Sailing Senses Part 1 of 4: Hunger
Posted by Tall Ships America on July 25, 2016
By Intern Ben
Disclaimer: This series of blogs was not my idea. The idea of the sailing “senses” was a musing posed by one of the professional crew aboard Niagara, and recent events seemed to fit the happenings here in Bay City.
And so the subject of my next four blogs will be on the so-called “senses” that we, huddled around the scuttlebut on an idle watch, deemed most descriptive of the modern tall ship sailor. These were agreed to be: Hunger, fatigue, anger, and sarcasm. Obviously senses is not quite the correct word to describe this motley group of emotions and general feelings, but I was struck by how these four aspects do seem to encompass the strange extremes of sailing life.
Food while aboard ships has always been a curious thing. Take human beings out of their natural habitat, but them in a hostile, and often inhospitable environment, and have them still expect to eat like there’s a market down the street. Much to the thanks of ship’s cooks, it was not always so.
The British navy diet was long considered to consist mainly of salted beef, biscuit, and a daily ration of watered-rum. Sailors now fare much better. I have never had a meal on board that I did not like. Cooks are often the friendliest people aboard, and while the captain might be king on their own ship, the cook is deified in his own galley. The cook aboard Denis Sullivan was inclined to place a strip of tape on the floor with the kind warning “DEATH IS NEAR” should anyone cross over into his domain.
And it is clear to see why, hunger of all things is the sailor’s ever-present companion. Ships have a tendency to place meals around the watches while underway, so that a sailor might eat before and after his watch. Such measures cannot curb his hunger. Anyone who has seen the teenagers on Niagara run for the galley on shore at Erie knows that the sailor is always hungry.
And again, none of this is because the modern sailor is underfed. The cooks, or at least those belonging to ships that have professional cooks have been excellent. So much so that the Bay City festival invited them to have a live cooking competition which I had the honor of attending. While these cooks made some of the best-looking and best-tasting food I’d had in a long time, it certainly did not feel like sailing food.
Food is more than food to us. It holds a special place in the hierarchy I’ve established. It is the solution hunger, fatigue, and often to anger. And awaiting its arrival or commenting on its quality is often the vehicle for the arrival or sarcasm. Hunger is a chronometer, and it is barometer for crews’ feelings.
It was perhaps one of the best and most generous moments here at Bay City on Thursday night. The wind has all day kept the larger ships, Niagara, El Galéon, and Draken Harald Hårfagre from entering the mouth of the river. By the time it died down, it was late at night, and the ships only got to harbor at 10 at night. However, the Bay City staff was ready and waiting with trays of barbecue to welcome three of the largest crews to their wonderful city. They at least knew what hunger is to a sailor.