December 21, 2004

Piloting, Seamanship, and Tall Ship Handling: Course Description

During January term, eleven students and Professor Christopher Pyle will join the crew of HMS Bounty for two weeks of deep-water sailing in the Gulf of Mexico. The ship will sail south from St. Petersburg, Florida, to the Dry Tortugas, east to Key West, and north to St. Petersburg between January 5 and January 19, 2005. There will also be opportunities to visit an old Civil War fort and explore an underwater wreck in the Dry Tortugas.

Students will be integral members of the ship's crew in every respect: standing watch, working in the rigging, and manning the helm. They will learn the art and science of navigating, handling, and maintaining a 180 foot-long, three-masted, full-rigged ship, living and working much as sailors did in the 18th century. As time, weather, and opportunities present themselves, students will learn maritime history, celestial (and GPS) navigation, and ordinary seamanship. This replica of a late 18th century merchant ship was built in 1960, in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, for the film Mutiny on the Bounty .

December 22, 2004

Blog notes

This blog is being managed on land by Bill Denneen in the communications office. Our sailors, using a satellite phone and laptop computer (they're waterproof, right?), will post to the blog via email, and Bill will publish it in the blog. Each post will say "posted by MHC", and the writer's name will be shown in the body of the message.

December 23, 2004

Ship notes

The HMS Bounty was built in 1960 in Nova Scotia for the film Mutiny on the Bounty. Today she is the only wooden square-rigger in North America still sailing as a training vessel.

This photo is from the ship's web site.

January 02, 2005

The satellite phone is working!

A piece of cake! Of course I'm not standing on the deck of a moving ship trying to point the satellite antenna through the rigging to some unseen point in the sky.


Carly checks in

Hi, I'm Carly, I'm 19, a sophomore at Mount Holyoke and a Politics major, Music minor. I'm from West Hartford, Connecticut and I have no previous sailing experience.
posted by Carly

January 03, 2005

Allison's intro

Allison, of Mount Holyoke's class of 2008, comes from Stevens Point, Wisconsin. She has no previous sailing experience.
posted by Bill

Nino's first post

My name is Nino. I attend Mount Holyoke College. My hometown is Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I have gone sailing only a few times with my uncle, but never on a tall ship. I love the water and cannot wait to go on the Bounty.
posted by Nino

Mike's info

Hey, I'm Mike, Amherst class of '08. I'm 18 and come from Elmira, New York, the middle of the Finger Lakes region. I'm on the joint Amherst/Mount Holyoke sailing team (with a Hampshire student, a UMass student, and a Smithie thrown in for good measure). Before that, I learned to sail by zipping around Cayuta Lake on a Hobecat. Even the end-to-end trips were pretty quick as the lake only measures one mile by two miles. I heard about this course through the sailing team, went over to Mount Holyoke to check it out, and here I am, the token male.
posted by Mike

Chris's bio

Chris Pyle grew up in Plymouth, Mass., where he spent summers racing old wooden sailboats. While in college he captained the sailing team and served as foretopman on Mayflower II, a replica of the Pilgrims’ ship. He also taught sailing and rebuilt boats. In January 1983, Pyle and three Mount Holyoke students built an 18-foot pulling boat from scratch, which they sold to make money for scholarships. Over the years he has skippered a variety of craft, from a 17th century shallop to a 20th century schooner. When his first child was born, Pyle built him a cradle in the form of a Grand Banks fishing dory. It still hangs on davits in his home, awaiting grandchildren.

Read more about Professor Pyle in his faculty profile.
posted by Bill

Anna's introduction

My name is Anna. I am a sophmore at Mount Holyoke and I am from Charleston, SC. I have lived by the water all my life, but have never had experience sailing on a tall ship. I will be shooting digital footage while we are on board for a short documentary film of our journey. I am excited to set sail!
posted by Anna

January 04, 2005

Natalia's first post

Hi all,
My name is Natalia and this is my last year at Mount Holyoke. I was born in Bulgaria but spent half my life in Budapest, Hungary. I love the water, I've been swimming all my life, and I also like studying about ocean currents. I had my first sailing experience last winter when I sailed from Tahiti to the Marquesas Islands, and to Hawaii aboard the Robert C. Seamans, a beautiful brigantine operated by the Sea Education Association (SEA), Woods Hole. I fell in love with tall ship sailing then and can hardly wait to sail on the Bounty. Even though I am a shellback, I am sure that Neptune won't have mercy on me and I will get seasick again ... will be fun!
posted by Natalia

Intro from Maria

My name is Maria. I am a first year at Mount Holyoke College and am from Hadley, MA. I have no prior sailing experience. However, I have wanted to sail on a square-rigger ever since I read The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle when I was ten. I hope that this turns out to be a truly memorable adventure.
posted by Maria


Dawn rose red this morning across the bay. Light breeze from the northeast. Young cormorants chirped on the jib boom, while pelicans preened on the pilings.

The Bounty is out at the end of "the pier," next to an inverted pyramid. She's a bit naked at the moment. On the way down the coast in December she broke her main tops'l yardarm and it now lies in pieces on the port channels, outside the topsides, inside the shrouds. The crew shifted the foretops'l yard to the mainmast, and when we set sail we will have the privilege of sending up a replacement yard. We will also send up a new mizzen topmast, which is like mounting a large flagpole on top of an even larger flagpole while rolling around in a seaway.

We set sail tomorrow (Wednesday) around 8:30 in the morning. If the wind is from the east, we can sail virtually off the dock, down Tampa Bay, and under the Skyline Bridge.

Carly, Nicole, Michael, and Nino are on board; Cindy and Maria have landed and will be in shortly. Cell phones keep us all in touch. The rest of the crew will be here by 9:00 p.m.

The students have all been assigned to watches and bunks. They will have to learn how to sleep in four hour bursts, or rise to eat, and then go back to bed. The accommodations are simple, but adequate. The Bounty's crew most hospitable.

Carly has set me up with this computer. Now we will see how it transmits over the satellite phone. It's a brave new world when the students teach the professors the new technology.
posted by Chris Pyle

January 05, 2005

Cindy's hello

Hello to all, my name is Cindy and I am a junior at MHC. I am an anthropology major focusing on medical anthro. My minor is Spanish, politics, and the five college culture, health, and science certificate.

I have been sailing for 10 years and did the Sea Education Association summer program (yeah S-188) from Honolulu to San Francisco recently. And now I am on the Bounty--go figure. So here we are at the beginning of another adventure. I flew to Tampa yesterday and traveled with Maria to "the Pier". The cab cost $45 and the driver didn't know where this infamous pier was. So much for saving money and having everyone know where the pier is! The boat is way different than the Seamans and run super differently as well. As much as I am secretly in love with marconian rigs, square sails are interesting and there is so much history involved at least with this boat, if not with all of them. We are more passengers on this boat (than on the Seamans) than crew in the sense that we aren't expected to know everything and we have special privileges besides the fact that we are on watch and are being taught basic sail handling.

I went for a long run yesterday--a little longer than expected because I got lost and realized at about the same time that I was hungry and I was running through the ghetto of St. Petersburg. Oh, and the sun was setting. Needless to say that I started to run a bit faster. No harm was done though and I arrived back at the pier, and hence the boat, an hour later and after stretching and doing abs, had a wonderful dinner and then went to play ultimate Frisbee with some of the other crew on the beach. Then we went for ice cream.

S-188 kids, I am on B-watch but always remember the most important fact that A WATCH IS ALWAYS THE BEST!!!! This morning (1/5) we woke up at 7:15 and gathered at the capstan at 8 we did a lot of sail handling and emergency drills. But before all of that we cast off from the dock.

Winds are light and variable and the sea is calm but we are motoring and plan to be at the Dry Tortugas by the 9th or something and then to Key West by like the 12th. Mommy and Daddy, you are going to hate me, we are back in St. Petersburg on the 16th, oops! So it should be really fun and I know my hands will be ready for a break by then. High point of my day was that I finally got to go aloft!!!! And I still have two working arms! With that I am off to sleep because, although it's a different name and an hour off, we have mid watch tonight (12-4).
posted by Cindy

January 06, 2005

First day at sea

Morning flat calm. Captain Walbridge briefed the crew and had these words for the Mount Holyoke students. "We will take you," he told them, "to the Dry Tortugas. You and we will take the ship to Key West. Then you will take us back to St. Pete."

We backed off the dock at about 9:30 a.m. and motored down the channel. Then the students were sent aloft to practice their "up and overs." Mike scampered up to the main crosstrees, about 85 feet up. Nino, Anna, Maria, Rose, Natalia, and Cindy went to the main top, where they had a brief class before climbing up to the main tops'l yard and loosed its sail. Carly, Anna, Allison and Nicole laid out along the foreyard and loosed its sail, while crew on deck set three stays'ls. The wind barely whispered, however, and we motored on out past Anna Maria Island and down the coast. Nicole climbed up to the foretopmast trees with the first mate.

After lunch we laid about in hot sun and ran through some safety drills, including a man-overboard drill, after which the intrepid went swimming, swinging off a line attached to the main yard. While the sailors swam off the port side, three dolphins snorted and dove to starboard.

The captain spent his first day on the phone.
posted by Chris

Anna: First day

We left the port at St. Petersburg this morning and have been sailing south along the Florida coasted towards the Dry Tortugas. There has been very little wind all day so we have had to rely on the motors instead of truly sailing. We went aloft today for the first time, which was a bit terrifying, but after sitting on the yard arm long enough I did eventually become relatively comfortable. The thought that all I have to do is let go with my hands and I will fall to some kind of unpleasant fate is really very scary to think about while I am climbing.

I suppose however that this is the very thing that keeps me from falling--a combination of common sense and fear is what keeps my hands holding on tight. I have just finished my 1600-2000 watch and am headed for bed soon. I am on the 4-8 shift so I am in bed at 8 pm and up at 3:30 am for my next shift.
posted by Anna

Natalia's quarters

After reading other people's descriptions of their coffin-like bunks, I feel almost guilty speaking of my accommodation. Yet, I will do it, as my living situation is not only super comfortable, but may even be considered of historical and cinematographic importance...

To my surprise, I was assigned to sleep in one of the "Officers' Cabins". I am pretty sure by now that it is in fact what once used to be Captain Bligh's cabin; for those who have seen the movie Mutiny on the Bounty , it will probably make sense to say that I am sleeping in Marlon Brando's queen-size bed! It seems like Fletcher Christian, the mutineer from the historical Bounty, is my neighbor, and John Adams lives right across. I have a wooden cupboard, a huge mirror, AND a door to close. Even though I do miss my skylight bunk from my previous sailing trip with SEA (I had a bunk under one of the hatches), I must admit that sleeping in a cabin is an upgrade.

It is 18:54 now and I can hardly wait for our watch to be over, so that I can head straight to bed and gather some energy for more adventures up the rigging tomorrow. By the way, I am on C watch again. The sunset was gorgeous and I couldn't help but think of my fellow shellbacks. I miss you all very much.
posted by Natalia

Rose: First day on the high sea

First day on the high sea. It was fun seeing some Florida folks wave us good bye. I already feel dirty enough to have been on board for 12 weeks, but realize that I only have a small introduction of the sea slime that will come. We've seen wonderful dolphins playing by the bow, and heaved sails up and down despite a windless sea. It was a wild beginning.
posted by Rose

Allison: on the A watch

Tonight will be my first of sleeping on the open water. Luckily, for me, there is just a faint breath of wind, which rocks the Bounty very gently, like a crib. My bunk may most accurately be described as an open topped coffin. It is just wide and long enough to lay myself out in and if I were to be decapitated, I would just be able to sit up straight. The wee mattress is surprisingly comfortable; I have slept on much worse. We, of the A watch, are bunked in layers of two, which are situated to form an O with an opening through the bottom. This makes for very close quarters, which are not divided by sex, but every person is sensitive of the privacy of those around.

Today was a wonderful first day, encompassing many adventures. I climbed up to the yard of the fore mast twice, the second time to furl the sail. During this trying moment the sight of five playful dolphins playing together in the bow-wave relieved my anxiety. Presently I am off to catch a quick shower and then a few z's before this evening's watch from eight 'til midnight. Thinking of my lovely friends and family.
posted by Allison

January 07, 2005

Nicole: Wednesday night

2200 Wednesday
It's night. The sun left us quietly this evening, sinking slowly into a silver sea. I had hoped we would lose the shore today, our first day underway, but we are hugging the Florida coast with the hope of catching some slight breeze. We motored most of the day, an unfortunate state of affairs for a ship such as this.

I barely know where to begin by way of relating my experience since arriving. The ship is beautiful, in a weathered way. There are 7 miles of line and I do not begin to know what is attached to which in any useful manner. Orders are given in a language I do not speak and I scramble to be helpful in any way I can. I learn by pulling on things and watching what moves.

There are 21 of the Bounty's crew and 12 of ours and together we are the image of a motley crew. The regular crew comes and goes, as is the wont of sailors, and many have worked on several ships. The captain is much respected and mostly invisible. His job is less sailing the ship than managing it and I do not envy him that task. I assume he will be grateful when we leave the range of cell phone reception so that he may have some peace.

The mates are the ones from whom we take most of our instruction, and they lead the watches, of which there are three, A, B, and C. The individual watches bunk in close quarters, because we wake together and it is convenient to wake everyone in the same place, and not to worry about disturbing a bunk mate on a different watch. Then again, it is curious to hear myself speaking of disturbances because the ship altogether is a loud place. A bell is sounded every half hour to mark the time. The engine room is so loud one must put on ear phones to reduce the noise when checking the gas and the bilge. The sewage system has fans that whir continuously (just near my head where I sleep.) The air conditioning is loud in the aft crew quarters. The 'tween deck is the most spacious of places to sleep, but people are continuously walking by on watch, opening the door to the engine room and calling out that a hatch is open or standing above their heads listening to the Coast Guard updates that come across the radio.

We climbed into the rigging today and unfurled the sails to express our wish for wind. In the afternoon, when it became apparent that our wish would remain unanswered, we climbed again and furled them all once more.

I find it easier to be in the rigging with a job to do, as it takes my attention away from the distance between myself and the deck, and the precarious nature of the balance that prevents us from meeting. We are mandated to wear safety belts, but not to clip them on. I still do, but most of the crew does not. Somehow the feeling of safety provided by the belt is tempered by the notion that it is as likely to break my back as it is to save my life, should the circumstance arrive. Mostly, I concentrate on the task at hand and the glorious view. We choose the risks we take, and this is one of mine.

Today from the cross trees (high above the deck) I watched seven dolphins dance at the bow of the boat. I'm not sure I know how to play like that, but I wish I did. Maybe if I spent enough time this close to the place where the sun hits the sea I would learn.
posted by Nicole

Nino: First day

This is the first day of sailing and we have had almost no wind. While I would love to see the ship in full sail, and I am very much looking forward to that day, I think it did help to go aloft without the wind for the first day. The weather and the sights are beautiful, sunny all day and a starry sky at night.

The ship itself is better then I had imagined it. The ship is an amazing sight on deck and roomy below. The sleeping situations, at least for me, is amazing; I have a solitary room with plenty of space. The rest of the ship is very well equipped. There are two showers and a roomy kitchen. The cook is excellent; so far we have had good meals.

