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Exploding pickles and a few new ships

Posted by Tall Ships America on August 26, 2010

By Libby

I know it’s been a while since I’ve last blogged, but let me tell you, a lot has happened since Bay City, Michigan. Last you heard I was preparing to board the STV Roald Amundsen hailing from Eckernforde, Germany and I was a little bit nervous about how it would turn out. Although I felt a little bit more behind than usual on a ship because of the language barrier, communication was actually one of the Roald crew’s strongest qualities. We operated on a fixed watch system, meaning that during the day I would be on from 12-4pm and at night I stood 12-4am the entire time I was aboard from Bay City to Duluth to Green Bay. As you can imagine, standing watch every night with the same people with not too much action can leave a lot of time to talk and get to know each other (and also make dough for bread the next day). Every night our mate would gather watch One to the bridge to give our “personal weather” and talk about our hopes for the night, week, and just in general. This kind of open communication and understanding between shipmates is surprisingly rare in the tall ships world. This camaraderie was also echoed every change of watch where instead of it either going unnoticed or being a formal military style turnover, was all about thanking the off-going watch. 

“Tonight we braced around and trimmed the headsails, did lookout, altered course and watched as the stars came out from behind the clouds. In total we made about 20 nautical miles during our watch.”

 “Thank-you, watch One for this beautiful sailing vessel and the work you have done for us tonight. Watch Two would like to wish watch one a gute Ruhe (good rest).”

 “Thank-you, watch One would like to wish watch Two a gute Wache (good watch).” 

The sailing aboard Roald Amundsen was also amazing (although a little bit slower than some of the other Class A ships) especially during the race from Duluth over Lake Superior. Even though the fleet was out of sight within the first seven hours of the race, we still ripped. Lake Superior gave us west winds the whole race that only got stronger and following seas that only got bigger as we got closer to White Fish Bay, our finish line. Unfortunately the day the swells were at their worst I had Backschaft, also known as galley duty. One of the advantages of having a ship’s galley at deck level is that there is more air flow and light. The downside however is having more movement than you would in a below decks galley. The day I had to cook and clean in the galley, a pickle jar exploded and everything smelled like pickle juice, the sole was slippery, and the glass shards were also a downer. That day in the galley has definitely given me a renewed sense of respect and love for all the ships` cooks in the fleet and pretty much everywhere else. You have to be hard-core to be a sailor, but you have to be way tougher to be a cook onboard a tall ship. That’s why the next time you meet a ship’s cook, give them a big hug and buy them a drink, they’ve earned it. 

After the race ended in White Fish Bay, Roald Amundsen took it easy until we got to Green Bay, Wisconsin, home of the Packers and cheese curds. Along the way, we anchored most nights to swim, relax and have nice dinners together. In Sault Saint Marie, we ended up with the lovely Denis Sullivan and Europa. Because of the nature of tall ship sailing, restrictive quarters, limited food options, etc, sometimes sailors going ashore can be even more of an exciting adventure than sailing through a storm. I would like to take the time to quickly say thanks to the people of Saulte Saint Marie for driving Samara and I around town when we were lost and had no means of transportation, on the afternoon we needed to stock up on shampoo and treats. It was a wild day but we made it back to the Roald in one piece. If it weren’t for the kindness of people in port, tall ship sailors would be a very sorry bunch.

 When we arrived at Green Bay we were all treated to a dinner and dance party as the fleet reunited again. The festival was great and the time came again for me to move on to a new ship and away from the German crew I lived and worked with for almost a month. My new home was the STV Unicorn who houses the Sisters Under Sail program, a tall ship for girls to develop leadership, seamanship and self-confidence among other qualities. I found myself right at home with the crew and really loved the six girls from Chicago that came on for our trip to Port Washington, Wisconsin then over to Chicago for the festival. Here’s the Unicorn’s spot on NBC Chicago that was shot just before the parade of sail this past Tuesday. 


             Sailing aboard the Unicorn, although very short compared to the other transits aboard Sullivan and Roald, was really amazing. The crew is very small and they can only take six girls at a time which makes for a very intimate and sweet crew dynamic. We planned to anchor for the night sometimes so during the day we would go all hands and squeeze as much sailing in as possible which I feel really helped gel the girls together as a team. In our society, where girls are encouraged to compete with each other on such absurd levels, it was nice to see a crew of all women working, sailing and living together in the coolest environment imaginable without any problem. I’ve heard about the work Sisters Under Sail have done in the past, but I now understand firsthand how big of an impact sail training can have on young girls in an environment that is safe and comfortable while encouraging them to take risks and try new things. I truly believe that this program is on the right track and I am excited to see more and more professional female sailors in the next ten years at these festivals. 

            Right now Navy Pier is in full swing and I am super excited to see it all, but also sad to see all of my friends leave, especially those ones that are heading back to Germany and Holland and scattered all across the U.S. I know I have been lucky to have been able to sail with the fleet this summer and can’t believe it’s almost over. However, before I head back to the real world, I’ll be joining Brig Niagara back to their hometown of Erie, Pennsylvania… in a hammock. It’s probably going to be rough, but I’m looking forward to learning more traditional maintenance and seamanship, and Niagara is definitely the place to learn it (also, their crew rules).

Anyways I have to get back to the festival, if you have time come down and visit Navy Pier and see the tall ships in their last port of call for the Great Lakes United TALL SHIPS CHALLENGE® Race to Save the Lakes 2010!

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