhorses of the water; the tugs, shrimp trawlers, freighters, ferries, and the like.

It is completely understandable how one could look as a tall ship and think it closer resembles other sailboats more than the giant tubs used as freighters today. The main difference lies in the heart of each crewmember on a tall ship.

We, as professional mariners, are held to a different standard than pleasure boaters; not only by the Coast Guard, but also by our Captain, the rest of the crew, and especially ourselves.

Our vessel does not go out on our own schedule or for our own entertainment. Clearly, we enjoy every time we take the ship sailing, but even the few times it is crew only, we are out for training or in transit. We follow specific procedures and have a clearcut hierarchy where the Captain is the unquestioned king without needing any kitschy plaques to remind us of that. Regardless of who is on board, we expect to be allowed to get out job done.

We don't need sea shanties to feel like sailors or think of Johnny Depp or pirates when we see our ship. We've been known to drink copiously, but would never do so while underway. We know our personal lives and time comes in a distant second to the needs of our vessel. And we don't ever use the word skipper.

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