“That’s Well!”

January 18, 2007

January 14, 2007

This trip is not a Caribbean vacation. We were warned several times during the interview process. We were promised tight quarters and long days of hard work. All promises have been kept. There are forty-six on board the Picton Castle today. We share four heads, two showers, and one galley. We are experiencing life aboard a tall ship with not much deviation from the way it was when this type of transportation began.

Over the past couple of days we have noticed several luxury yachts motoring along side us. One of those yachts is anchored about a mile of our port side right this very moment. I can’t help but wonder what amenities she contains. There are probably state rooms with pillow top mattresses and a private head for each. No doubt that she holds a staff to prepare meals and attend to mechanics and piloting. She probably has a electric winch to lift the anchor. (Something that I am sure that all the sail trainees aboard this ship wish the Picton Castle would install.) Lifting the anchor on this ship entails two teams pumping the arms of the windlass for what seems like hours on end. The torture does not end until the First Mate calls “That’s well!” All participants then collapse from exhaustion.

The yacht in question is anchored off the shore of Petite St. Vincent. At night her lights are brighter than all the lights on the island tonight. The yacht’s annual budget including staff and supplies may well exceed the budget of any one of these tiny islands.

The idea of income redistribution has become a heated topic upon the Picton Castle. There is at least one of us who believes that there are far too many people on this earth and inequality is nature’s way of thinning out the population. But more of us believe that yachts that big should be taxed out of existence and the revenues used to help those less fortunate.



Life Lessons

January 16, 2007

January 11, 2007

It has been nearly a week since we embarked on this adventure of a lifetime. Among our Mt Holyoke group are ten traditional aged students and three Frances Perkins Scholars. One might wonder why someone my age (38) might want to take a trip such as this.

First of all, I am a visual learner. I have read all about bunt lines and clew lines, standing rigging and running rigging, but to tell you the truth it did not make much sense until I began tugging on them. Secondly, because I began my family before I went to college and am now a single mother with four sons, I am extremely self-sufficient, very rarely asking a neighbor for an egg never mind asking a sailor to save my life. For this past week it has been a necessity for me to learn to depend heavily upon others.

This ship is all about team work and trust. We learn the ships hardware in teams. We take orders, answer and obey each order in teams. The Captain expects this of us so that he can assure the safety and efficiency of the group as a whole. Each individual is responsible for the protection of the ship and crew members on a rotating watch schedule. We watch for fires, floods and unwelcome guests. We protect each others lives. The day might come when the members of this crew will have to depend upon me.


January 8, 2007

The trip here was long. One of my row mates on the plane from Boston was rather upset about something. Her emotion made me think about all that I was leaving behind. Even though it is only two weeks, it might as well be two months. It took me a while and a phone call home to work myself out of that train of thinking. My life back home can surely survive without me for two weeks. Of that I am sure.

So far I have seen little of the island of Grenada. The taxi driver who drove us to the ship from the airport pointed out some of the “not to miss attractions”. However, I was put on watch from 8 am to 8 pm the first full day I was here. A watch is a group of people who are given tasks to complete during the time on watch.

Our group scrubbed every deck of this ship at least three times over. We were given some line training today so that when we do eventually leave the harbor we will know what lines to pull. There are about 180 lines on this ship and evidently we are supposed to know the name of each one and what it does in addition to being able to find it in the dark. I learned all that my brain would allow today. I also had an opportunity to learn about meal preparation aboard a ship. Making meals for a group of forty is a complicated task in and of itself. When you add in the fact that the scullery (pantry) and the stove are on opposite ends of the ship, the ship lacks a professional cook (deckhands are filling in), and the diesel fuel operated stove has no way to regulate the heat it throws with in its makeup, meal preparation can be a great challenge.


Hours to go….

December 23, 2006

I noticed the news story about our trip on the front page of the MHC website. There is so much I don’t know about the group of women I will be sailing with. I did not know that one of us has never seen the ocean nor did I know that one of us thinks we have a dynamic group with a lot of chemistry (which I agree with). I am baking christmas cookies tonight which I will be including in the box I am sending down to the Piction Castle in Grenada. Having survived the loss of a younger brother, I can imagine how they are feeling. I hope they will understand how much we care about what happened and that we all think about Laura often.