Mariners 936

The Loss of a loved one

TO:           South Coast Sailing Team Friends
FROM:     Skip
DATE:       3/30/2020
RE:          Loss of a loved one

If you are not familiar with terms of a sailor’s language, please reference the short glossary at the end of this email.

My memories and farewell
Approximately 45 years ago, I walked out on the jetty protecting Dana Harbor to watch a beautiful Lady make her way to the protected area beneath the overlook from which native Americans had hurled dried cowhides over a century ago.  She was tended to by men and women in period costume.  Little did I know then, that our lives would be intertwined until her passing.  She died yesterday in the middle of the night, tired, alone and unneeded.

In my early thirties, in fact, my whole life, I dreamed of living in the previous century.  In those fantasies, I was either a stagecoach driver or a ship captain.  I have never controlled a team of six.  My time with horses has been very limited.  However, the other fantasy, I have actually lived with great gusto.  

I still remember the odors of hemp, tar, wet wood, canvas and paint as I first came aboard the vessel known for some strange reason as a brig. Her name was PILGRIM  I can remotely feel the fear as I made my way aloft for the first time in disbelief that people actually stood on ropes underneath a wooden spar to manhandle huge sails.  I had been sailing since I was nine but had never seen a pin-rail, what-alone memorized the name of each line that lived on the rail.  In those early days, I thrilled at going to sea before-the-mast.  I was actually living my fantasy if for only a few days a year.  Not only that, but my sons and daughters were joining me as well.  Generations of Sea Scouts known in Dana Harbor as Mariners also joined me.

Once, with my belly pressed against a yard, in a period costume with other men and women next to me furling sail, the thought of becoming captain flashed through my mind.  It was an impossible occurrence but an enjoyable thought never-the-less.  With only three weeks a year at sea, I progressed slowly from deckhand to top man to the navigator and finally to the third mate with a US Coast Guard master’s ticket (license). Suddenly, unexpectedly the Captain became ill and my dream became real.  Years of skylarking on the royal yard, burning back-stays despite the rules, swim calls with a return by means of chainplates,  hand over hand climbing of lines, dropping from foot ropes into the sea and perhaps most frightening to onlookers but completely safe, the hanging from foot ropes upside down into the cushion of a billowing sail, these were the adventures of this square-rigger.  At the end of the day, we were sailors after all.  When we reached an anchorage that I, alone as captain under the Ocean Institute rules, could declare a “safe harbor”, it was time to party.  The hook (anchor) would hardly it the bottom before a member of the crew would shot, “ Captain is this a safe harbor”?  We had wonderful parties.  The rum flowed.  The crews were challenged to compete by providing entertainment for the captain.  The main hold and sometimes the aft cabin or steerage rang with laughter and raucous shanties.

My son Shawn, himself a former Sea Scout crewman, who manhandled sail on the jibboom and royal in heavy winds and seas off Santa Rosa Island has prepared a fitting, video to say goodbye.  The video includes seamen singing the chantey, “Leave her Johnny, leave her”.  It was a PILGRIM tradition at the end of every voyage, as we gathered our luggage for disembarking, to gather in the waist or the fore-deck and sing this chantey.  It is a fitting, sea-manly way to say goodbye.  Included with the video is a chance to contribute to the “orphans and widows collection”.

 Be sure to read Shawn’s message under the word, event.

 Click here to see the message and watch the video

Passing the bar:    The death of a seamen
Fiddler’s green:      The afterlife of a sailor with constant fiddling and mirth
Orphans and widows collection:       The collection for the family of a seaman who died at sea.  In this case a collection                                                         for the Ocean Institute
skylarking: Time spent aloft with no work to be done
burning backstays: Descending from aloft, hand under hand down a backstay
chainplate:  Metal straps fastened to the hull, to which stays are secured

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