Over all it has been a good day. I am looking forward to going to bed in about 20 minutes when my shift ends, and I am looking forward to windier weather.
posted by Nino

Nicole: No sight of land

0900 Thursday
It happened sometime in the night, while I slept blissfully in spite of the constant motion above and below me. This morning I stumbled bleary onto the deck and scanned the horizon for land, but there was none. Sometime in the night we lost sight of terra firma. Somehow this magnifies the feeling of being at sea and the understanding that this small vessel of timber and steel is the only piece of solidity between us, and the murky deep.

Yesterday people swam for an hour or so after we did the man overboard drill. Lobster lines had fouled the prop, though not in a serious way.

Divers went down to free it and to check if the lines led to any sea creatures upon which we might dine, but there were none. The food on board is surprisingly tasty, though I do not envy the job of the cook, as there is always someone unsatisfied by the food, and cooking for 30 in any kind of weather must be quite a trick.

For now I must be off, as I sneak all time to write from my "idle shifts" on watch. Idle is a misnomer as we use the time to clean the heads and the galley and the deck, depending upon the time of day and the assigned watch. Consequently I feel a bit like I am shirking my duty to the rest of my watch by not helping to clean. The crew is pleasant about this, eager and willing to help make time so that we can write in our logs, but they may not be so eager in a few days, and I prefer not to find out. This is a small space and harmony among all present is the preference. So with that, I think I will head to the weather deck and attempt to make myself useful.
posted by Nicole

January 08, 2005

Megan's guest post

Megan Folz
HMS Bounty, guest BLOG

I was wondering why Evan and I were so anxious to write one of these BLOG entries. There is something very rewarding, perhaps more important, comforting or reassuring to know that someone will read your words. It puts you up, and somehow makes you a little more important than the common stranger on the street. It does not matter who reads it, some arbitrary person whom you may know or may not just as long as it is read and heard.

I was standing bow watch with Elettra tonight. Her excitement reminds me why I love the ship, and why I am here, because sometimes it is very easy to forget. Having been on the Bounty, leaving and being back again now I have a more clear understanding of what the ship offers people.

Most people (crew included) view it as an escape; an escape from the "real world", from cell phones, news, radio, television, cars, and other chaos that the modern world provides us. Here, life is simple, it is easy to understand. It is something that can be appreciated in a few weeks, but takes years to fully learn and then after that you still don't know it all. Tonight there is no land or other boats in sight; you can see the horizon around you, all 360 degrees, no interruption. That is rare and not seen anywhere expect on the sea. At night, it is the sky and not necessarily the seas that humbles us. It is beautiful and awesome, in the mightiest sense of the word.

Elettra recited the rhythm we learn as children, "Twinkle, twinkle little star." But here, tonight, the sky is not as innocent as that. Tonight that stars are beautiful and terrifying, like the sea, once you realize that it has the power to create and destroy.

Natalia's Second Blog

Feeling restless tonight. Probably because it was an awesome day, or perhaps because I took a long nap in the late morning right after our watch...

This morning I watched the sunrise from the foremast port yard, while we were shaking the course (one of the foremost square sails). Yes, I must admit that my legs were shaking and the deck seemed further down than it actually was, but the view was worth it and so was the feeling of satisfaction once we got back down to the boat. Right after sunrise we took our shoes off and did some deck scrubbing with the fire hose and then it was time for breakfast--delicious butter bisquits and cereal. There's nothing like a good breakfast after dawn watch! Actually, there's nothing like good food on a beautiful boat with a great company.

And Ralph, our cook, has been preparing some good stuff for us--we had barbequed burgers for lunch today (the grill is still up on deck), and we had pork with applesauce and roasted potatoes for dinner. Sorry, SEA kids, no Tank juice onboard; we only drink real orange juice and water.

Today was also a major celestial navigation day for Cindy, Mat (our mate), and me. We seem to be the celestial gurus of the boat, as no one else, except maybe the captain and one of the mates, has done much navigating by the stars and the planets. So, we took a morning sun line and we also got a local apparent noon sight, which helped us find our longitude. (Steve, I used my sheet anchor.) This was quite helpful because the crew decided that we had a "major electronic failure" this morning, right after the deck watch. Luckily, the failure was fake, just meant to help us learn various navigation techniques, such as dead reckoning, measuring the speed of the boat manually, and, of course, celestial navigation. We got to use the captain's sextant, which actually no one from the crew had used before, and even though there were clouds and we could not shoot too many stars, it was still fun.

Right now, it's time for bed because we are getting up at 4 a.m. again.

I hope there will be less clouds then, so I can teach the Celestial G (a group of stars that form a G in the sky) to some of the crew people.

There is also a lot of talking about the upcoming Pirates of the Caribbean shoot, but I'll leave my Johnny Depp stories for tomorrow. Oooh, I also fell off my bed this morning, and I was not sleeping, nor was the boat rolling, but it was still a dramatic fall--go figure!
posted by Natalia

Evan's guest post

2105, 01.06.05

Bow of the H.M.S. Bounty standing bow watch at twenty-one-oh-five.

The sea was just answering the question I had posed to Allison: what experience had left the greatest impression on her in these first few days. I had been starring at the water and a white trail zipped past, weaving at high speed like a dorsal fin of a shark. But once several appeared in and among each other, breaching regularly it was clearly a pod of dolphins. They churned up the phosphorescent microorganisms as they sped through the water leaving long glowing trails. Allison remarked that at first she thought they were eels, the trails were so brilliant and long. They were back into the fog bank obscured from sight in less than a minute leaving only the sounds of their exhalations carried clearly over the still night water as they swam away. Doubtlessly circling and following and chasing each other in the familiar way easily recognized--or easily anthropomorphized as affection.

Elettra even shrieked with glee when she relieved us and we told her the only sighting on our bow watch was of dolphins.

This was characteristic of our guests. They are enchanted by the sea and its opportunities to instruct. These first few days have found them inquisitive as to the workings of the ship but they are very conscious of the context that any such question or answer on that topic would be in. It is how the ship acts in the sea. They understand that we are bound to it and the wind, water, and weather and that it is in these things that the answers to theirs and every mariner's questions are found. In this way they have already learned the lesson common to us professional sailors as well as their and our common seafaring ancestors since time began.

Our guests grasp this humbling reality that has confronted sailors that have sought to escape the essential, universal realities that constrained them on land. As on land, nature's dictates of the human condition follow us; they find us upon the vast, trackless sea. But surprisingly enough this apprehension of civilization's wayward fugitives does not frustrate, it does not embitter. For our guests as with our ancient mariners have not been swindled in this transaction. In her generosity nature has given sailors the freedom to rewrite the rules that they left behind. They sail away on their own nation toward the realization of their collective vision of utopia. While sometimes more dictatorial than democratic under the ships hierarchy in formal political binds, they are free to create their own body politik, their own culture independent of the families, peoples, and even languages they left behind.

This promise of hope is the consolation given to sailors for setting forth in to uncertainty and unknown hazard on the high seas. The compromise to allay their being denied the escape they sought. The pact we mariners, sailors and students, have found as we redefine our previously held assumptions and beliefs from what we need to be happy to our tolerance of the erosion of personal hygiene.
posted by Evan

January 09, 2005

Carly: Friday

I was sitting on Bow Watch last night at 2200 looking around at the endless sea that was surrounding me and starry sky above me and I finally realized how amazing it was that I was out here. There is no land or anything that would show me how I got out here in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico from Connecticut. I opted for this experience because I knew that it would be an unbelievable experience that would be totally different from anything that I've ever done. So far it is certainly living up to that. I never thought that on the first day I would be up on a yard furling a sail about 40+ feet over the water. I'm not saying that I feel comfortable doing it, but the fact that I can do and know that I am capable, whether I like it or not, is truly a big step for me.

On 'A Watch' I'm working the 8-12 shift for now, which is great by me. When I'm not on watch or doing work party I'm either sleeping, tanning or it's mealtime. I've been designated as the "techie" so I'm sending the blogs and hope to send photographs soon. While on watch I'm been doing bow watch, which is probably my favorite simply because it's very serene, and seeing the dolphins jumping in front of the bow is great. I am also learning navigation, how to do a boat check and I'm even working at the helm steering the boat. I'm learning a lot and the people here are all great.

We're currently sailing, not using the engine and we're also not using GPS due to a 'major electronic failure'. We're currently sailing at about 1.6 knots, slowed down from about 3 knots this morning. At 800 when I got on watch this morning we were about 50 miles from Dry Tortugas so we are going to take our time because we are not scheduled to be there until daybreak on Sunday. We spent the afternoon doing different maneuvers called evolutions. I'm sure I will feel it in the morning. However because we are so close to the Dry Tortugas we have "parked" the ship, which means we all only have to be on watch for one hour as opposed to our usual four so many members of the crew are taking advantage of more hours of sleep. I write this before I go on watch with the sounds of "Treasure Island" and crewmembers cheering every time we see our beloved ship.

I hope everything is well on the mainland. This lack of communication is something I have yet to get used to.
posted by Carly

Nino's second day

Second day, and we have set sail. We have been simulating an electronics failure all day and have been doing all the navigation without the GPS. My day started at 4am, which is my first watch. I got to see the sun rise and be on the watch that opened the main sail and the foretopsail. I have started to get to know more of the crew today as we settled into our watches and I must say I like the crew, they are a fun bunch. Today was not as sunny as yesterday but it was a nice day, warm weather and more wind. I am going to have to dedicate the last potion of my blog to the cook. Ralph, the cook, has managed to make each meal better then the last; and as I am a member of C watch, the eating watch, I appreciate it a lot.
posted by Nino

Chris: Friday II

The big event of the morning was a school of dolphins herding fish, swimming in tight circles and slapping their tails.

We spent the afternoon doing evolutions--maneuvering the ship down wind, wearing ship, or jibing to small boat sailors. The three watches were assigned respective masts, and then rotated among the masts, so that they learned the similarities and the differences. The wind was too light for us to tack into the wind, but not too light to attempt a "boxhaul." Boxhauling is a special maneuver in which the ship is turned in its own length. We ran her up into the win, backed all her sails against their masts, then spun the helm over to the other side and sailed backwards into a "J" and sailed off in a different direction. I had the privilege of manning the helm and thus shared the overview with the captain. For tall ship aficionados, boxhauling is the cat's pajamas. With thirty of us on deck, the maneuvers went very well. For the captain to attempt a boxhaul suggests confidence in our collective capabilities.

As we were performing our last maneuver, the captain pulled yet another man overboard drill and we got the boat over in record time. Then the first mate, Andy, too Rose and Anna out to film the ship under sail.

We are now about thirty miles north of the Dry Tortugas, with 36 hours before our permit to land goes into effect, so we will heave to for the evening, the fors'l turned to starboard, the main tops'l to port, the spanker set to starboard and the helm lashed to leeward. That's what it takes to park a square-rigger in a seaway. Oh, yes, we will turn on our deck lights so that no one runs us down. That is not likely.

Visibility is excellent. The sea is calm, we are out of the shipping lanes, and haven't encountered any traffic all day.
posted by Chris

January 10, 2005

Allison: knots and knots

Day Three is waning as I write. The sun has set, the sails are furled, and the ship is heaving to. Night watches have begun and the sea is cradling us in her loving arms. There is very little in this world that is more peaceful than the rhythmic rocking to and fro of the ship at sea.

For most of today we sailed at three knots, a record for this trip. The threshold speed of the Bounty is twelve knots, which must be exhilarating when reached. We are navigating without any technology, except for a depth meter. In order to determine our speed we perform a Dutchman. This exercise consists of tossing a wood block off the starboard bow and monitoring the time it takes to travel along one hundred feet of the ship. Using a specialized slide rule we can apply this number and get our speed in knots.

Enough of the ship: I am in stupendous shape despite falling down some stairs yesterday morning and the burning of my hands from hauling on the lines this afternoon. I am surrounded by lovely, knowledgeable people who never tire of my many questions, and are excellent instructors. I am teaching myself some knots and have learned the six basic knots used on this ship. I cannot presently recite all of their names, but I can produce them and determine in what situation they are likely to be used.

A very exciting and unexpected incident occurred today. One of the Bounty crew members, by the name of Evan, brought out his violin during lunch and I got to give him some pointers and play a little. April, my dear sister, I deeply regret never taking out my violin and playing the Bach Double with you over the holidays.

I know that Chris has gone over our brilliant maneuvers of this afternoon's work party so I won't bore my readers with redundancy. I will just say that I miss all you divine MoHos and my dearest family and friends.

Yo-ho me hearties, Allison

Elettra: Friday

January 7, 2005
35 miles away from the Tortugas

Today felt like the longest day so far. There was more wind than yesterday and by now my face is quite toasted.

As part of Watch A, we made rounds in the morning and while I was at the helm a school of dolphins swam by us on portside, jumping around. I've never seen so many at the same time. They glistened in the sun and spewed water.

The Galley is the dining room, kitchen, snack area and bookshelf (that includes a stereo, with an iPod connected to it). This seems to be the reuniting center of the ship (after the deck, of course). Here, everyone sits to chat or eat (or write BLOGS on the computer), get their food, brush their teeth--or sew the bottom of their feet. Lucas, one shipmate, explains he sews where it is callous and he has no sensation. He had no cut on his foot but he stitches it in order to feel something.

Lucas is extremely talented and can play almost all instruments, from the guitar to the trombone and can sing along as well. He has a mini guitar on board and he told me the story today of how there were two new boys (with Biblical names) in school when he was younger. Apparently they had taken the wrong bus and were meant to go to a different school.

So they became friends with Lucas. At the end of the day Lucas went home with them and their father had a collection of instruments (mostly guitars). He has curly blondish hair until the ears, a goatee and perfect white teeth, although he smokes. Today, after boxhauling the ship (reversing direction), we stopped for a swim and although we did not do the Tarzan jump into the water, Lucas, like last time, brought his "smokes" in a baggie and smoked from the water. Any smoker will know how hard this must be but he is able to maintain the cigarette intact. Although he can't smoke on board, he is a joker on board (and in the water). Sometimes he also jokes with Captain Robin, who often plays along and responds with smart-ass comments. Lucas has a shackle in his ear. The piercing he made by himself, of course, using a needle). To say he is a character is definitely an underestimation.

I saw the dolphins again on my night watch (around 20:30) and they looked magical, illuminating their path and their splashes. Currently, almost everyone is sitting 'tween decks, watching Treasure Island, the movie. Most of it is situated on the Bounty.

I wake up every day excited to go on deck--even just to see what the weather is like. The watch before ours wakes us up by telling us how the weather is and what time it is. I think this is a trick because it only makes me want to go on deck immediately to feel the weather myself.
posted by Elettra

Anna: Friday

Friday January 7th, 8:15 am

I have just finished my morning watch and breakfast and I am soon headed for bed again. Our cook has been doing an amazing job with our meals, this morning's breakfast being a good example of the meals I look forward to every few hours: eggs cooked to order, sausage links, cereal, and toast. I am pleasantly surprised my by the more than adequate area for sleeping that I am lucky enough to have gotten. I am in the T'ween decks at the very back of the ship in a secluded window nook with lots of head room where I can look out the window at the ocean and the sky from my bed. The Captain and all of the crew are really wonderful to us, helping us to learn everything, yet at the same time making us feel like useful integral members of the crew.

