21/04/2010 - Working Aloft

Temp: 10ºC

This morning as I left the salon (where we all sleep (& eat when it’s too cold or wet to eat outside)) I was passed on the stairs by one of the pro-crew; Caitlinn, walking down with a violin, this seemed a little bizarre and did surprise me as a) I didn’t know she played the violin and b) it was 7 in the morning,… but what an awesome wakeup call for those still asleep!!!!  Exactly what everyone needed on the first day we were going aloft to actually work! And we couldn’t have hoped for a better day. Breakfast was accompanied by a beautiful blue sky and a light wind, a perfect “ship preparation” day.

The morning muster was carried out in the traditional “Mate Mike” manner, with people being sectioned off for various tasks and concluded with the normal comment of “well,.. let’s go” mumbled into his beard.   I was sent aloft to lay blocks with Paula who ensured that I had everything correctly attached to my harness, a bit tricky as each block (which is one of the wooden blocks with a wheel inside it) weighs a good kilo and a half, our job was to lash (tie) these onto the “jackstays” (metal rods) on the yards (long booms that hold the sails on!),.. Once up and over the devil’s elbow I shuffled nervously out onto the yard clinging on as if my life depended on it,.. which it incidentally did! I’m not sure how to adequately describe my sideways shuffling motion without offending either Parkinson’s sufferers or old people, but if you can imagine a very nervous crab shivering from cold whilst walking along a very narrow tightrope, you’d probably get the idea. 

Now came the tricky part, letting go of the jackstay to clip on, then deftly removing the first block from its secure place on my harness without dropping the rest onto unsuspecting crewmembers 10 metres below,.. this is where my temporary Parkinsons became an issue, not only did I have to let go with both my hands  but I had to undo the complicated knots we had used to secure the blocks!  I surprisingly completed this feat without too much trouble, as once doubled over the yard I found my centre of gravity meant I could push out on the footrope and grasp the blocks quite easily without feeling like I was losing balance.  Once off my belt the lashing was quite straightforward, a nice and easy “wrap”, followed by a “frap” and tied off.  Now that might sound complicated, but it just means you loop the 2 object together and then cinch the rope back on itself,.. still confused? Look up wrapping and frapping on google!). 

With the first block safely in place I had to venture further out onto the yard,… this may not sound too exhausting, but with the stress and the effort, my muscles found themselves tiring quickly and my parkinsons moved from my hands to my feet,.. not good when 10 metres up.

As I grasped the jackstay and shuffled along the footrope towards the far end of the yard I remembered I had clipped in,.. damn it! Shuffle back a bit, unclip, reclip, shuffle out again a bit more, unclip, shuffle, reclip, unclip, shuffle, reclip,.. I was beginning to understand why Captain Moreland was of the opinion that harnesses were a pain! 

I Reached the second point and attached the block, my Parkinsons reducing as I relaxed, and focussed on the job in hand.  By the third block my clenched jaw had loosened enough to actually shout down to deck to ensure that I was lashing the blocks in the correct place.  I even began to look around at Lunenburg from my new vantage point and make the most of having a bird’s eye view of the place for the first time, a small but quaint fishing village. With my shakes banished, I relaxed as I made my way back to the mast and down to deck,… task one aloft completed! J

Along with 5 or 6 others, I was then recruited to help raise the Spanker boom and Gaff.  Now this is no punishment device as the name would suggest, but the intermediate mast and boom for the sail at the back (or stern) of the ship.  I assumed that being wooden these large circular posts would be relatively light,.. I was wrong, it took all 5 of us pulling on the uphaul to lift them off the deck!

That afternoon I “went below” (smutty jokes about “going down” are now a thing of the past as we use the correct vernacular!) to find one of the more experienced trainees elbow deep in shit as he attempted to unclog the head (toilet). Always keen to learn something new (and being a bit of a sucker) I decided I felt badly for him and offered to help.  I am not sure exactly how much help I was, but I definitely learnt a lot about the toilet pumps, the path of our “donations” and we successfully cleared out 2 segments of the shit tube!  Pretty disgusting, but interesting in a bizarre kind of way!


On galley duty again tomorrow,.. at least I’m guaranteed first pick of the food!!


The girls, painting and singing at the same time,.. quite a talent!

The Caitlinn wakeup call!

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