Monday, November 30, 2015

El Galeon Andalucia Virtual Tour Part 0: The Parts You Won't See on a Public Tour

Living in a floating history museum certainly has its challenges. Virtually a day didn't go by without one or more visitors figuring that the "crew only" signs on roped-off areas didn't apply to them, and they'd blithely step across the rope and put their heads into the galley and explain that they just wanted to look around.  Um, yeah. Right. Xoco has said that we live in a fishbowl, and having people stare at you day after day while you're eating or working can wear pretty thin after a while.

So, for all of you who were courteous and respectful of boundaries, and accepting of the fact that the crew are real people who sometimes need a break from being stared at, here's a photo essay, tiny peek at areas of the ship not usually seen, and our lives behind the scenes. (In no particular order)

Here's what we look like in port when open for visitors. In order to make a modern functioning ship's quarterdeck look antique there were a lot of creative disguises. (complete with crazy pirate at the helm). 

The top of the rather unremarkable pedestal in the first photo disguises the modern throttle levers (engine controls) when we're underway.

There's a gorgeous gimballed compass in the binnacle behind the wheel, just as there would have been in the old days, but ...
...behind this panel, unremarkable when we're at the dock open for visitors ...

... sits another piece of modern technology; our autopilot.  (For a while "autopilot" was my nickname too, because I loved to steer and generally managed to hold a straight line course. You have to imagine it spoken with a Spanish accent.)

The ship's bridge has beautiful woodwork as it might have in the historical galeon period, but it also houses modern technology, computers, chartplotter, radar. 

Captain's cabin
and the crew dorm

The galley area is a bit of everything: one side is office space, meal table in the center where visitors can peek in at us.  When Dan and I are in pirate garb we always try to sit near the opening where kids can see us -- even pirates need to take lunch breaks!

Of course the smells of the food also pique visitors' curiosity.  This particular day included spaghetti with fried garlic.  We chopped a lot of garlic for this meal!

Plates on the counter waiting for the hungry. We ate in shifts so someone was always available to talk with visitors.

In the galley looking out onto the main deck. The ceiling in the gun deck below was raised for the comfort of visitors. To preserve the accuracy of the ship's overall proportions, the height in the galley was lowered to compensate.  Every single member of the crew who is over five feet tall has banged their head on the low beams at one time or another.  

Hard to believe that such excellent food could be prepared in such a simple setting.  Note the tall rails around the range to keep pots in place when we're rockin' and rollin' at sea.

Breakfast is light, and basically self-serve, ham and cheese sandwiches in a panini press, or grilled cheese or toast with jam or nutella; coffee, tea, milk, or juice.  I couldn't get used to the Euro-style coffee (more like our espresso) so I learned to drink tea in the mornings.

Forward of the galley is the bathroom, and it is pretty utilitarian: 4 stalls, 4 showers, 4 sinks.  There's a ladder up from the dorm so you can get to this area without passing through any of the public areas of the ship.

Each sink has two taps, one for fresh water when we're in port, one for salt water when we're at sea.

Washer and dryer basically for towels and our uniform shirts.  The hot water heater serves two of the 4 showers (the other two are cold water only)

To give you an idea of just how "communal" our living arrangements are -- this is what a toothbrush rack looks like for 25 people. (in the photo above, it's next to the hot water heater)
Another bit of time-warp camouflage: this unremarkable hatch in the 17-th century gun deck ...

... opens to reveal the steps down to the very 21-st century engine room.

The scale of the ship always gets me.  The foremast goes through the deck on the second level ...

... to the cargo hold level, where it is firmly rooted in this steel plate.  To give a sense of scale, those are gallon water jugs next to it. Don't they look tiny?
Sense of scale again: I'd sit on this cleat most mornings to tie my tennies before heading upstairs to breakfast.

There are no windows in the dorm, so my first glimpse of whether the day would be sunny or cloudy comes as I go up the stairs to the main deck.