The wind has picked up and we were able to turn the motors off yesterday and have been relying just on our sails. It is absolutely wonderful to sit on deck and absorb the sunshine and watch the ocean as I feel it rocking the ship; it is going to be hard to go back to February weather in Massachusetts. This morning right after the sun came up I unfurled the main course sail underneath the already unfurled topsail. It was a little precarious climbing from the shrouds to the yard, because the yard was tacked such that it was pretty far away from the shrouds and my arms and legs being a bit on the shorter side, it was a stretch. I am sore in my arms and back but the climbing has been the hardest on my hands which are unaccustomed to the hauling and climbing the ropes. Speaking of which, I am glad to be headed to bed to catch a nap before lunch.
posted by Anna

Megan's second guest post

Megan Folz
HMS Bounty Guest BLOG

Someone once asked me what is the best thing about living on a tall ship. Actually a lot of people have asked me that. I believe that the best thing, the most important thing is that you learn how to live with other people. There is a camaraderie amongst a crew that can be experienced in few other circumstances. As a crew you work together, live together and socialize together. These people become your co-workers, family and friends. When you leave, you loose all of these at once, and it has been one of the hardest things that I have ever had to do. The same person told me that they always pictured sailors as independent and separated from each other in some way. I was surprised at this, and told her so, because it is so far from the truth. People that have come and sailed with us have told me that they are amazed at the amount of cooperation amongst the crew and guests. We practiced evolutions today, and even I am amazed at how everyone works together. It is a proud moment when everyone on deck is hauling a line, sweating, pushing themselves, bringing out a strength that surprises even them, all trying to achieve a common goal. Sailing is teamwork at its extreme. We must trust ourselves, and trust each other even more.

I was thinking yesterday and today about what I said about trusting ourselves. Really, I didn't say very much or even anything at all, but thinking about it and watching people over the course of the trip so far has really made me realize how much of our lives we spend in our "comfort zone". At one time or another each one of us is presented with some situation in which we feel awkward, uncomfortable, uneasy etc. How do most people deal with that? I guess that some of us reach that comfort zone and become so afraid that we run back before we even fully understand the situation. Others reach the edge and decide that that is enough and never actually step outside. But how many actually jump? How often do we say, "Oh, I wish that I could do that, or had done that" or whatever, but when we are presented with an opportunity, we run away covering our fear with excuses. "Oh, I can't really do that because of blah, blah, blah." But once you jump, you find that the ground is actually right under your feet, and it wasn't as bad as you expected. And then we begin to understand where we are and are able to deal with it, and we jump again, maybe a little further, maybe a little less. I have always loved taking people up into the rig for the first time. People are always so unsure of themselves, so afraid that they will fall. It is just a step at a time, one ratline, one foot in front of the other. I have actually talked people through each step, "ok, now put your left foot here." But in the end, when they reach the fighting top, there is always that great sense of accomplishment, even though they might not want to stand up. As you take people up more and more they eventually begin to realize that if they just don't let go, if they just allow themselves to trust their hands and their feet and their own strength (most of which they didn't even know they had) they are fine. Andy is talking to everyone right now and he brings up the great words of Irving Johnson at exactly the right time. "We didn't have harnesses back then. We just didn't let go, it would be stupid to let go."

Nicole: A moment of glory

Today we received the first whispers of wind. We are on a port tack, which means that the windward side of the boat is the port side, and that the yards are braced to reach forward on the port side. The wind has been sufficient to shut off the motor, which is a blessed thing, as it lessens the noise on board considerably. The generators below us still groan on ceaselessly, providing power for our 21st century electrical needs, among them the nav lights that indicate our presence to other vessels in the darkness. Under sail we are managing a staggering 3 knots, give or take. For those of you who are unfamiliar with sea terminology, that is painfully slow.

I am greatly impressed by the assembled group of young women from MHC. I was proud to see Elettra, who is terrified by heights, out on the port yardarm yesterday, 50 feet off the deck, furling sails and looking brave. Cindy and Natalia have been working on their celestial navigation skills, taking sun sights and making calculation that are beyond my ken. Maria is a gem, always smiling, always willing to help. Allsion is a bit sore, due to the fact that she tumbled down the companionway this morning, a maneuver which deposited her in the fore crew quarters, quite close to my head. On the topic of soreness, I cannot believe how shaky my legs are. I had expected my shoulders, arms, and hands to protest the new workload, but their soreness is nothing compared to my upper thighs and calves. Climbing is easy, but descending is another matter entirely.

The little wind we had today has quit us entirely and we are drifting at less than a knot, but at least in the right direction. I am mid-watch and have just checked the boat, a task that someone on each watch performs every half hour. No fires, no gurgling or gulping in the nether regions of the ship, no fuel or water leaks, check. Pumping the bilge is daunting for anyone unfamiliar with pumps and valves, as there is an entire wall of them, of varying colors and purposes, and a mistake can burn out the motors for the pumps and who knows what else.

Today my moment of glory came when I sat on a pile of line under which was stowed a fire extinguisher without its pin. The damn thing went off like gangbusters and a caustic white powder coated the lines and the area underneath and around them, which included two lashed barrels of linseed oil. We used the shop vac to clean it up (more 18th century technology), but in the morning I will move everything, mop, and coil the lines. I wonder if they usually store the extinguishers under five hundred feet of rope, but perhaps they simply ended up there after our combination fire/man overboard drill this afternoon.

When we set out on this voyage there was some consternation among the scholars within our academy, and the skeptics within our families. "It will be a wonderful experience," we said. "But what will they learn? How much academic credit will they get? Is this scholarship?" they asked. Their questions made me think of one of my favorite quotes that I first discovered on an outward bound journey of long ago.

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, pitch manure, solve equations, analyze a new problem, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."

More on that later.

Last night I dreamed of phosphorescent whales and dolphins swimming around ship and as far as I could see, singing night songs and leaving trails like comets in the heavens.
posted by Nicole

Nino: Work party

The days are filling up so quickly that I am writing the fourth day entry on the fifth day. The most exciting thing to report is the work party. Every day each watch has two watches and a work party. This far we had only had sailing theory and some exercises, but on the fourth day we were assigned the job of helping the crew raise the topgallant yard. We actually got to use the capstan, which can almost be described as a round revolving table. After a small accident of a piece of rigging falling down and hitting a member of the crew and giving him a concussion, we calmly went back to work. We are about twenties miles off of the Dry Tortugas and I must admit I am excited to see land again.
posted by Nino

Nicole: Saturday


I think it's Friday. No, Saturday. It's easy to forget. The watches change, the sun rises and sets, we sleep and wake, and there is little need for names of days, though the hour is still quite important. When I am below deck I find it surprisingly easy to forget that we are underway. The gentle rocking has become so much a part of my world that I have forgotten its existence in the way that one forgets the solidity on the ground beneath ones feet when on land. Experienced sailors will laugh and know that this means we have had fair weather and calm seas. When foul weather blows in the ship is sea-stowed and everything not in use is lashed down to prevent it becoming airborne.

So, back to what we are learning. It is true, our learning here, for the most part, is not academic in a textual sense. But life is not lived in texts, it is lived in the world. Strictly speaking, the goal of a liberal arts education is to produce well rounded human beings, capable of both thought and action. The ability to analyze texts and scribble coherently is only one part of that balance. Theory without practice is a daydream, a kind of sophisticated amusement for intelligent minds. Please do not misunderstand me, I respect academia, and on my better days fancy myself a scholar, but a whole soul this does not make. As students, most of us read over five thousand pages a semester, and write between fifty and eighty. We huddle together in hundred year old buildings as the seasons change, around tables with papers scattered about us, we touch heads in labs, reading measurements yielded by state of the art tools, we live work and play within the confines of an extraordinary microcosm, and when we graduate, we believe ourselves to be educated. In many ways this is true, and that sort of education is a gift, both as it pertains to the people we become, and the opportunities that are made available to us. But by itself it is incomplete. Here, we are in the world in a vastly different way. It is an animal world, of gravity and grace, wide open to the wind and waves, full of wonder and experience so rich it peels back your skin and shows the steel beneath.
posted by Nicole

Anna's third post

Saturday, January 8th 11 am

The wind has picked up as of last night and the boat is rocking a bit more, which is very nice for sleeping at night, and so far no sign of seasickness for me (knock on wood).

We are making good time and were able to furl the sails, turn of the motor and "heave to" for the night -- basically we just drift. This meant that we did not need a full watch crew but only 2 people on watch at anytime so we all took turns doing one-hour watches in pairs instead of our regular 4-hour watches. This means extra sleep for everyone (yay!) and also that there was time for many of us to watch Treasure Island (with Charlton Heston) last night which features our very own Bounty. It was so cool to see the same ship on the screen that we were standing on at that moment.

Just before going to bed last night we saw a huge group of dolphins, large ones and baby dolphins, swimming right along side the boat and feeding on flying fish. There must have been at least 15 of them, it was impossible to tell as they were all moving so quickly, but I did see one big group all come up for air at the same time.

We did a lot of practice turning the boat around yesterday to try to understand how the wind and direction of the sails affects us. It was quite a workout hauling all the different lines so many times but I think I am beginning to have a better understanding of where most of the lines are.

It is lunchtime soon, and having slept through breakfast, I am hungry. It looks like macaroni and cheese -- I'm excited.-----
posted by Anna

Chris: Saturday

On Saturday we raised the main to'gallant yard, which is like hoisting a 35 foot long log 85 feet into the sky. This black log carries a furled sail, numerous hanks of rope, and assorted wires. The halyard was wrapped around the capstan and the students walked it round. It was clear to the captain and me that the yard was rigged to go up upside down, but we said nothing, waiting to see if the crew would figure it out. Eventually, after a little prodding from the captain, they did, and lowered it back to the deck for re-rigging. Then they hoisted it again, up past Anna who was standing on top of the main yard to guide its rise, and up to Mike and others standing on the cross-trees. It rose to the top of the topmast, and then suddenly dropped about eight feet, swinging in towards Anna. She never flinched, and stood by her post. It fell because a strop, used to hold a hauling block (pulley) to the bulkhead, broke, giving one of the crew a severe whack in the head and sending him below for an ice pack. Our hero of the day was Mike, who seemed totally comfortable working at the top of our highest mast, wisely clipping on with his harness, but otherwise fully absorbed in his tasks. He is greatly admired by all. But he was up there with Megan, a first-year student at Smith and a member of the ship's crew. She not only wrestled with the errant yard; she filmed the exercise for us.

According to the captain, sailors in the Queen's Navy could lower and raise a yard in nine minutes. It took us over two hours to hang this one aloft, without reeving all her lines to the deck. So this Bounty is not ready to return to naval service. Has too good a sense of humor, anyway.

After dinner--another triumph by our good cook Ralph--the first mate Andy reminded us of the contract. The crew would bring us to the Dry Tortugas, we and they would sail us to Key West, but we will bring them home. That means that our group has to select its own captain and mates and learn all the commands for working each mast, as well as navigate. Curiously, our group is more confident of its capacities to do both dead reckoning and celestial than to work the ship, although that was before tonight's maneuvers in the dark. They have each received one-on-one tutorials in the chart room for the past three days.

We raised the Dry Tortugas at about eight p.m., a faint glow in the southern sky. Our permit to land is not until 8:00 a.m. Sunday morning, so we sailed back and forth all night. Night time is the best time to learn the ropes, because we have to find them in the dark. On the 12 to 4 a.m. watch we wore ship four times, clewing up the fors'l, setting and dousing the main and mizzen stays'ls, and clewing and unclewing the spanker.

The lighthouse on Loggerhead Key flashes every 20 seconds. On the port tack at night it was about 20 degrees off the starboard bow. On the starboard tack it was about three degrees off the starboard fantail. These islands lie so low on the horizon that it wouldn't take much of a tide to wash them away. Ponce de Leon dubbed them "Las Tortugas," after sea turtles he slaughtered here in 1513. The old conquistador was searching for a fountain of youth, but there are no fountains of any kind on these shoals. If you want fresh water, or any other libation, you must bring it yourself. The Park Service makes this emphatically clear. Smokey is not a St. Bernard.

The harbor here is dominated by Fort Jefferson, one of the largest forts ever built on the American coast. Begun in the 1850s, it was promptly rendered obsolete by advances in naval gunnery and a dearth of foreign predators. Like many military construction projects, however, the absence of enemies did not deter Congress, and construction continued well after the Civil War. Were the fort not here, no one would visit but birds and turtles, and the Park Service rangers would be even lonelier, and drier, than they are now.

The bulbous guns of old Fort Jefferson were never fired in anger. During the Civil War its walls were used to house Union deserters, and afterwards Dr. Mudd, who was exiled here for setting a bad actor's broken leg. Mudd performed so well during a yellow fever epidemic that he was paroled in 1869.
posted by Chris

Technical note

FYI for readers: The team has been sending their posts in batches, so the day and time shown for each post is not necessarily when it was written. You might run across a post that was written earlier but posted later than another post, making them appear to be out of sequence.
posted by Bill

Carly: Saturday 1200

The seas are getting rougher. Not bad, but you can certainly feel the boat rocking back and forth, and the creaking of the boards and the sloshing of the water against the boat are the sounds that lull you to sleep at night. Last night we were hove-to so we were on watch for only one hour. On my watch from 2145-2245 I was once again reminded of how amazing and different being on this boat is from the life that so many live and that I have lived until now. Outside the wind was blowing at about 10-15 knots and we were simply drifting, with nothing as far as we could see. There was a pod of dolphins surrounding our boat with their babies jumping and playing and catching the flying fish that forget that dolphins are amazing jumpers. It was just unbelievable to see so many dolphins, had to have been at least 10 jumping and swimming together. I really have gained an appreciation for being out here. The constant wind on my face and the sun beating down, it's really beautiful on the water. In the world that I normally live in there are new things to see everywhere, when driving, when walking. It's all very fast-paced and high stress; everyone needs to be somewhere quickly and never stops to appreciate what is around them. However out here we really have time to look around and appreciate everything that is around us. I also am appreciating what I am missing back at home, everything that seemed so everyday and normal. Life out here on the water is so different; seeing a boat or anything out on the horizon is a joyful sight, a reminder that we aren't completely alone out here. I have a better understanding of the camaraderie out here and how they truly are like a family and there is a bond that I don't know if it can be duplicated in a normal fast-paced world on land. Many wouldn't trade the sea life for anything. However, I am beginning to realize that the general consensus of coming out here is running away from something, whether it be the daily grind or a fear of committing to a life that might not be fulfilling in one's mind.

