Wednesday, November 1, 2017

My Extraordinary Ordinary Life

"Puesta del sol" describes that moment when the sun just touches the horizon

As we traveled port to port in Canada, we offered the opportunity for people to buy passage with us, as trainees or as simple passengers. I was initially somewhat skeptical of the idea, though of course the extra income for the Foundation was welcome. I was concerned that although they seemed to be pleasant enough people, we didn't show them the best time.

We got off to a bad start (literally) when we had trouble with engine oil pressure and had to return to the dock overnight on our departure, while the engineers worked deep into the night. Next morning we made a weirdly slow exit from the dock, just to make sure everything was okay (it was). We deployed the sails, but a block burst spectacularly while we were hoisting the mizzen sail. I learned a few new Spanish words: "chapuza" kind of a half-assed fix or lazy jury-rig; and "gafe," or jinx.

I coached those who wished to learn to steer, and other crew took our more athletic trainees for a climb up the rigging.  All with photos for their social media, of course. Conversations aboard became trilingual. You could hear "good morning," "buenas dias," and "bonjour" in the galley every morning. Still, it was hard to remember all the little things they needed to know to fit in. I remember coming on watch one evening and discovered the trainees had commandeered both sets of binoculars for whale watching, leaving nothing on the bridge for, you know, actually using to identify other ships or potential obstacles near us. Not really their fault; no one had remembered to tell them that the binoculars were not allowed to be taken off the bridge.

One enthusiastic guest convinced Captain Pablo to steer close to shore as we passed her tiny hometown in the dusk so her family could see the ship. (I had visions of a Costa Concordia-style disaster  (the Italian cruise ship that ran aground and sank when its captain showed off by sailing too close to shore) but no worries, our Captain Pablo was better than that. And the guest also wanted to ring the ship's bell as we passed, which of course would wake the poor off watch if she rang it loud enough to be heard on shore. I was frustrated -- somehow the whole cruise felt like we needed a bit of adult supervision.

But Captain Pablo said to cut her some slack, this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for her, growing up in the tiny fogbound coastal town. And we later saw, with the care she spent collecting memories of her short time with us, that he was right -- even to her begging signatures from the entire crew on her souvenir (book? t-shirt? I don't remember nor was it important.) My resentment lessened as I told Pablo he was right -- our life aboard this ship is really extraordinary. The things we take for granted are unique -- we are the only Spanish galleon sailing the seas today -- and sometimes it takes the fresh eyes of our visitors to remind us how incredibly lucky we are to be here.

Ship's bell photo by Karen Gajate

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