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“Are you Nelly?”

Posted by Tall Ships America on July 2, 2009

    “Are you Nelly?,” the voice asked as I woke up and to be quite honest, I wasn’t sure. “It’s time for your anchor watch,” she said.

      “My what?” I thought. I had no idea where I was, I put together that I was on a boat because the red light from the chart room was glowing into my bunk and I have been living on one ship or another for the last month.

      When I remembered that I was on the Schooner Virginia anchored out in Charleston Harbor, I realized I had fallen asleep in all my clothes so all I had to do was fetch my shoes and my glasses as I headed up on deck. I was still a bit dazed as I whacked my knee on the ladder, loudly announcing my presence on deck where I met Nate, the deckhand, and three students. Nate had them show me the landmarks we were taking bearings to and brief me a bit on an anchor watch. This is when I realized that I had slept through the crew muster that night but anchor watch was a breeze. We checked our position and bearings to makes sure the ship stayed in place and was safe before we were relieved after an hour.

      It’s been interesting being an intern deckhand onboard as I find myself both learning alongside the students as well as teaching them. Early the next morning, we hauled the anchor and set sail out of Charleston and it was all hands as each watch completed their chore for the day, cleaning the ship from top to bottom. After lunch, C watch, my watch, took the deck. As the day went on, the students held up very well. The first day is always daunting because your whole world is turned upside down as you now share a space the size of a three bedroom house with 23 other people. Even in off watch, students were learning knots and lines, many doing so to obtain their aloft clearance. After a short class on sail theory, Casey, our educator, led charades (with flip flops and a giant ladle as props). Before we started we took a tally to see who had booted the most that day and Melanie outshone her fellow competitors with twelve times. The best part is she is also the student with the biggest smile on her face.

      In my continuing schooner education, I went aloft to help sea stow the main gaff topsail – a sail that still feels very new to me. There’s not much space up there for two people to stow it and the Virginia definitely has a narrower ladder than I am used to so it was a touch scary. But going aloft never disappoints. The sun was setting and even in the rolling seas I was very glad to have gone up.

      Today, Amory had been sick all morning and was immovable from the leeward side. I brought him some crackers and was able to convince him to help me with the rough log, where we record our position, and sea and weather conditions. Most of it we could do on deck, so I let him stay on deck as I went to record what we had collected. When I came up the ladder, he was resting his head on his arm right outside the opening. “Amory?” I asked.  “Eighty seven,” he responded. He is the youngest on board and had revisited everything he had eaten in the last twelve hours and still remembered to get the temperature, even when I had forgotten. That made my day.

 -Nelly

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