We reach the Dry Tortugas tomorrow and are spending the day and night anchored there, leaving at daybreak on Monday. Seeing land will be a welcome sight. The feeling of blue all around you makes you feel so small and insignificant. I'm learning navigation yet I'm still having difficulty grasping how one can steer through miles and miles of blueness and get from one point to another. Today we have another hard work party ahead of us, hoisting up yards about 50 feet up. Another night and morning of sore muscles will await me, however I can't forget the reward. Sailing and getting to a destination I'm sure will be truly rewarding. Seeing the fruits of our labors is always a welcome sight.
posted by Carly

Anna at Dry Tortugas

Sunday, January 9th 9 pm

I have just spent a beautiful day on a remote island at the southern tip of Florida known as the Dry Tortugas. During my morning watch, from 4-8 we successfully maneuvered our ship into the dock before the rest of the tourists arrived by ferry or plane. The island is the strange, beautiful place completely isolated from "civilization". There is no fresh water (hence dry) and there is no land in sight, the closest land is Key West 70 miles away, the next is Cuba which is 90 miles away. There now stands Fort Jefferson which encompasses most of the island. Along one side of it there is a small beach with amazing crystal clear water where we spent the day exploring the fort, soaking up the sun, and snorkeling. The snorkeling was absolutely incredible, I have never been before and the fish I saw, including 4 barracudas, a blowfish, a Caribbean lobster, and countless others, simply blew me away. As I sat on the beach I could help remembering that it is actually January and how miraculous it is that I am able to be enjoying this beautiful weather. This evening we went on a lamp-lit tour of the fort and learned much of the historical background of the fort and its role as a military fort in the 19th century. This has been a long day and I am quite ready for bed, first a quick lesson on pumping the bilge -- pumping water out of the bottom of the ship -- and then I'm turning in for the night. Tomorrow we set sail for Key West!
posted by Anna

Cindy: Hooked on snorkeling

So for the past five days we have been peacefully sailing along the coast of Florida and learning the ins and outs of square-rig sailing. Pretty exciting stuff. The differences between this boat and the Robert C. Seamans are infinite. Probably not going to go into it here, next one, though. This morning we arrived at the Dry Tortugas where we docked briefly and then set anchor offshore where we will stay until sometime tomorrow (I think).

Today was awesome! We spent all day on the beach swimming and wandering around the old fort. How many of you know that John Wilkes Booth was sewn up by some equally famous imprisoned doctor at this old brick fort?! The islands are called the Dry Tortugas because there is no fresh water on them. I spent the first part of the day wandering around the island and talking with Natalia (the other SEA alum--S-191) about all of the differences between the two experiences and how wonderful they both are separately but also how they will never be comparable because the only thing that is the same between them is that both the Bounty and the Seamans are ships. We talked for a long time and reminisced about SEA. When we had covered pretty much all there is to talk about, we migrated to the beach and continued to walk some more, eventually into the water. The Dry Tortugas are located inside of a coral reef. Towards the afternoon, Charlie (one of the crew) came and took me snorkeling. We saw a barracuda and a giant Carribean lobster and a whole bunch of other gorgeous fish that only appear in National Geographic photographs. I am officially hooked on snorkeling.

Natalia: Sunday

A day fabulousooo today. A day of doing--woke up at 3:30am to stand watch, strike sails, scrub the deck, and navigate safely into the Dry Tortugas bay. Cindy and I spent about two hours, just laying in the sun, at the helicopter landing pad, looking at the sea, talking about safety on board a boat, marveling at our pirate-looking boatie, but secretly dreaming of the Robert C. Seamans. Snorkeled for the first time in my life, walked back and forth on the fort wall, and then saw the most gigantic fish I've ever seen, about 2 meters long, 40 centimeters diameter (Sorry, I still think in meters.)

A cool fact of the day - the birds, which come to nest every year at the Dry Tortugas, fly for 3 years across the ocean, without seeing land, from the Tortugas to Africa. They fly and fly, eat fish and enjoy the ride. They sleep in their flight. And so, I too am off to sleep in my flight. Am I flying to Cuba? Perhaps. Cuba, only 90 miles away, is the closest mainland. Maybe, we get to dance salsa if the winds shift before it's time to set sail tomorrow.
posted by Natalia

Nicole: "look ma, no hands"


A ship is never still. It is an ecosystem unto itself. There are people about at all hours of the day and night. Some are on watch, some struggling with celestial navigation, or finishing Melville, some learning knots, many laughing, most exhausted. When under sail, once the sun goes down we live by red light, below the weather deck so as not to ruin our night vision above deck. Flashlights are forbidden on deck unless absolutely necessary, for the same reason.

Last night we struck sail at midnight, which is to say we took down the fore and aft sails in the dark. (The fore and aft sails are not square but triangular and they run from bow to stern, as opposed to perpendicular to the ship, hence the name fore and aft.) This was an excellent exercise. First there is the matter of finding the line you need in the dark. When this ship is fully rigged she carries more than ten miles of line. Much of that line must pass through someone's hands in order to maneuver the boat. I was terrifically proud of our girls, as we found what we needed in the dark, hauled it down and coiled the deck after. Nothing like a little aerobic exercise just before bed after 20 hours awake to knock you out.

This morning the wake up fairy came at 07:15. The wake up fairy (complete with wand made from a piece of wood and a Christmas package bow) is someone from the previous watch who visits each bunk of the oncoming watch and rouses us for duty. That person tells us the time, the weather on deck, and any pertinent information about what has or is about to occur. With that we rise, take our breakfast, and twenty five minutes later we are on deck, taking the ship. This morning I got five minutes and then heard the call, "Hands to furl the main topsail." Oh hell, that's me. I ran for a harness and eight minutes after waking I was fifty five feet above the water, standing on a foot rope that was swinging in the force 3 breeze, bent over the yard arm swimming for sail (for y'all who have no idea what that means, it means I was laying on my stomach over a big long wooden pole that holds the sail, reaching down and grabbing at what I could reach in an attempt to take the wind out of what was left of the sail and roll it up underneath me.) I did a "look ma, no hands" (maman, I was clipped in) and howled out to the rising sun from the top of the world. Then I descended and took my cold tea and soggy granola.

This morning we docked in the Dry Tortugas. It sounds like a chain of islands but in fact it is a series of small bluffs that peek above the waterline, one of which is occupied by Fort Jefferson. The whole area is a National Park, barely large enough to run aground on. I spent part of the day on the beach, covered in green clay as a remedy for the sun plague that has spead across my face. The rest of the morning I spend underwater, snorkeling for the first time. One of the crew, Brian, was a dive guide in the Florida Keys and he pointed out and named all manner of wonderful creature. We saw lobsters and blowfish, coral and zebrafish, and even some barracuda. The water here is a fantastic blue, turquoise in the shallows and sapphire in the depths, complete the picture with sandy white beaches.
posted by Nicole

Chris: Sunday

After sailing back and forth all night, we hauled up our sails and motored into Fort Jefferson to deliver our tourists and beach bums. The approaches are fairly treacherous in the best of weather, and are marked only by telephone poles stuck in the sand. The first three or four are mere stumps, run down by ships that did not see them in the night or fog. There are at least 400 shipwrecks around these coral reefs.

Today was for touring the fort, relaxing on the beach, and snorkeling in the shallows. Tomorrow the students will pay for their leisure when the captain teaches them how to raise the anchor and five shot of heavy chain by hand. A shot of chain, in case you didn't know, is ninety feet long, so it will take us half the day to bend on a line to the chain, run the line aft to the capstan, and haul the chain up section-by-section, switching the line each time the bend reaches the capstan. Nicole and two other women on the crew are hauling the huge line up the gangway and onto the deck now.

At the moment we are anchored a half mile off the leeward side of the fort. The spanker is set, so the ship is like a giant weather vane pointing into the wind. She is a grand sight from the shore, even without her foretops’l and foretopgallant mast and yard. From the white coral sands beside the fort it is easy to imagine her off Tahiti or Pitcairn. The original Bounty was built as a merchantman to carry coal – i.e. a collier. This one is one third larger than the original, and more like a six rate (small) British frigate. Indeed, she is a lot like the Australian replica of Cook’s bark HMS Endeavor.

Between us and the fort is a broad band of shallows, rich in sea life of all kinds. The crew has loaned us its snorkeling gear, and at least half of the students have been cruising face down over the shallows spying on the fish, lobsters, and giant turtles. Rose, our official photographer, is using Andy’s underwater camera right now. She is a surreptitious observer; the fish will never know she was there.

I went ashore with the students this morning, armed with three cameras, plus apples and snacks. Sometimes I feel like a Japanese tourist; other times like their mom. But four hours on the beach was plenty for me. I need to read or write something, and I can’t do that in the sand. So I returned to the ship with B watch in the Boston whaler that serves as our gig.

Tonight the students will go ashore again for a candlelight tour of the fort run by a costumed interpreter.

In a previous post I mentioned that the captain and a volunteer had built a new mizzen topmast from lumber bought at Home Depot. I’ve decided that this is the original Home Depot ship. Everything is done economically, which is essential given how expensive tall ships are. Even our esteemed chef Ralph buys his cooking utensils from Home Depot. His potato masher, for example, is a giant drywall mixer. Had Home Depot existed in the nineteenth century, maybe the age of sail would not have ended so soon.
posted by Chris

Elettra: Looking at the sun

January 8, 2005, 1000
DR position 25º15.5’N 082º36.5’W

This morning during my Navigation I used the Sextant, an instrument used to calculate the degree of the sun from the horizon. I was able to look directly at the sun. It was perfectly round and trembled with fire on the surface. It was situated at 31º from the horizon. It appeared so manageable and safe but without the instrument to protect the retinas, it has the ability to blind. What adrenaline to think of how dangerously close you are to harming yourself and what genius invented such an instrument to be able to see such beauty. There is a similar instrument used for celestial navigation but this one can only be used at dawn and dusk when the horizon and the stars can both be seen.

“The past is there. If it’s not in my memory…I guess it’s not important to remember,” says Andy, the First Mate, to Prof. Pyle, about the whole Blogging ‘business,’ as I sit at the Galley table and type my Blog. But recording is just as important as living. We move through life using and then throwing away. But I find recording for others to remember and utilize our experience is a duty. It is a duty because it is what advances our species and enables each to have a head start when embarking on a journey such as this--it is like bidding ‘Bon Voyage!’ or more appropriately, it’s like writing a modern White Jacket.

During times at sea, life is limited to the bare essentials. There is no room to hang up clothes or take a bath. But it is the moments that really make this life. Moments today when we were raising the topgallant yardarm, such as when Michael was up on the main mast helping to actually place the yardarm; Anna climbing up on the rigging; mopping the Galley floors; the crew painting on deck; Lucas singing shanties at the helm; singing in ‘Bozens,’ the tool shed; Ralph cooking pancakes for breakfast; the generator shutting off and remaining in the dark for several minutes; Bearded John (another crew member) sitting on a swing-type chair off the side of the boat trying to screw a bolt into the wood; and unfortunately also having Jamie, another crew member, get hurt when the ‘strop,’ or rope strap, lost its life and flew in the side of his head, near his eye.

The sea is a copycat because it always wants to reflect everything above it, the stars, the clouds, my reflection. However it distorts all this while it sustains it. It never wants to leave anything out, unless the land takes over. It always changes; its changes are told through waves and it changes because it doesn’t want to be attached to anything but it swallows everything. It is hospitable with the fish and it attracts men of courage such are sailors and surfers, only to disintegrate or swallow them up. How many contradictions inhabit the seven seas...

Tomorrow morning we should arrive at the Tortugas around 300 or 400.
posted by Elettra

Nino: Third Day

This is the third day of sailing. I have not seen land all day and it looks beautiful out here. The weather continues to be excellent, as does the food. Today I got to go aloft and set a sail. I thought that I had gotten over my fear of heights, but being up there pushing the sail off the yard certainly argued the opposite, at least for a moment. Once I figured out where to hold on, I began to enjoy the view from up there. During work party, which is when we have sailing lessons with the captain, we got to try some maneuvers. We did a box haul, which is when the boat does a tight turn when trying to avoid collision. I like these exercises in ship handling; with each one I feel more and more comfortable with the lines. I am also settling in the routine of my watch. It feels good to have a set job at all times even when the job is to sleep. We have eight hours of sleep and four hours for napping, so I feel rested. I am starting to, at least superficially, get to know the crew, the different personalities on board and the way they work together. It is interesting to be around people with such different backgrounds who have all dropped what ever they were doing to come and sail. While I love and appreciate everything that comes with this lifestyle, I must confess that I could not give up school for it. I am starting to love this ship. It is a beautiful creature.
posted by Nino

January 12, 2005


Photos have arrived! Just a couple due to technical constraints.

The first picture is Carly at the helm:

Carly at the helm

The second shows Natalia, Anna, Nino and crew on a yard:

Crew on a yard
posted by Bill

January 13, 2005

Fort Jefferson: Official and unofficial history

Last night we had a candlelight tour of Fort Jefferson by a Park Service employee in Civil War uniform. He began with a demonstration of his British Enfield musket, a knockoff of the American musket that the Springfield, MA, armory could not produce fast enough. The British, like the Americans during the Napoleonic era, supplied both the North and South with about a half million muskets each. Our guide averaged 25 seconds between shots, which must have been excruciatingly slow to anyone on a Civil War battlefield. You have to stand to load these things.

Not surprisingly, our guide gave us the politically correct version of history, pointing out that this fort, and 50 others, was build to protect our homes and families from the British after they sacked and burned Washington, DC, during the War of 1812. He did not mention that American "war hawks" jump-started that war with the hope of annexing Canada, then British territory. But they started that war with insufficient public support and no well-financed plan, so we had insufficient forces to prevent the assault on Washington. But Fort McHenry withstood a subsequent British attack, fixing the utility of coastal forts in the American mind. No mention that perhaps a wiser foreign policy would have made at least some of those forts unnecessary.

Of course, we had reason to fear another war with Britain until we settled the Canadian border in 1848. This fort was begun two years earlier, on the eve of our war with Mexico--another aggressive use of military force to expand the borders of our nation. That was not mentioned; nor was the fact that the fort, which could easily be sailed around, was not militarily important during the American Civil War, even though by then its brick and cement walls were no match for the new rifled cannon. Indeed, the only real military use of the fort occurred during the War of 1898, another unnecessary war. By then it was used as a coaling station for the steam-driven warships of our new White Fleet, which slaughtered the obsolete Spanish fleet at the battle of Havana Bay.

This fort, like so many other military construction projects over the years, was a giant cash cow for American businessmen. New England provided much of the brick, which turned out inferior to the climate, and the slate and granite, and the ships that brought it here. The engineers who designed the fort, which was to carry the huge guns of its day, gave it two foot deep footings in the sea saturated sands and, not surprisingly, the walls could not carry the load and cracked. This not only cut the fort's firepower in half (or more), it broke many of the cisterns needed to collect rainwater and thereby supply expected fleets. But it made lots of money for the Halliburtons of its day.

The chief use of the fort was as a prison for Union deserters during the Civil War. Here the Park Service did a better job, calling it an American "Devil's Island." It was a place of squalor, where errant soldiers (and their jailors) went to die of yellow fever. Emphasis was placed on the rude accommodations, but with no comparison to the current accommodations not so far away at Guantanamo Bay. There was torture here, but more for sport than as part of a misguided effort to gather information, as at Gitmo. The sort of sport that goes on in may American prisons to this day and that humiliated Ashcroft's detainees after 9/11.

