Saturday, October 24, 2015

El Galeon Andalucia Virtual Tour Part 3: Quarterdeck

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 third 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.

Overview of quarterdeck and poop deck

Welcome to the quarterdeck.  Now you’re in officer country; the common sailors wouldn’t have much business here.  Notice how well you can supervise everything that is happening on the main deck from up here. Behind the door (behind the wheel) are two cabins for the captain and first officer, they look just like the cabin on display downstairs except that that one has the window at the side and these have the window at the back due to the geometry of the hull. In the old days, that’s all that was back there, now the corridor between the two cabins is our ship’s bridge with the autopilot and radio and radar etc; behind the scenes we’re modern.

The wheel is still where we steer the ship. In the old days it would be connected to the rudder with ropes and pulleys.  It was built so large because it could take the strength of two or three men to hold the ship on course during a storm. Now, it is hydraulic; I have steered the ship with two fingers.
(FAQ: Generally if there are kids, one of them will ask if the boxes contain treasure. “If I have treasure, it’s gonna be waaay more than just a couple of boxes! It’s gonna take up the entire cargo hold! Those boxes might be for weapons. The captain keeps them locked up so if the men get into a fight with each other, they can punch each other but can’t shoot each other. If an enemy comes then he can quickly distribute the arms to the crew. Now the boxes hold things like flags, sometimes fishing gear, and that one in the back has the ship’s batteries.)(Underway, they also hold the ropes and canvas covers on the life rafts.)

The sail here is the mizzen sail. The other 6 sails go crosswise and use the pressure of the wind in the sails to push the ship downwind, like a plastic bag blowing across a parking lot. This sail runs lengthwise and doesn’t add to the propulsion, but helps the rudder provide balance and steering. Funny, when they built the ship they knew what it should look like based on plans found when they did research in the Spanish archives; but there was no one to teach them how to use this sail. No one has sailed a galleon for 300 years, so they had to trial and error to figure it out.

This image of the ship, on souvenir t-shirts from the festival in New Hampshire, shows the triangular mizzen sail at the back, and one of each of the two square sails on each mast.

The uppermost deck is the poop deck, and it is also strictly officers only.  The name of this deck has nothing to do with bathroom function. That was taken care of if you’re an officer you got a chamber pot; if you were a common sailor you’d go to the downwind side of the boat and do your business and wait for a nice wave to wash it clean. Instead the name of this deck comes from the Latin word puppus, which morphed into the Spanish popa or the French poupe (sp?) and it just means “the deck at the back of the boat.”

These ships go downwind only, so that means the wind and waves are always coming from behind you. That is why this is the tallest, narrowest part of the boat, so it can split the water to either side as the waves come.

The lantern on the stern

The other thing to notice up here is the lantern. The galleons would travel in company for mutual aid and protection, 10 or 20 or more galleons together escorted by the Spanish navy. During the day they could see the other members of their fleet. At night they’d light the lantern to keep track of each other, and they could use it for some simple signaling and communication. (Not Morse code; that hadn’t been invented yet.) Now we have an LED in there; back then they would have used something like the 4-wick oil lamp in the display case. Although, the idea of burning oil on a wooden ship that rocks and rolls just gives me the creeps… If it’s foggy, day or night, and they can’t see each other, they’d ring the bell on the foredeck, one gong every minute or two, and they could tell by the sound “Hey, it’s getting quieter, we’re getting too far away,” or worse, “Hey, it’s getting louder we might be too close.”

 (FAQ: Often someone will ask how they could see to steer when the sails were down. Well, the thing is, you don’t need to.  There’s nothing to see – in the middle of the ocean, it’s just blue in every direction and you merely steer a compass heading. If you do need to see you’ll send someone into the crow’s nest.)

(FAQ: What’s it like to travel on? “Different than anything else I’ve ever been on.  The ship has no keel; we only draw 10 feet.  As you came aboard you might have noticed the Roman numeral XXIV (24) painted on the bow. That’s 2.4 meters, very shallow.  We have a round bottom and just a shallow ‘structural rib’ that helps with tracking, but cannot help us go to weather. We only go 130 – 180 degrees off the wind, broad reach to run. We rock and roll further off the vertical than a modern ship, but it’s a different motion than a modern boat which will fairly quickly snap back to horizontal. We roll pretty far, but it’s more of a slow sway. To me it’s more comfortable, but then, we’re all a little crazy, to live on a 17th century ship.”)

(FAQ: Why can’t we go to the poop deck? “Well, in order to make it historically accurate we had to build it without safety rails, and the Coast Guard just hates it when we let visitors go places where they could fall overboard.”)

The helm is also the most popular place on the ship for photos -- everyone wants one here!

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