Monday, April 8, 2013

the Hawaiian Chieftain

Here I sit in the aft cabin, looking at my computer wanting to tell my blog all about my last week and a half and it's hard because there's just so much. Shit, a week and a half ago I didn't know what an aft cabin was.

I've enrolled in a two week program called "two weeks before the mast" in which you are given a bunk and thrown into a trial by fire process of adjusting to this lifestyle. Waking on average at eight am to the voice of Knuckles, the cook, hollering out to us "o-eight-hundred, coffee and breakfast!" and within 15 minutes 11 of us crowd the galley to snatch our portion of breakfast. Me and one other sailor lazily smoke a cigarette first (coffee in hand, naturally) before eating. Afterwards, "muster" is called and we are told what the day looks like. Next, chores.

The Hawaiian Chieftain is owned by a non profit organization who works and sails up and down the northwest coast teaching 4th and 5th graders about sailing, particularly around the Revolutionary war. During the week there are two programs for the kids; "Dockside tours" and "Education sails" (or "ed" sails). Dockside tours are where they are split into groups and in three different station learn about things like trading, navigation and hauling on lines. Ed sails we actually take the kids out sailing and, once again, in three groups are led to helping to actually put the sails up.

 Which, I suppose I should mention, is no small feet. The Chieftain is 103 feet from tip to tip, a square topsail ketch, with something ridiculous like 15 sails she can fly with - though mostly we stick it to about 6. The sails are heavy and solely raised by our dedicated strength. I'm a week into the program and I still barely know what I'm doing on each sail, learning so much every day and still feel like I haven't scratched the surface.

None the less, the weekends are public sails. We take them on two hour "Adventure" sails where the crew sings shanties and tells the passengers anything about sailing that they want to know about, and also encourage them to join in on the hauling of lines when raising the sails or tacking. The more fun sails are the "Battle" sails, where Hawaiian Chieftain and her sister ship, the Lady Washington have an exciting mock battle with cannons with blanks (though no less boom) and a point system to rate hypothetical damage. The fun comes in the jibes and calls back and forth when we get close, and in the hussle of being a deckhand when so much action and dancing of circles around eachother (the boats, not the crew, though in the chaos I find myself running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to figure out where it is I'm supposed to be).

 Now, all of this is the shell of the experience. The meat and bones is living on the boat; making the rest of your crew a second family, the ship a home and the skill of sailing filling your lungs and soul with the essence of adventure and freedom. Every burning muscle is a trophy and everything from food and drink to sleep feels better to me, out here, exploring a whole new way of existing.

1 comment:

Chip Willis said...

I heart the, Meagan Sample.