The most notable prisoner here, as everyone knows, was Dr. Samuel Mudd, who set the broken leg of Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Boothe. Unmentioned, of course, was that the evidence against Dr. Mudd did not meet the "beyond any reasonable doubt" standard required by our Constitution, or that his constitutional rights were denied, both by trying him before a military tribunal, rather than a federal court, and by shipping him here, secretly, rather than upstate New York, where he could have challenged the legality of his conviction by the military in civilian court. Rather our guide simply ended his presentation with a rousing justification for this useless and expensive hall of injustice, with that mindless mantra: "freedom is not free."
posted by Chris

Weighing the Anchor (Mike)

The day we left Dry Tortugas, the captain thought that we should gain some hands-on experience with a very important event in any voyage, the weighing of the anchor. Before modern luxuries such as electric anchor winches, called windlasses, with which the Bounty was thankfully equipped, the crew spent hours using the capstan to raise the anchor by hand. Because we had put out nine shots of chair (9 shots x 90 feet per shot = 810 feet), the captain had used the windlass to haul up all but 2 shots (180 feet).

First, I'll make a note on the capstan. On the Bounty, the capstan is a meeting place, a classroom, and a warm hearth in addition to being a winch. At the beginning and end of every watch, the entire watch would gather and take a roll call at the capstan before handing the deck over to the next watch and being stood down. Every time the captain needed to address the crew, he would call "Hands to the capstan." In the afternoons, when the captain and mates would teach us various aspects of seamanship, they would use the capstan as a desk. During long, cold night watches, idle hands would jockey for a position around the base of the capstan where hot air from the engine room was vented. Above the round vent grate, which rises about 18 inches above the deck, the capstan is a narrow cylinder, about a foot in diameter. Around this cylinder are vertical wooden strips tapered to give the entire cylinder an hourglass shape. At the base of this narrow section are four flaps, which fall down into a track and pass over ridges designed to keep the capstan from moving backwards while under tension. At the top of the tapered cylinder is a broad circular section with square holes around its diameter. It is topped in a smooth wooden surface a bit above chest height.

To raise the anchor, a large block (piece of wood housing pulleys) is attached to the chain, which enters the ship on the port bow, and another is fastened to the port deck beside the capstan. A very thick line is then fastened to the block on the chain and runs between the blocks, almost the entire length of the port deck, six times. Then, it is wrapped around the tapered part of the capstan four times so that the tension in the rope provides enough friction to keep it from slipping. After the capstan, the line goes off to starboard, where it is neatly coiled.

The day we left Dry Tortugas, we had an early capstan meeting to weigh the anchor. After the captain explained what was going to happen, we paired off and grabbed capstan bars. When the command was given, we all inserted our bars into the square holes and started walking. Pushing the bar was not difficult, but it was a very long and monotonous process. While, with all the mechanical advantage afforded to us by the capstan and tackle system, we only had to push each bar with about 18 lbs. of force, every trip around the capstan brought only 6 more inches of chain onto the deck. Can you tell I'm a physics major? With 180 feet to be brought up, 60 feet at a time, that translates to a lot of continuous walking. With each lap around punctuated only by hopping over the two ends of the rope coming off the capstan, we tried to occupy ourselves by talking, singing sea chanties, and telling jokes. While Rose, my capstan buddy, didn't really appreciate my sense of humor, Lindsey liked one joke so much that she tried to use it later for wakeups. Though she didn't quite get it right the next morning, I doubt it mattered to her yawning, half-asleep audience.

Once the two tackle blocks had been drawn together, the chain was fastened at the bow and the block was detached from the chain. Working together, we played out the lines snaking back and forth between the blocks and pulled the forward block back up to the bow, where it was reattached to the chain. Then we returned to the capstan. As time went on, we became hotter in the rising morning sun, hungrier, and less talkative. Finally, as the tackles were being drawn together for the third time, Andy announced from the bow that they could see the anchor leaving the water. We redoubled our efforts, pushing intensely then surging ahead as link after link was drawn over the bow. After three hours of marching nowhere, the anchor was up and ready to be fastened and we hurried below decks, eager to enjoy our long-awaited and well-deserved lunch.
posted by Mike

January 14, 2005

Chris: Queasy Monday

The wind has been a constant 12 to 15 knots out of the east for the past 24 hours and looks to hold on for the next 24. Andy ferried us back and forth to the fort yesterday in the whaler. At 6:30 p.m. the ride in in the dark was something of a slalom, and back out under the stars was suitably wet. But the water is warm and the experience pleasant, except when trying to get on to the Jacob's ladder from the leaping boat. You have to time your leap to coincide with the boat's rise and then move smartly up the sides of the ship on the wooden rungs. It's not a move you want to mis-time, especially in the dark.

We have been anchored all night west between the fort and a reef. The reef shines light green out of the sea; certain disaster if our hook were to drag in the night. In addition to a big navy anchor (not historically accurate but much safer) we have sent out five shots (450 feet) of chain with the anchor and now it has to all be hauled back on deck. We used the new electric winch (hidden during day under a tarp) to bring up the last three shots, but now the students are bringing up the rest by hand, walking round and round the capstan. Cindy is crouched on the deck taking the line as it comes off the drum and feeding it to a crew member who is flaking it out on deck in long strips. Each turn round the capstan brings in three inches of chain, which translates to about an hour per shot. When they are done we will wind up the two big Caterpillar diesels and motor all the way to Key West. As we pass the fort we will dogleg around Iowa Rock (made famous by an old dreadnaught that went aground here a century ago), southeast to the edge of the Atlantic, below the Marquesas, where Andy can catch some fish along the weed line, and then approach Key West from the south.

The first mate and I have been speculating on what this experience might do for my Mount Holyoke crew. Knowing they come from a privileged college, and very possibly privileged families, he has been impressed by the speed with which they have adapted to life at sea. "As well bred young ladies," he observed, "most of them have not contemplated life without the usual amenities, like showers every day, let alone actually going without showers that long." I have been thinking a lot about that as I watch them at work, with stringy hair, dirty clothes, and broad smiles. They are absolutely beautiful unadorned. We are turning young ladies into real women.

What the mate did not know, and there is no reason he should, is that five of the eleven students were financially assisted to make this trip, some full fare. This is a need-blind course, even if Mount Holyoke is not as blind to need as it used to be when admitting students.

The wind increased to above 20 mph by early afternoon. Seas ran 3 to 5 feet, with close peaks. "The fresh breeze blew. The white foam flew, the furrow followed free." Pairs of dolphins streaked towards us, to ride along in our large bow wave. The Cross of St. George on the mainmast flew above horizontal, which would mean small craft warnings in harbor. We steamed and sailed under stays'ls. The bow reared high, and then plunged into the sea, although it looked like the horizon was rising and falling. Some of us began to turn a little green and a sign went up: "Please do not vomit in the head." I was one of the first to spew, despite years of sailing. Meanwhile the sturdier members of our group sat crosslegged on deck, oblivious to all the rolling and plunging, happily splicing new ratlines for the rig.

At 3:00 p.m. our forestays'l blew away. The watch went forward to haul it back on board, while the helmsman took us up into the wind and then over to the other tack to make the job easier. The wire stay on which this tall triangular sail was bent parted high on the mast and the halyard broke with it. Two men went aloft to recover the halyard while the watch carried the stricken sail below. The plan is to send it back up in the dawn's early light.

Another member of the crew went aloft to secure the main to'gallant yard, which was slewing about in its yoke. In this sea and wind the ship is rolling and pitching, scribing great arcs in the sky. Another crew member decided it is quiet enough to replace the main yard's portside brace pendant, a 25 foot long wire that runs from the yard's white-tipped end (or arm) back and down to a tackle that runs aft almost to the stern. So while we were regurgitating our lunches, he was working happily aloft, even singing. The sea was brilliant; the air is warm and, despite our queasy stomachs, it is another great day to be alive.
posted by Chris

Elettra: Monday

Currently 1835
At 1626, 24º26.5' N 82º33.2 W
Dry Tortugas- Florida Keys

The waters are rough and all is creaking.

Earlier today, the foretopmast stay of the sail parted and the sail flapped in the wind- only partially, but it was going wild and part of it even fell in the water. Captain Robin, Andy, the first mate, and Matt, the third mate, were trying to fix it along with about five other crew members. It was quite a commotion.

Half of our group has been lying down near the helm for most of the day (since we left Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas) and some have already thrown up. Andy says after an hour or so you should get used to the rocky waters, and just in case, he has Ginger Ale. Prof. Pyle brought Ginger Squares. So it appears we should all be okay, but most still have pallid faces and are spacing out into the horizon, hoping to feel better soon.

The crew advise not to take any sea sickness pills because they will only do worse (as they keep all the vomit inside you) and in any case, most of them are sailors who have lived through even worse conditions.

This morning we pushed the line around the capstan in order to raise the anchor. That took about all morning and it would've been torturous if it hadn't been voluntary, if the breeze were not present and if I were a slave. But of course it felt fun because there was singing and joking. We even played "I spy with my little eye..."

The watch hours have switched and I should be sleeping by now because I have to wake up at 2320.

Yesterday we went to Fort Jefferson. It was majestic and charged with a painful memory of soldiers who lived there, wearing wool suits in tropical weather. After walking around the Fort, we hung out by the beach. The highlight was the snorkeling in the reefs, where we even saw a barracuda. Everyone is scared of barracudas. Brian, a crew member, remembers a crazy friend of his jumped on one, had to have five surgeries on his hands and he's still missing some fingers. Their teeth are extremely sharp and they won't be able to tell the difference between your hand and the fish you are feeding it.

None of this ferocity could be noticed. They just swam away when we followed them.

Like the barracuda, there were many other bright-colored fish swimming alone or in schools. I was a Mermaid, fins and long hair, twirling around my bubbles. The fish stared back at me, some with curiosity and others with a menacing round-eyed look. But most just shone back at me with luminous tropical colors of electric blue, lemon yellow and lilac purple.

On the way back to the ship, Andy explained how he often goes to the shrimp or other fish boats anchored near the bay and offers good beer or rum in exchange for fresh fish. He had none this time, so we ate no fresh fish.

At night we went with the "tender" ("tender" because it tends to the boat) back to the Fort for a special candlelit tour.

Nicole and I have been seriously considering returning after graduation and sailing with the Bounty for a while. If I get a job and it permits me to start in January 2006 I will do so. Captain Robin requires a six weeks notice and a six-month commitment.
posted by Elettra

Natalia: Monday notes and Johnny Depp update

It's 21:18 and I just got off bow watch. The glow of Key West is to our port side, and to our starboard is a lot of darkness looking out to the Atlantic. I saw a wonderful shooting star -- long and bright...made a wish for y'all.

As you've probably read, we are finally rockin' and rollin' and I am totally excited that I am not seasick at all! I've been splicing all afternoon and adding my own bit to the Pirates of the Caribbean set (We made some ratlines -- the foot-ropes, on which you step to climb to the yards.). As promised, here's a quick overview of the Johnny Depp situation -- the Bounty will sail away to Alabama right after we're done, they will revamp the ship there, and then they will proceed to the island of Saint Vincent, where they will meet with the Disney crew, including Depp, Orlando Bloom, and Kierra Knightly (Yeah, I misspelled at least one of their names.) The Bounty crew is looking forward to it all, including their $100 per day pay, and if not in the movie itself, they hope to be at least in the extra DVD scenes.

Next, on my to do list, is a boat check and so I'd better go and take my foul weather jacket off because I hear the engine room is very, very hot tonight. (We've been motoring because the wind is blowing straight towards Cuba, and sadly enough the Captain does not know how to dance salsa ;) . Tomorrow we're in Key West, which means a visit to the Cramer (a 135-foot brigantine, also ran by SEA), and of course all the joys of shore-life. For now, keep rockin'...just keep rockin'.
posted by Natalia

Allison: Off to Key West

Oh my goodness gracious me, the ship is rocking. I have just come from bow watch where I was keeping a look out for other ships, markers and bits of land from the bowsprit. This is the highest and furthest forward part of the bow and as such attained the most distance between the crests and troughs of the rocking cycle.

We are now trucking off to Key West by way of the Florida Seaway. I am sad to leave the Dry Tortugas. I am quite interested in the history of Fort Jefferson, especially since I had never heard of it before. It is an impressive structure built of sand stone bricks on a spit of sand. This caused major problems during construction because the sand had random soft spots in it and the building would sink dramatically in only those places, causing gigantic cracks in the walls. Despite these glitches, around the time of the Civil War and after, there were 2,000 men living here, soldiers and prisoners included. They suffered great things: lack of fresh water (water was collected in great cisterns underneath the structure, which cracked when the walls sank and all of the collected fresh water was ruined. The misfortunes of the water problem go on...), incredible heat and being required to wear wool uniforms, and worst of all Yellow Fever.
posted by Allison

Nicole's 5th Entry

Seasickness is indiscriminant. Some people have it and some do not, but admirals and common sailors are as likely to get it as not. Yesterday, we motored toward Key West in a force 5-6 gale and several (myself included) were quite ill. The nausea is incapacitating and we were all grateful when those who were not ill took over our stations on watch. The most important thing to remember about being sick on a boat is to go aft and to the leeward side, else you can imagine the results. The next most important thing is that it passes after a few hours, and in all probability, you will live that long, though you may not enjoy it much.

We were motoring because this ship cannot sail into the wind. The best racing boats can sail about 30 degrees off the wind. So, if the wind is coming from due East, or 90 degrees, those boats can steer a course anywhere EXCEPT between 60 degrees and 120 degrees. That said, this boat can only sail downwind, or 90 degrees off the wind. This means, in practice, that there is 180 degrees of the 360 available into which we cannot steer. So, when the wind comes from the direction into which we hope to go, we are forced to travel under power.

It's been days since I last wrote. I think I am avoiding thoughts of going home. It is striking how quickly my real life receded into some kind of far away dream that I remember but cannot touch. Periodically thoughts of my down comforter or a full bathtub cross my mind, but they are fleeting, and I am quickly distracted by the tasks at hand. I mean no hurt to those I love and miss, but at this moment there is very little of me that wishes to return home. In some ways this is not surprising. Here there is no daily delivery of bills in the mail, no ability to correspond, no academic arguments to wrestle into words. I understand that in its way this is a form of escapism, but it seems a worthy one, at least for a time. In part, I came on this journey to lighten an invisible burden. My hope was to discover a new perspective and to encounter part of myself previously unknown. In this I succeeded. In so doing I have left some part of myself here, some piece of me is free, untethered, weightless. When I board the plane for home four days from now it will not be as the same person who arrived ten days ago. I have given of myself on this journey, and somewhere inside myself I know that part of me is never coming back.
posted by Nicole

Cindy: Drifting along past Key West at 4am

Here we are drifting along past Key West at 4am. No sails set and no engines running. We are simply waiting for sunrise so we can turn around and head for the harbour where we will set anchor and then "play" for the day. Since it is now the 11th, yesterday we brought the anchor up by hand (a very long process) from the Dry Tortugas and then motored away. Some people got sick because we finally had some wind and seas. This boat is super creaky and every time she rocks all the boards creak against one another in the most disconcerting sound. It's all good though because we are still floating and rumour has it that she always sounds like this. It was a big bummer to actually have some wind yesterday and not be able to use it. In order to get to Key West, we had to go nose to the wind and since square rigs can only sail 90 degrees to the wind, we were put between a rock and a hard place. It was probably a force 4 with more or less 5 foot seas. I loved it, but wish we could have had some canvas up. Actually that's a lie, we did have some sail up for a while, along with the motor, but then a halyard on one of the headsails snapped which eventually caused the forstay to break as well. In the midst of all this, we struck all the other staysails and they have remained that way since. Also today, the port engine started smoking a lot, but no worries, there was no fire and we were up and running in no time.

