Monday, July 16, 2007

Halifax, The Daily News: News | First you pay. Then you volunteer. Finally, they pay you

... or you can just buy the beer and stay off the quarterdeck.
The city of Halifax Nova Scotia was recently inundated with all manner of vessels during its "2 Years Before The Bicentennial of the Canadian Navy" event, and more than half a million people ogled the pretty boats. Many, though not as many, came out in Newport RI. These things always provoke sea fever in weaker constitutions, a condition which -- at the very least -- should engender despair in custodians of those lubbers approaching mid-life crises. Because press gangs know the smell of an impressible rube, someone will hang a "Crew Wanted" sign and end up in the paper. For free. (Who'd invest that kind of scratch in a bunch of short-timers anyway?)
As paid crew, I sailed a Tall Ship™ to Halifax and, once there, I was looking around for "Copy Editor Wanted" signs. (Really. I like Halifax. It's like Boston. Only without the mean-spirited locals.) You don't go to Halifax to look for crew. You go to Halifax to find good French Onion soup and people who know what to do for work the rest of their lives. For crew, you go to Dartmouth NS.
As I often say to many unhearing ears: Life aboard a sail training vessel is a fun summer job, vacation, getaway, team building exercise, or such. Captain Wallbank said: "A working vessel is no place for a dilettante. Nor is it a place for anyone who knows what a dilettante is. And what's with that guy with the hook, peg leg, eyepatch, and speech impediment? What good is he on a working ship? Oh, yes, looking after the parrot..."
When I started on historic vessels, most crews were college-aged, devoted, and deliberately non-committal. They didn't mind the hours, the food, the quarters. This was in the pre-NAFTA Eighties, when most shipmates could just as easily have crewed a sail training vessel as run a lawnmower as groundskeeper. This is certainly not to say that crews were untrained in history, sailing, or historic sailing; quite the contrary. Shipwrights, skippers and would-be skippers, though, were the career crew. They were going to make a life out of this. A deckhand didn't usually stay more than a season or so. Everyone jumped and traded ships. And in a few years, if you stayed in touch, you could call from the firm or the office and check up on your "shipmates."
Then there is the fleet of "semester at sea" and "summer at sea" and "sort-of-research-whale-and-bluefish count" vessels. You can pay to: work aboard/get college credit/time off your sentence and always have the pictures/videos/sworn affadavits of your weekend/two weeks/term spent working/vomiting/not showering.
The nons (not-for-profits) struck out the stuns'ls and started con forza with the "pay,volunteer, possibly get fed" bit in the hopes that very few people would ever get past the "paying" bit to go on to become annoying volunteers.
The different economic templates all exist in the Tall Ship™ sailing community to this day. Except for the "ad in the paper" one. Since most nons don't want to spend the money to advertise if they're not going to get money back from a customer paying trainee who may end up as paid crew when some mate decides he's had enough and ends up getting a real job on The Beach for real actual money.


Large said...

As a result of my experiences with the nons,..

I am now being reviewed to possibly take command of a 22 crew full rigged store 24/7/363,....
It appears the Admiralty wants me too command but have to make it look good for Parliment and King so the commision comes slowly as I trim the crew into shape,all the whiles they are wondering, who the next in command is..

I shall raise signal flags and fire a leeward gun soon so prepare to receive signals

ThirdMate said...

Aye. What color is that ensign?
And what of the former master? Oh, wait. Weren't you the acting lieutenant anyway? These machinations boggle my binnacle.

karie said...


Large said...


still first officer,..

oh well,.. we will sail on and sail proud

was almost transferred to another squadron with a harsh master so I dodged the shot in the end.