Tuesday, October 20, 2015

El Galeon Andalucia Virtual Tour Part 2: Foredeck

One of my favorite visitors to the Galeon was a middle-aged black gentleman who came aboard in New York City. He commented on my nametag, one of the very few who got it right,and told me somewhat admiringly that "Janye" is a black name. (Um, yeah, and I think it's so cool.) We had a nice conversation about the ship, and about our jobs.  He was a tourguide on a bus tour of Manhattan. He commented that the ship was beautiful, and I gave my stock reply, "I had nothing to do with the construction, but thank you anyway," and he burst out laughing.  Huh? I thought to myself, that phrase is not that funny; I don't get it.  "Now I KNOW you're a real tourguide," he told me. "I heard you use that same line, with the same inflection, a few minutes ago!" And then it was my turn to laugh, because he was right, in a takes-one-to-know-one kinda way. I was busted! After you've been giving tours for a while, you learn what works best for the visitors and you say the same thing the same way.  Completely memorize your lines, spacing, tone, and inflection. He gave me his card and offered me a complementary tour on his bus, which I never got to take, but I was inspired to write out, word for memorized word, my tour. So if you never got to visit the ship while I was aboard, here, in the first of four blog posts, is what I would have said when you visited. And note, this is MY tour. I do my very best to get facts accurate; but any mistakes here are my own.

Dan's the real expert on the foredeck.  Here he's at his favorite station, ready to explain anything and everything about 17th century ship life.

On the main deck, looking forward to the forecastle deck ("castillo de proa," in Spanish). The roped-off area below the forecastle is our (modern) galley and office area; forward of that is our bathrooms and showers.
Anchors, then and now.

Several things to look at here on the foredeck, or forecastle deck, fo’c’sle on British ships. The big anchors hanging over the rails are what they would have used originally; each of them weighs about a ton, or as much as a small car. The anchors lying on deck are what we’d use today.  Modern more efficient design and materials allow them to have the same holding power with half the weight, “only” about 1000 pounds. But we rarely anchor.  The ship is either sailing 24/7 to make it to the next port, or we’re tied up at a marina like we are now to allow visitors to come on board. Because of course if we’re at anchor and no one can visit we’re not fulfilling our mission of education and outreach.


This thing in the middle that looks like an excellent table for cocktails is the capstan. It’s used for raising heavy weights like the anchor. The whole assembly turns. They would wrap the anchor line around the base and put rods or spokes in these 8 square holes around the rim, then 8 sailors would walk in a circle around the capstan to slowly wind the chain and raise the weight. You’ve possibly seen this in the movies.

Bowsprit. The grated deck below it is the cutwater deck, ("tajamar"), a favorite hangout for the crew.When underway and conditions permit, its a great place to watch for dolphins playing in our bow wave.

Looking over the front rail you see the cutwater deck and the bowsprit. The bowsprit is actually the hardest mast to climb even though it’s shorter and a gentler slope than the others. On the others the rigging is pretty stable and it’s not much different than climbing a ladder. But on this one the ropes are free and they wobble. There are obstacles in the middle to go around. The bowsprit itself bounces up and down so if you should fall off, you’re immediately run over by the ship! That’s why it was nicknamed the “widowmaker.” At the Naval Academy museum in Annapolis, MD, there are model ships from the Napoleonic wars, a little later period than ours. The models were made by prisoners of war. They would save the bones from their meal rations and carve them into models of the ships they had served on. Most of these guys were illiterate and they were working from memory, but the models are generally pretty much to scale, with one exception: the bowsprit, and often the masts as well, could be twice as long as they should be – because that’s what it felt like to these guys, climbing up and out there!

The ship's bell. 

Also here is the ship’s bell. The bell provides the best most positive identification of a shipwreck, because you can find cast into the bell the name of the ship (El Galeon Andalucia), the year it was built (2009), and the home port (Sevilla). The bell had many uses on a ship where no one had a wristwatch. It marked the passage of time with a gong or series of gongs every half hour; it also marked change of watch; it could signal danger or all hands on deck. In fog it could signal our position to avoid collision. On this ship in port the most important thing we use the bell for is to signal mealtime.  Three bells and we’re headed to lunch, you folks are on your own!

Six miles of rope rigging

The ship has 6 miles of rope rigging, and one of your first tasks when you come aboard as a new recruit is to learn what each rope does. You know the phrase when you start a new job and someone says you’re “learning the ropes?” This is where that expression comes from, you very literally learn the ropes. These little lines, for example, are brioles. You ease them to let down the sail and pull them to raise (furl) the sail again, and everyone has to work in sync so the sail doesn’t bunch up. (I have no idea what these lines are called in English. To me, briole sounds like something you’d buy at a fancy bakery to eat with your latte.) These heavier lines with the block and tackles are for raising or lowering the entire assembly, spar (wooden cross piece) as well as the canvas. The main sail for example weighs two tons and needs 16-18 people to deploy.

Ingenious sail slides, hundreds of years before Teflon
Closer view of the same thing ... taken when the sail was lowered almost to the deck in anticipation of a rough passage

This thing that looks like a matrix of wooden tennis balls is our 17th century ball bearings. It is racamento in Spanish or parrel in English. It does two things: holds the spar to the mast as the ship rocks in the waves; and allows us to raise and lower the spar.

Foredeck on a misty gray day.

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