I guess this will be the one where I talk about some of the differences between SEA and the Bounty. Since I don't know the best way to go about this arduous task, sorry if it gets repetitive. The Bounty is a very wide and cheeky boat while the Seamans is slim around the middle and has a much faster hull speed (the maximum a boat can go based on a whole bunch of confusing mathematical calculations that not really anyone understands). The Bounty has been referred to as a bulldozer. The roll of the boat is so different from the Seamans that at times, I am finding it hard to adjust. The helm on the Bounty is very stiff and somewhat unresponsive at first, which makes steering a complicated and interesting and certainly time consuming process. The helm on the Seamans certainly wasn't loose but it was by no means super stiff and hard to turn. I guess this way has it benefits because in rough seas when you typically slide down the backs of the waves, the rudder won't cause the helm to whip one way or the other due to the pressure of the water as much. Especially in a square rig like this, when you can't go into the wind and would therefore presumably be taking most rough seas from astern, a stiffer helm would be more advantageous. It just takes a long time to get a feel for it, that's all.

Haha, on a side note, there is a poster on board that says "the beatings will continue until morale improves."

But I digress. Bow watch on this boat is a much more social event in that people actually come up and talk with you while you are up there. A course of action that was completely taboo on the Seamans. Because bow watch means, especially at night, that you are the eyes of the ship, you spent bow watch alone looking out 360 degrees to make sure there was nothing to run into or that the helmsman, mate, or captain should know about. But a social bow watch is way more interesting than sitting alone in the middle of the night watching a bunch of black water.

There is so much to compare. Each ship is unique and great in its own way and I feel like comparing them like this is coming off as "the Seamans is better". This is not the message I want to send so here is where this blog ends. Trust me, if you ever want to hear the two ships and experiences compared, just ask me or Natalia (S-191) and we will gladly help you out.

Goodnight all.
posted by Cindy

Chris: Key West

We motored quietly into Key West at dawn alongside the Empress of the Seas. As we prepared to drop our hook in the channel, the 600 foot, 12 storey high cruise ship glided by and then did a 180 degree turn within her own length, aided by powerful bow thrusters, and parallel parked in front of what used to be submarine pens during World War II. She completely obscured our view of the town.

Key West was founded by ship wreckers, who salvaged the many ships lost on these reefs. The U.S. Navy arrived in 1823 to deal with pirates who preyed on shipping in the Florida Straits. Commodore Rogers and his squadron of "mosquito boats" were only here for a couple of years, but were largely successful, despite frequent bouts with yellow fever. The merchants here have turning these terrorists of the sea into romantic heroes, which makes me wonder how they will remember Al Qaeda in 100 years.

Key West is a giant vacuum cleaner aimed at the wallets of cruise ship passengers. Every second store sells vulgar-shirts; every third sell bikinis (unisex). In the evening the strippers invite customers in to the see the show. Key West has 101 bars, and 12 strip clubs. But then many of the bars have naked waitresses, so the statistics get confused.

Captain Mel Fisher's museum to the underwater plundering of sunken galleons is mediocre; Hemingway's house is full of cats, most named after celebrities. Sixty-one are in residence at the moment, all descendants from two strays Hemingway brought home in the 1930s. Their drinking fountain is an old urinal from Sloppy Joe's bar, where the author got the locals to tell him stories for his books. The cats have their own houses in the garden -- supposedly the only legal cat houses in town.

Key West is overrun with roosters as well as stray casts. There is even a storefront for their protection and propagation. The roosters here are what pigeons and English sparrows are to other towns.

New England windjammers make a good living here doing day sails for the tourists, charging $35 or more a head. At one point we saw the two Appledores from Camden, the Liberty Clipper from Boston, and the America from Newport, all sail by the Bounty within ten minutes of each other. The America fired her signal cannon in salute, and to entertain her champagne drinking passengers. Sea Semester's Corwith Cramer, a 134 foot brigantine, was also in port, but locked away from public view, and terrorist attacks, at the Coast Guard station.

The old Navy base, where Truman had his Winter Palace, was bought by a developer two decades ago and transformed into a very tasteful collection of town houses and condos. The old commandant's house, which Truman commandeered, is now maintained as museum by the state, not federal, government. About a mile beyond it is Fort Zachary Taylor, another of the 51 coast forts built in the first half of the nineteenth century. All that is left is the first floor which is definitely not worth seeing. Unlike Fort Jefferson, however, this pile of concrete actually had some strategic purpose, when a quick thinking Army Captain occupied it in the first days of the Civil War. Key West's harbor remained in Union hands throughout the war, making a full blockade of the Florida coast possible.

The greatest enemy that the Army and Navy had here was not the Confederates, however, but the yellow fever. I used to think that modern Florida was made possible by the invention of air conditioning. That may be true, but DDT and modern medicine helped too.

The students and I met up at Mallory Square at 5:00 p.m. where locals and tourists come to salute the descending sun. From there we took a mile hike to a very good and inexpensive Cuban restaurant, and then hiked back. Most of us returned to the ship on the 9:00 p.m. whaler, but four -- I won't say whom -- stayed to explore some bars. They caught the last shuttle at eleven, with nothing good to say about the local watering spots.

The students will be allowed to sleep through the night without standing anchor watches, because tomorrow is the day they crew the ship. Each in her own way is beginning to think about how she will function as a "mini-mate", giving commands to brace yards in order to wear ship. "Stand by the port and starboard braces." "Ease the port brace and sheet; haul the starboard brace and sheet --handsomely.". We get underway at 8:00 a.m. sharp to begin our journey back to St. Petersburg.
posted by Chris

Parrot Woman - January 12

Once again on a new watch, we raised anchor and set the sails, battling a current and teasing the winds to escape Key West, land of key lime pie and binge drinking. I think we are all getting a better grip on the sails and the lines and their order on the pin rails, but it is still a confusing task to handle the sails efficiently. We set the forward course, the main topsil, and the mail tagallant, as well as the stasils and spanker (someone else can correct me if I'm wrong in their post). I surprised myself by climbing to the tagallant yard arm to loose the sail; I think that's up about 85 feet. I'm not sure if I'll go up there again, but I managed to not be too nervous, beyond fearing that I am too large to get through the shrouds of the topsil to the tagallant. I made it.

On other fronts, I need to continue to photograph everything, especially everyday life aboard the ship, the glowing red lights of the tween decks, and the good food Ralph has been cooking for us.
posted by Rose, Parrot Woman

Chris: Boarders and getting underway

About 3:00 this morning, we had a boarder -- a toothless drunk who had tried to paddle his kayak out to his boat and got caught in the tide, which was running past us like the Columbia River. He managed to grab hold of our whaler, which was tied alongside, until Joe, who was on anchor watch, heard the thunking of gunwales and brought him on board. The fellow looked like Ben Gun in Treasure Island and was so grateful that he threatened to wake up the entire crew. If he had not caught hold of our boat the tide would have taken him into open sea. Joe calmed him down and gave him a tarp to lie under until the tide turned and would take him back to his own boat.

Along about 8:00 a.m. Ben Gun returned with gift of CDs for Joe, who he again credited with saving his life. In the light of day we could clearly see that his kayak was well designed -- to carry a beer cooler aft of the paddler.

Boarders can be a problem in harbors like this one, where many of the visitors -- and residents -- are not in their right minds. Drunk enough, they can imagine themselves as pirates, and storm our "pirate" ship. They can be handled, of course, but not without waking our people, who are at the point in this voyage where the novelty has worn off and sleep deprivation has set in. We are getting very serious about sleep, especially those who have to interrupt theirs to stand watch in the middle of the night.

Conditions remain salubrious. The night was lit well with stars, and a light warm breeze wafted in from the east. According to the latest cell phone reports, snow and freezing rain are expected in Connecticut. My wife, home alone in South Hadley, has taken to bed with a feverish cold, making me feel very guilty having such a good time here.

Getting underway this morning was tricky, as we were anchored in a fast running current between Key West and one of its islands. The current was stronger than the wind, which came from the port, abeam. We could set all our sails and sail off the anchor, but there was no room to drift aft or to leeward. So the captain chose to lee-bow the current, in the hope that the current would keep us upwind of the island until we could attain enough speed to sail on through the channel and out to sea. We set all sails, including the main t'gallant, hoping that the higher sails would pick up a slightly stronger breeze and drive us forward through the current. It was a dicey situation; enough so that the Coast Guard came out to watch. But the strategy worked, if barely, and we sailed out of the harbor without embarrassment.

It might well not have worked if any of the gear jammed, or the crew fouled up. But everyone stood by their stations and did everything right and in proper sequence. All sails were set before the anchor came up, and it was hauled just as we got underway. The forestays'l, re-rigged while we were in Key West, worked properly, and made the difference.

A lot went on simultaneously, as both the main t'gallant and tops'l had to be raised up their masts quickly. This takes eight or ten hands on the halyard, with one person shouting "Heave, ho. Heave, ho" or "two, six, two, six," which means the same thing. Rose went up and out onto the t'gallant yard to set sail and surprised herself on how easy it was after less than a week on board.

Once clear of the anchorage we sailed south from Key West and then wore around and headed due north on a starboard tack up the Gulf, towards St. Pete. The sky is clear but for some scattered clouds; temperatures continue to run in the high 70s, low 80s, with a 10 knot breeze driving us along at 4 to 5 knots per hour. The sea is calm, and the hot sun and light rocking action are conducive to laziness, even torpor. It is possible to lulled into the illusion that this is all there is to sailing.

All around us, however, are treacherous reefs. Sailing this same course through heavy fog would be very different; a time for ultra vigilance. Years ago, Erskine Childers wrote a gripping novel about a couple of Englishmen sailing through the Friesian sand flats in northern Holland, where the underwater topography changes radically with every few feet of a substantial tide. I can imagine the same sailing here, despite the relatively low rise in tide.

At the moment we are making 4 to 5 knots, which means we could be back in St. Petersburg on Friday, if we wished. The current plan is to use the extra time to practice evolutions, and to drop our hook off Egmont Key outside Tampa Bay late Saturday afternoon. That will give us time to clean ourselves and the ship up before taking her into Tampa at mid-day Sunday. Then there will be more time to get ready to meet the local alumnae at 5:30 p.m.
posted by Chris

Anna: Key West

Thursday January 13, 2005 1:45 pm

Today is another beautiful, sunny day at sea. I am beginning to slowly forget about life before the Bounty and the initial strangeness that I felt begin on the boat. As we are settling in our routines and know what to do to sail the ship, where all the lines are, how to do our assigned jobs and so forth, it seems natural that we are here. We have dogged the watches once again and I am now on the 12-4 watch, typically everyone's least favorite. It does mean a little less sleep because dinner interrupts one of our chances to sleep, but I think once we get on this system, it will be fine. Last night we began our project of having each Mt. Holyoke student act as the mate for their watch. I was the first student to be the mate for my watch. The night (early morning actually) went well, it was actually kind of dull in some ways. It was good to get a feel of how everything flows during a watch and I am starting to understand navigation much better; however, there were no boats the entire night, weather was no problem, and we stayed on course during the whole night, so the time passed slowly. In my watch Nino, Natalia, and I are each going to have a chance to be the mate twice, once during the night and once during the day so I will have a chance to be the mate again and during the day I will call a wearing of the ship (turning the stern of the ship through the wind) so there will be more going on.

This morning we had work party and I climbed to the crosstrees of the foremast (the very top) to rig a gantline so we can haul up the new mast later. It was intimidating at first when I began climbing the upper ratlines but I just continued upwards and before I knew it I was higher and higher and finally I was at the top of the shrouds. The tricky part then was maneuvering myself onto the crosstrees because the ratlines ended a little lower than I would have liked. Nevertheless, being up there was a lot of fun and I am quickly becoming more and more at ease with climbing aloft and enjoying being up there.

Key West was a great stop. We got in at around 8 am and left for the shore at 9. I spent the day walking around and exploring the island. I enjoyed touring Hemingway's home, which is a beautiful Spanish-style mansion with a gorgeous and surprisingly laid-back garden, guesthouse and backyard pool. One of the most strange things about the home is the 60+ cats that live on the estate. They are all direct descendents from the bloodline of the original six-toed cat given to Hemingway because of its well-known value as a good luck charm for sailors. During his lifetime, Hemingway also had about as many cats as live there now, and the owners of the estate take good care of the cats, apparently they are the curator's second largest expense. We sat outside for a nice lunch at a restaurant named Caroline's where I got some excellent shrimp. It was great to get fresh seafood, something I certainly don't get enough of at school. We then continued wandering, did a little shopping and met up with the rest of the MHC crew to see the sunset at Mallory Square. We where then led by our first-mate Andy to a local Cuban restaurant, El Siboney, in a remote location out of the tourist area. Apparently the restaurant has been in the same Cuban family since it opened and the taste of food confirmed it. I got a pork dinner with saffron rice, black beans and plantains (!); to say it was great is an understatement.
posted by Anna

Nino: Students take charge

I have not written for a few days and so missed a few key events. We arrived at the Dry Tortugas, spent the day at Fort Jefferson, left the Dry Tortugas and arrived at Key West. Spent most of the day at Key West walking around town and at sunset we went to Mallory (this may be an incorrect spelling) Square were you can watch the sunset as well as performers who come to entertain. The town is a living tourist spot with very little else.

Today we have set sail and are heading to St Petersburg. From this point the idea is that we, the students, will be in charge of the ship (giving orders and setting the course). We will become the mates of the ship. There are certain points on which I do not feel comfortable being in charge on. For example, we are going to have to do a full evolution during one of our watches. While I do understand the basic concepts and I have been observing during the wares, I am not sure I will be able to know what commands to give when and interpret what the wind is doing with what the ship is doing quickly enough. It's not a real worry, we are still learning and can hardly be expected to know everything about the wind in the span of eight days. I am surprised and tickled by how much we have picked up; I know or can find almost all the main lines for the sails, which was the most daunting task when we first set out. I have also become comfortable with going aloft and I even find it fun now.