Ladder down to the gambuza (pantry) in the bow.  I quickly learned to take a grocery bag with me when going down to fetch ingredients for meals -- I needed both hands to climb back up! Which leads to one of my favorite stories about language mix-ups: very early in my time aboard, before I really learned where things were, one day making lunch the chef asked me to get a red bell pepper from the bottom of the fridge, just steps away from the galley in the shower/laundry area.  But "bottom of the fridge" somehow became "fridge at the bottom," so there I was climbing down into the gambuza looking in vain for bell peppers.  Ten minutes into a 30-second errand, he came wondering if I had gone to the grocery store to find peppers! Nope, just tripped up by word order, literally lost in translation!

The base of that ladder

and the well organized pantry, cleaning supplies, and watermaker

Public stairs down to the theater

At the back of the theater, the "carpenteria" (carpentry shop) where Dan and Juan spent much of their days

through this gasketed door in the back of the carpentry shop...

... the enormous fuel tanks.  I was only on the walkway between them once, during my initial safety orientation.

The moment the visitors leave, the paint brushes come out. Climbing harness lets the crew safely "hang out" on the hull.

After hours in the galley, folding a new delivery of ship's logo tee shirts for sale.

Forming a human chain bucket brigade to bring provisions aboard. You wouldn't believe how much food it takes for 20 active people for 10 days!

After hours: a little bit of exercise and a little bit of shenanigans.

Jus' chillin'

Giddy with exhaustion is a thing -- after a busy day with over 2,000 visitors

Celebration nights called for barbeque.  Wooden ship + open flame?  Note the huge fire extinguisher just behind him.

Girl power! This is one of my all-time favorite photos from the entire trip. Our diverse crew was about 1/3 female, including the captain and one of the engineers.  And the cook was male, so no gender roles here. (Photo by Teaira Marque.)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Getting Back on Track!

So this goofy thing has been circulating around Facebook that builds a pretty word cloud of the words you used most often.  Here's mine:

I love that among my most commonly used words, "El Galeon" is the center of my universe, and "fun" "friends" "wonderful" "happy" and "ship"  also show up. (But then again, so do "hurricane" "beer" and "problems.") Seeing the word cloud also reminds me that I never finished my El Galeon posts.  

Partly, I've been too busy having adventures to write about them, and partly, I have hundreds of disorganized photos to sort through, as a result of my internet access being so limited aboard ship. But today's a rainy, blustery day, perfect for a pot of chili and some writing, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Taking Steps

You know how you put up with a crappy situation, sometimes for years, because it just doesn't seem worth the energy to put up with the inevitable upheaval if you should try to make a change?  And when you finally do get around to doing it, it's just as chaotic as you feared, if not even more? But then after the dust settles, your life is so much better that you wonder why you waited so long?

For some people, the "crappy situation" could be a toxic personal relationship or a dead-end job. For us it was the companionway stairs.

Before. The steps are steep. They don't fill the space. The cut-off corner on the bottom step is a tripping hazard for visitors unfamiliar with the boat, but is necessary to allow your feet to fit under the nav station. Note three different materials on the risers.
Previous owner of our boat modified the stairs to accommodate an air conditioner. The result worked, but was awkward and (*ahem*) ugly. We lived with it for years and FINALLY are doing something about it. Last summer in Oriental we relocated the air conditioner (more detail here) to improve engine access. Last week we ripped out the old stairs and, inspired by the graceful stairs on El Galeon built a prototype of their successor. The final will be made of teak after we come back from Annapolis. For now, we're making small adjustments and road testing the new layout. It will have four small steps instead of three steep ones in a nod to our commitment to grow old still living aboard.

Stairs on El Galeon, for inspiration

After prototype. (yes it will have a back panel to keep out engine noise and heat!) Four small steps, evenly spaced, and plenty of toe room.

In the last week we've been fidgeting with the exact slope of the stairs. The ones in this photo are too steep and ladder-like for comfort. It also turns out that spanning the full width of the entry doesn't work; it makes the ladder too hard to remove to get access.  So now the prototype looks more like this:

Continuing to fine-tune: a little less slope, a little less width

And even with the unesthetic prototype, we are appreciating the more comfortable stairs.  Can't wait for the final version!