Today during work party we were being taught how to do splices for the ratlines. I find that many of the tasks, for the student, on a ship like this one follow a similar pattern. A task or an idea will be explained in a very simple and easy to grasp manner. When trying to do the task you notice that it's not as simple as explained and usually some small detail will be done wrong. When you ask another crewmember to explain it again, they will do it differently. Finally, the student has to realize that there are many ways of doing the task and the best way to go about it is to be able to improvise (where do you tie off this line, and how?). The right answer can change with each mate or each crewmember.
posted by Nino

Parrot Woman - Jan 13

Sausage and cinnamon rolls for breakfast, and of course a shot of ship coffee. We are in the last stage of our sailing adventure, trying to act independently of the wonderful crew of the bounty, and even acting as mini-mates, leading the wearing of the ship and keeping track of our course of navigation. An underlying theme of the Captain's afternoon sailing "classes" has been that sailors are simple people. I'm sure this was meant as a sarcastic challenge to our concept of education and intelligence. Sailing is a language all of its own, with a broad vocabulary demanding of much more than simplicity of mind. It is certainly a different part of the mind than "higher education" demands: there aren't any papers to outline, or hours to gestate a new theory. Yet sailors must have a quickness of intellect to manage a ship effectively, which always involves physical activity and willing energy, in contrast to the pleasant lethargy that writing a paper or hearing a lecture often involves. It would take me years to master the knots and pin rails, not to mention the navigation and wind patterns.

This afternoon for work party I went aloft and sat on the foremast cross trees, about 90 feet up. It was actually quite relaxing once I managed to get up there: the climb is still nerve-wracking, but very satisfying. Looks like dinner is about ready: spicy thai. I'll miss Ralph when I head back to school.
posted by Rose, Parrot Woman

Chris: Thursday

Sailing around the clock creates a special netherworld, both on deck and below. On deck the rig above looks like a dark German forest in an etching by Durer. But everything is so indistinct that you have to ask the person standing next to you who she is. Night vision is crucial, so you dress in the dark and stumble through the 'tween decks in darkness, hoping that no one has left a hatch open to the hold below.

Nighttime sailors are only half conscious, especially when idling below in the dim red light of the galley. They huddle around the table, like Rembrandt's peasants huddled round their hearth, hunched over, yawning, trying to make conversation, or jokes, to stay awake. The more tired the crew becomes, the lower the standards for amusement. They keep awake mainly by doing their rounds, check bilges, waking the next watch, and certifying their checks in old-fashioned black & white composition books from WalMart. At nighttime sailors' brains run on one cylinder. It is very difficult to focus, especially on computations in the chart house.

Fortunately, the weather remains balmy, high 70s in the day, low 60s at night, wind 10 knots out of the east, seas calm. A little rain fell around 4:00 a.m., but didn't last long. At 7:00 a.m. the morning watch hauled out the fire hose and washed down the decks with seawater. The decks are cleaner than we are. Having already expended 75 percent of the fresh water allocated for this voyage on the way to Key West, no one has showered since.

At the 7:45 this morning a shout went up from the capstan: "Maria has the watch." Our students are now taking turns as "mini-mates." The process began yesterday when Allison took command and put the crew through two evolutions -- wearing ship first in one direction, then in the other. The moves went well, affirming the captain's belief, expressed that morning, that our young women have what it takes -- were his crew to become incapacitated -- to bring the ship into port. Throughout the night different students took the con, plotted the course, and ran the watch. When I came on deck at 3:00 a.m. Anna was in the red-lit chart room, checking our progress. Cindy preceded her; Carly followed. For the past 18 hours our course has been north of northeast, between 10 to 30 degrees. As we close in on the west coast of Florida the water gets rather shallow -- 39 feet below our keel at the moment.

This afternoon we divided into work parties AND did evolutions simultaneously. Rose went up to the foretopmast crosstrees to finish setting up the tackle that will raise a new foretopgallant/royal mast that Cindy started a couple of days ago. She was up there for more than two hours while down on deck Carly wore the ship around twice, barking out the orders as if she has been a sailing master all her life. Elettra hove us to (parked us) so that the crew could go swimming again. She, too, is a natural at this game. Then Mike, Nicole, and Allison scrambled aloft to furl a ballooning t'gallant, 85 feet up on the mainmast. Allison did it barefoot, reminding me of what they said of Ginger Rogers: She did everything Fred Astaire did, but only backwards. I shouldn't admit it yet, but these students are exceeding my most extravagant expectations. And, despite their new found confidence, they always wear their harnesses and clip on.

As of 6:30 p.m. we were west of Naples, Florida, ghosting north (010 degrees) at about three very gentle, leisurely knots.
posted by Chris

January 15, 2005

Mike: Evan's Knife

This story was, in my opinion, the funniest moment of the cruise. Lindsey was showing about six of us how to splice rope on the tonnage hatch. Evan, a crew member, was busy hacking away with his knife because, occasionally, a finished splice had to have its loose ends trimmed off or an aborted splice had to be excised altogether. Seeing this, Lucas proceeded to tell him how to cut lines properly, saying, "No, you don't saw lines! It ruins the lay. You have to put your knife on it, take your marlin spike, and just give it a good whack." Taking the advice to heart, he put a piece of line on the chopping block pressed the blade of his knife down on it. With his other hand, he drew his marlin spike far back and brought it down swiftly on the back of his knife.

CLANK! Well, for all his enthusiasm, I can say this much for Evan: the rope was indeed severed. His mighty blow, however, had also severed the hilt of his knife from the blade, which was firmly lodged in the chopping block. We rolled with laughter as Evan furiously waved his one-inch stub of useless steel. Even Evan had to admit that he only got what he had paid for. Earlier in the voyage, Evan had mentioned that he had bought his knife from Bed, Bath, and Beyond and had sawed and sharpened it into shape. Evan wrenched his blade from the block of wood, uttered a few choice words about the quality of his purchase, and solemnly committed both parts of his knife to a watery grave

posted by Mike

Maria's catch-up #2

Well, I return yet again with another catch-up post. I felt like I should write down some kind of reflection on my experience as a mini-mate.

Being a mini-mate meant that we each played the role of mate for the entire watch. I was pretty anxious before my turn came up, and I anticipated a rather stressful four hours. One of the biggest reasons I felt so nervous was that I had to be mate from 8am to noon, and I am most emphatically not a morning person, as many people found out over the course of the trip. Every morning when someone, usually Jaime, came to wake us up, I would let out a sort of creaking groan to make them aware of my consciousness. Little did anyone know that my creaking was a vast improvement from the growl that I generally use at home. Once I have succeeded in getting out of bed, I generally do not like to acknowledge any other living objects for some time. It's not that I'm grumpy, I'm just laconic. However, all leisurely thawing of my people skills was out of the question as long as I was mini-mating. I had to be with on the ball right away. Even before I had finished my coffee.

I think it must have been for people to see me trying to make sense of the chart and plotting the course at 8am. Another hurtle to jump was the process of wearing ship. Wearing ship is a sailing evolution used to turn the boat 180 degrees by putting the stern up into the wind. The Captain made it a requirement that each student had to wear ship while they were mate. Caleb, the mate for my watch, went over the process with me again and again before I had to shout the orders, but even with that preparation I managed to mess up. Everything was so different in practice than it was in theory. However, on the whole I feel like it was a good experience. I was pushed out of my comfort zone, and I found that I could still do ok outside of it. Things didn't go too smoothly, but I didn't break anything so I say it counts as victory.

Later, I got the chance to mini-mate from 8-12 at night and that was much better. Not only was I more alert, but at that point in the trip we were motoring, so there was less to keep tabs on. It was interesting to see the difference in work load between the mated and-deck hands. I don't think it's really fair to say that the mates have the easier job even though they do less physical work. The mates have a more stressful job because they are responsible for quite a bit. They need to navigate, make sure everything is getting done that needs to be done, and are responsible for anything that goes wrong during their watch. Through my mini-mate experience, I gained an appreciation for all that the mates do and an even greater appreciation for the lack of stress that comes with being a deck-hand.
posted by Maria

January 19, 2005

Safe return!

The ship and crew have returned safely. We are in the process of recovering the most recent posts and photos from the hard drive of the laptop, which did not like getting wet when the ship ran into a rain squall. Stay tuned.
posted by Bill

January 20, 2005

Chris: Escapism

I do not normally eavesdrop on student conversations, but sitting around the galley table late at night I learned something about what it is like to be young again. Not one of the Americans at that table was proud of her country. Indeed, each was deeply ashamed -- so ashamed that several questioned the Canadians in the crew about the prospects of emigrating. I had not heard such conversations since I was in uniform, some 37 years ago.

Back then, disaffected liberals had enough faith in the promise of America to try to reclaim it, before dropping out. These students expressed no such faith. To them, American politic is little more than a kleptocracy -- a feeding frenzy of special interests with no concern for the common good. Some had worked in Kerry's campaign, but more out of fear of the alternative than any faith that the Democratic Party retains its moral compass. Hence the inclination to emigrate, drop out, or go to sea. One quoted her mother: "If Bush institutes the draft, we're moving to Canada." On the two occasions when I offered the students a New York Times a general revulsion arose from the table. They were trying to escape all that.

I spend much of my professional life criticizing the United States. I try to do so as a loving critic who wants it to live up to its heritage and its potential. But these students, at least in that fragment of a conversation, did not acknowledge America's heritage or the promise of its institutions. They simply thought that life might be better somewhere else, and that they were entitled to an easier life than the one they already enjoy.

It is easy, I suppose, to become disaffected with the United States if one rarely studies its history, law, or politics, if one associates only with critics of the Left or super-Patriots of the Right, or if one thinks of history as just one damned thing after another. It is easy to be repelled by American politics or culture if one focuses only on the moment, or on the incoherence of our more transient locales. It is also possible for privileged students to feel politically impotent if they sense a lack of commitment for liberty, equality, or justice among their peers or their families, which seems to be the case among too many of my students today.

As I eavesdropped on that conversation, I thought that perhaps I had made a mistake taking this group to sea. What I should have done is create a course that would bring them into contact with the people who are trying hardest to redeem the promise of America. They are not the politicians, who largely reflect the interests of their donors and constituents. They are not political parties, which are amoral vote-getting machines. They are community activists, who often do extraordinary things with almost no resources at all. They don't have the option of emigrating to Canada or running away to sea. Some ran away to America precisely to get to a country where some degree of justice still seems possible.

But this course was meant to accomplish other ends. As Elettra put it, sailing a tall ship requires a measure of courage, a quality not valued much in the ultra-protective colleges of the moment. Conquering a fear of heights, living outside the reach of emergency services, or surviving at sea, can do something for one's sense of efficacy and prudence, and what the captain likes to call "common sense." Deep sea sailing can also build character and commitment to one's community, as Carly observed. I certainly hope so, and I think we observed those qualities in the ship's crew, most of whom are mature and competent beyond their years.
posted by Chris

Chris: Final days

At about 4:00 a.m., Friday, somewhere north of Naples, we were struck with a rain squall as a cold front passed through. For a short while torrents of rain flew sideways, obscuring the bow and flooded the decks. Water leaked through, frying our laptop computer as it awaited bloggers on the galley table. At the other end of the ship the rain found our video camera, roasting its screen. Even my K-Mart wrist watch, under my foul weather gear, died in the flood. Those in the 'ween deck compartments had puddles in their bunks.

Nicole had the pre-dawn watch when the squall hit, and had to both furl the t'gallant and change course to keep us from going aback. But the wind backed into the north, ending our sailing and reminded us, yet again, that this was no Caribbean cruise. Around three in the afternoon we doused the sails, fired up the Caterpillars, and motored into the wind. Twenty-four hours later we anchored off Egmont Key, at the mouth of Tampa Bay. We had hoped for one last swim, but with the temperature approaching the 30s, everyone was content to huddle below.

I spent much of that day in my bunk, and not out of choice. For almost 24 hours, seasickness, congestion, or lack of sleep deprived me of the capacity to stand without staggering. As I lay there, unable to rise or sleep, I listened to the ship creak. All ships creak. Big sailing ships creak a lot, because their masts function as giant levers, causing huge beams to grind against each other. As the wind rose, the Bounty's creaking was cacophonous, if not arthritic. But ships, like people, need to be loose at the joints in order to survive. The Bounty, despite her chronic lack of cash, is a survivor, driven by an ingenious crew, Home Depot parts, and an irrepressible sense of humor.

On Sunday morning the captain again ordered us to haul the anchor by hand. Intimations of mutiny could be heard from my crew. "We've done this already. We know how to do it. Why do we have to do it again, professor? Won't you speak to the captain?"

But a ship is not a democracy, and I did not intervene. At 9:00 a.m. the students stripped to their shirts and started the haul, three inches of chain per turn around the capstan. At first they trudged, but as they warmed to the task they began to sing, and soon were dancing round and round over the winding cable beneath their feet. An hour later we passed under the Sunshine Bridge, which we saluted with a reverberating blast from our starboard cannon. Fortunately, the Homeland Security folks were not around.

Docking proved our final challenge. A ship the Bounty's size requires four heavy lines numbered, sensibly enough, one through four from bow to stern. In each case a light heaving line with a lead ball on the end has to be thrown across to people on the dock, who then haul the big lines over. We approached the pier from the east, intending to send our number one line across first, but the strong north wind blew us sideways, and the heaving line with its Monkey's Fist fell a few feet short. So we had to back our ship's stern around the end of the dock and into the wind, until we were able to pass numbers 4,3, and 2 across. Then, by straining again these cables, we gradually warped the ship into its berth. Our self-effacing captain gave his orders from the mizzen shrouds, like Russell Crowe in Master and Commander. Needless-to-say, he was not happy with the glitch, but you don't park a tall ship like a car.

Once the dock lines were secure and the garden hose passed over, everyone headed for the showers. There is nothing quite so satisfying as a hot shower when you haven't had one for five days. Later that evening, a delegation marched off to the hot tubs of St. Pete, where I am sure they left a greasy ring. I stayed on board; such hedonistic pleasures are not customary in my New England.

Before fleeing to the hot tubs the students and crew joined 20 alumnae and family for a 'tween decks reception. Then, in the setting sun, the students strapped on their harnesses and scrambled aloft, laying out along the main yard, for their class picture.

As each left the swaying foot ropes for the last time and stretched the scary distance to the relative security of the shrouds beneath the fighting top, she announced "laying off port" or "laying off starboard." Announcing one's departure is important, because whenever a sailor steps off a foot rope, the section further out drops several inches, which could kill another sailor, particularly if she has short legs, doesn't have her belly on the yard, or at least one hand firmly on the jackstay. But the students had learned how to look out for each other, and each came safely home.
posted by Chris

January 21, 2005

Nicole's final entry

I know that I have been remiss in writing, but my reasons are many, and good. Foremost is that we have fried the computer, something that is apparently common in a moist environment such as this. The circumstances through which this occurred will become evident as I tell the tale of the last several days.

Day before yesterday- or perhaps the day before that, we had reports of some incoming weather. Not just some windy seas, as when we left the Dry Tortugas, but some bonafide storms. In the evening we strike the highest sails on the ship, at the moment that is the t'gallant sail on the main mast, three tiers up from the deck. This is the same yard that we put in place last week, and it does not yet have a back rope attached. This means that you can clip into the foot rope you are standing on, but that there is not the added feeling of security provided by the line that runs across the middle of your back, against which one can lean and take comfort. It was just at sunset, and as I have not yet been that high up on the ship- I volunteered my services to furl the sail. It is not a terrifically difficult sail to furl, as it is relatively small and so comparatively light. However, it is quite high up , and it does move about a bit when there are six people standing on it. I put on my rig belt (knife, flashlight, marlin spike), my climbing harness, and my best game face, and began to climb. The first tier of shrouds is familiar to me, the second less so, but the climb up to the sail itself was a bit daunting. When I get scared up there, I simply repeat to myself "Just pretend that you are five feet off the ground, it's just five feet." This of course, is not true, because I would surely die if I fell from the t'gallant yard, and likely not from a height of five feet, but fear is a beastly boogey man and panic gets me nowhere good, so I simply repeat my mantra and climb. One of the things you learn on a ship is that when there is work to be done, you DO it, whether or not someone else could, or would be more comfortable, is not the issue. You do not ask questions, and you try not to whine, you simply do your job, end of story. So up and up we went, and when I finally got there, out to the end of the yard, 90 feet off the water, the sun was setting and waves tinged with golden beams were rolling into the vast distance as far as I could see...

A ship such as this presents an interesting dichotomy in that one is perpetually reminded both of how large and how small the world is. Our floating home is 180 feet by 30 abeam, and it seems smaller sometimes, especially when in search of solitude. But the vastness that can be witnessed from this vantage point is expansive and indescribable. This may not be the end of the earth, but sometimes I am sure I can see it from here.

As you all may know from other posts, the students each took one shift as "Mate" for their watch, essentially responsible for the ship, though still well supervised for the sake of safety. Some of us were skeptical, both about how we would perform, and about how our new "authority" would be perceived by a crew who are more capable by far than any of us for sure. Well, all in all I think the exercise went well. Most of the students got to take the boat through an evolution, to be thought of as a single maneuver, such as wearing ship (jibing for those smaller boat sailors).

I managed to escape this exercise because mother nature decided to provide me a unique task of my very own. "A" watch was on the 4-12, which means you are awake and on deck at twenty to four. My wake up came at 3:36. Four minutes later I was standing next to the capstan, clothing on backward, no tea, eyes crossed, while eight people shouted "Nicole has the deck!" It was then that I noticed the lightning. Sweet.

Our watch split off into rotation and I went into the chart room (think chart hut) to figure out how to use the radio, maybe get some weather info, and take a better look at where we were and what we were in for. It was a good place to be, because shortly thereafter, it began to rain. I felt bad for my compatriots who were standing bow watch and helm in the weather, but sometimes that's just the luck of the draw. It was clear that storm was coming up, the rain got heavier, and so too the wind. The forecast said our wind would be changing, coming around almost a full 180 degrees, and by now you all know what that means for this rig.

Just before dawn began to lighten the sky, I went up on the weather deck to check our wind and saw that it had shifted quite a bit, but that the weather itself had seemingly lightened. I thought it time to brace the ship and called hands to the deck. By the time they arrived two minutes later it had begun to rain. Within ten minutes, the sky was becoming light and the rain was horizontal. We braced the ship up sharp but the sails were still screaming and everyone was getting drenched, even inside their foulies, and it was at that moment that I became aware that I was well out of my league. The whole of "A" watch was trying to sheet in the forestays'l so it would keep some wind, but was luffing like crazy and we were getting nowhere. The deck was slippery and we all dug in as Jamie called "TWO...SIX" and we heaved first down and then back, trying to get a single slippery inch. I looked at Jamie, who is a damn fine sailor if ever there was, and hollered over the wind "What can I do to make it stop doing that?" he said, "I'd try falling off the wind a little." Right. So I run back to the helm, ask the Captain (who is by now awake and in the chart room) if we can change course. He ok's it and I ferry the order back to Elettra, who is at the helm. Jamie comes aft and climbs into the rig on the mizzen mast, hoping to daisy chain the spanker sail into complacency. The boat begins to come off the wind and the sails cease their tantrum and fill. I breathe. I am soaked, hair matter to my head, t-shirt freezing by my chest. I thank everyone because they all know their jobs and perform them with such competence that it almost looks as though I had a clue. Ten minutes later our watch is over and I descend into the belly of the boat and lose consciousness.

Just before I fall asleep, I have one moment of triumphant musing. This is what sailing is made of. This is why people do it for fifty dollars a week, three meals a day, and a place to sleep, and I have been a part of it, even if only for a moment. It is this cooperation, this common experience of the rain in your eyes and slipping hands and grey sea skies that blend into a grey world where nothing is solid, but nothing at all, except the company you keep and your trust in your combined ability to survive.
posted by Nicole

January 25, 2005

Nino: Final entry

I have arrived home and am sending the last post, a reflection on the last few days at sea.

We were made into mini mates on our trip back to St. Petersburg, we took (to some extent) charge of the ship. On C watch there is the tradition of the mate telling a bad joke at the end of the watch, at the capstan meeting. I am proud to say that the students on my watch had some serious muscle on this front and I would like to share some of my favorites.

Here is Anna's joke, "What do you call a fish with no eye"..."fsh"; Natalia's joke, "Why did the mushroom go to the bar?... Because he is a fungi... and why did he leave...because there wasn't mush room." The pressure was on, as I was the last among my group to take command. Unfortunately, they already knew the one I used. "A pirate walks into a bar with a helm in his pants and asks for a drink. The bartender says "I will give you a drink if you tell me why you have a helm in your pants." The pirate says "it's drivin me knots." The crew is always touchy about the pirate subject as they are asked if the Bounty is a real pirate ship at every port, but I still think it's a good joke.

It would be pointless for me to try and write about all that I learned about sailing; it would take to long. I knew nothing about sailing in general or more specifically about sailing the Bounty when I signed on for this trip; by the end I was comfortable at every station (but still holding on tight any time I went aloft). During the trip, the captain gave us lessons about sailing and the experience. He, more than once, said that the most important lesson was not on how to navigate or which line to pull for what, but the interaction with the people we were sailing with. While no one can belittle the magic of watching dolphins swim by the ship or the beauty of the night sky, the greatest influence on my experience was the crew. I raise my glass and thank the eclectic, fascinating, and warm crew of the Bounty. I am going to have to give more specific thanks to C watch crew: to Teresa for being my buddy and showing me the ropes (both literal and not) on my first watch, to Beth for always being friendly and welcoming, and to John for the Time Warp Dance.

I think I will end on this note. With the image of C watch lined up on Deck at 3am, doing the Time Warp.
posted by Nino

Elettra: Final post

January 15, 2005
1426, Dropped anchor in Tampa Bay
27º37.9'N 082º43.17'W

The Red Tide is an oceanic condition in which all organisms, from fish to algae, die. The stench is nearly unbearable when you notice it. A couple of days ago Mate Andy smelled it. He explains that there are no explanations for this phenomenon thus far.

Looking back, the Red Tide might have been a premonition for the storm that was to hit the Bounty night before last. Lightning spread instantaneously and blinded. It wasn't rain, but hail that pierced the eyes when looking up aloft. I was at the helm when the conditions worsened.

Nicole was mate and everyone cooperated putting the ideal of teamwork to shame.

Yesterday Cindy and I parceled and served a line, slabbing stinky oil on a wired line then mummifying it with cloth (parceling) and finally, serving it by wrapping a tarred marlin around it.

In a previous post I mentioned bearded John when actually I should've said Joe. Joe is a redhead with long hair pulled back in a ponytail (sometimes covered with a fish patterned bandana), a long red beard and an elongated face. Instead, Bearded John is another character that dances like nobody's watching him, especially when he puts on his favorite song, "Shout."

So Joe came by during our work party, while serving and parceling, and commented on the smell. He is familiar with it because he rides Harleys and occasionally fixes them up with some buddies. He told me a story about a woman who came one day to the garage and just loved the smell. Then, as he walked off, he made a half-comment on the kind of woman she was.

Although the smell of the oil was indeed quite weird, the consistency was similar to Dulce de Leche- goopy and shiny. The consequent serving as if wrapping an oozing wound and finally wrapping it with a line as if cutting the circulation off, made the whole process very macabre. The serving was especially tricky since it was necessary to maintain a careful balance of tension. The line wrapped around the hammer that we would swing around the wired line, snapped twice and we had to restart the wrapping of the line. The need to restart a snapped line originates from the fact that it wouldn't be as strong of a "stay," or the final product.

The stay however, looked magnificently perfect, each line in equi-distant linear adjacency with the next.

The snapping of lines has evolved into a joke on board the Bounty. Any time that someone makes a clever, smart ass comment on someone else, anyone who hears them or catches the joke, says "snap" or "shnap." The next come-back will also be followed by someone saying "snap." This is probably a joke commonly found in young social circles in the United States, but on a ship it is even more ironic. A line that snaps is no good sign. Such as when the anchor was being pulled up and the line that was holding the tackle snapped, and hit Jamie, one of the crew members, right below the eye.
posted by Elettra

January 26, 2005

Maria: Key West ambling

Unfortunately, just as I was warming up to the idea of blogging, the laptop was fried about three or four days before our trip ended. I have finally managed to pull myself out of my post-voyage languor and write down some of my experiences.

One event that I had begun a post on was our little trip into Key West. It seems like an age ago now, and yet, I can still acutely recall how I felt that day. I was pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable a day it turned out to be. Key West is a place of bars and tourist traps, and I really didn't think I was going to have much fun. The day began chilly and wet and everyone knows that such weather is not inducive to fun. However, as is common in Florida, the sun came blaring out, and the rest of the day was pleasantly hot.

A group of five of us went about together. I believe it was Allison, Mike, Rose, Nino, and myself. We didn't do anything particularly exciting. We ambled in and out of tourist shops, each one full to the brim with chintzy baubles and pop music. One definitive highlight of the day was stumbling upon the Key West Chicken Store: Where Chickens are Safe. The store acts as a fund raiser for a small chicken sanctuary devoted to protecting the loose, un-owned chickens that raise havoc on the streets of the island. They sell everything from t-shirts printed with witty chicken puns to chicken music. I personally preferred the "Aware of the Attack Chicken" signs, and purchased one for the door of my dorm room. After spending quite a bit of time looking over the chicken paraphernalia, our group ambled on down the streets looking at this and that until it was time to meet the rest of the class. The whole class, as well as Andy, the first mate, went to a great Cuban restaurant, after which we split up. Those of us going back to the ship had a bit of time and some of us went in search for pirate gear to purchase. Much to our chagrin, the only pirate store on the island was closed, and our quest had to be given up. On the whole, it was a day soaked in sun, youth, and friendship. Days like that are always memorable, even without large events to color them.
posted by Maria

Postscript: Re-entry (Nicole)

Re-entry has been bizarre. I slept 16 hours last night and woke up bleary and off balance. My sinuses are a mess and I think I pushed the body a little too hard...

I want to write write write, before this self I recovered disappears into the fog of memory. The house is so spacious. There are plants and animals and all my books and music much foreign. I folded laundry today and wondered at why I have all these pieces of fabric when I lived so well out of a single bag for two weeks. But then, I can hardly show up to class as I did on the boat, clothes crusted with the grime of the days before. Everyone smells perfumed and the concrete and automobiles everywhere are disconcerting. News of the war and famine and Tsunami survival are pervasive...and the real world in my absence did not dissolve, but no more did it improve...

It is cold, so cold here, and it feels stark and lonely without the camaraderie of the crew and the constant bustling and bickering. It is a long road ahead, but I am somehow not overly burdened at the thought. Some part at the center of me has re-aligned itself, some part that was thirsty and in need of care has been nurtured and made whole again, and it puts perspective into the months ahead. There is growing up to be done, tasks to finish with integrity, bonds to be cast off, loose ends to be made fast so that I am free to proceed on my path as whim dictates.

But I cannot say that it is good to be home because I am no more at home than I was five days ago, or three.

Many of those things that took on preternatural significance in the last semester (at which time they became unbearably overwhelming) have been reduced to their appropriate stature. I will get work I love or I won't, I will get honors or I won't, I will set sail in five months time, or I won't, but in any case, I will still be here, intact, able to adjust, capable of growth, stumbling across humor, appreciating the stark raving madness of the world in all its chaos and glory. This is life, and I'll take it, as much as this brief full moment can give, I'll take it.
posted by Nicole

Cindy: Challenging assumptions

Even though I had a wonderful time being back on the water and sailing, I realized that I came to this trip with some assumptions about people and I learned how incorrect those could be. This revelation has been hard for me to come to because I have always thought that I am not judgmental about people.

While I learned a lot from the crew about sailing a tall ship, the most important thing I learned was about their personal stories. The crew of the Bounty all had their own stories but one common thread that I found was that many of them were either taking time off from college or before grad school or hadn't gone directly from high school. I took a semester off to figure out my life and so I shared with them the decision to take time off. I was pleased and interested to learn that the crew and I had a shared experience of taking time off and in some respects we shared part of the same story. Everyone has their own reasons for doing things and as long as they are comfortable with these and as long as they can support their decisions, no one has any right to judge them or assume anything about their intellectual ability or their educational drive. The conversations I heard on all decks of the Bounty rivaled anything that I would hear in a college classroom and they reminded me that many smart people aren't in college and many not so smart ones are. Now that I'm back in school I have realized that just because you go to college doesn't mean that you are smarter (and better according to society) than those who don't. And it certainly doesn't mean that you make better decisions. Much of the time I envy the crew who are sailing and traveling and learning new skills while I am in school and not doing those things. Deep down, I want the crew of the Bounty to come here and show some of the girls at MHC what it means to be smart and not pretentious or stuck up about being a full time student.

As I look back at my time on the Bounty, I'm glad I was able to sail again and to have met such great people. I have learned something really important that I want to carry forward in terms of how I deal with people, and I learned it from the crew.
posted by Cindy

January 27, 2005

Anna: Back home

It is strange to be back home. I miss all the activity of the boat and of course the warm weather. I know that all of the Mount Holyoke students were sad to say good-bye to the Bounty, but perhaps through our pictures, email and all the other technological devices we have invented to communicate with each other we will be able to stay in touch in some way.

Reflecting on my experience I am surprised at how empowered I feel. I have encountered something similar with previous travels, so I suppose I might have expected it with this trip, but sailing on the Bounty has proven to have a somewhat different effect than other travel experiences. Leaving the boat and knowing that I am part of a group that can successfully maneuver themselves over the ocean and back to port, and also manage to live within 180 feet of one another and not all go crazy (at least not too crazy) is more fulfilling than any traveling experience I have had. I guess part of it is the fact that I am out there living life, doing real things and seeing a new piece of the world that for all intents and purposes didn't exist to me before I was there. I have taken with me an amazing sense that I can tackle any issue that the world may throw at me, as well as a comfortable renewal of my laid-back notions about the world and our place is in it. With each new adventure in my life, I am acquiring new perspective on the world and the people who live in it.
posted by Anna

February 01, 2005

Laptop recovery

I've received word that the photos and some unsent posts were recovered by our crack recovery team. Will post as soon as I have them.


February 03, 2005


I'm going through the recovered photos from the laptop. Here's one to start off.

February 07, 2005

Photo: Nino using a sextant

I've also added photos to a few previous posts.
posted by Bill