Monday, February 22, 2010

"All I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover..."

"She was flying too much canvas. 'Nuff said."
The right of a certain neckbearded professional custom ship fiberglasser to habitually disparage TallShips™ is never in question. Typical TallShips™ are still fashioned of wooden parts which don't require his epoxy skill, and he's witnessed enough damage done to his own handiwork by imprudent yachtsmen that he is disdainful of all of his customers and generally only chooses to repair their dings, crushes, and rents in order to ensure that they will come back again, after having forgotten a forward fender or letting the kid drive into the breakwater.
At the moment, he's embarked on a polemic regarding -- of all things -- the unlucky vessels who number females on their watchlists. This was precipitated by the story of the ill-fated Concordia, recently a victim of a freak meteorological phenomenon ("downdraft" or "microburst") that occasioned the sinking of the metal-hulled ship. The yarn was consummated in the ordained affecting rescue of all hands, as covered by the press who insisted on exhibiting this picture: ''C'mon, gals! Try to look like you just lost $42,500!'' said the Globe and Mail photographer.
"He tends to 'blame the victim' in these incidents," I say in airquotes while Glasser questions the wisdom of brigantines at all. My effort to at least appear more inclusive than Glasser to our bartender went unnoticed, as I rooted my Swiss cheese brain for tales of Lunenburg Nova Scotia, the home of West Island College International Class Afloat. Unfortunately, the only anecdote that presented was of me flirting with a crewmate by wandering her through the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic, making small talk about cod.
Or with cod. (As I mentioned: I can't remember.)
The excitement of the Winter Olympics on the teevee was far more enthralling and leaves me with only Glasser, who continues his fervid diatribe.
"You were on that boat."
"No, I was on the H.M.---"
"Yeah, that piece of shit. And I remember your story about that little brat that didn't like rain on her face or old boats or history. That's what that Concordia was -- bunch of rich kids sailing around on their parents' dime..."
"Nonsense. It was a pretty cool boat when I was on it in Ninety-Four. Or Five. Wait! I think I have a Canadian dime. It's got Bluenose on it. You like Bluenose," and I shuffle through my jacket pocket. "Oh, and if you follow the link above, you'll see that Class Afloat is an outstanding outfit."
"Huh? Well, I know one ship you worked on should've changed its name to NO Class Afloat."
"That wasn't set up as a school," I answer. "We were a ... floating circus."
"Didn't you have a girl skipper?"
"No. that was another one. One of the schooners."
"Geez, you can't even hold down one job on one boat."
Who would want to? Between the self-absorbed Trustafarians and the self-impressed ASTAholes and the self-administrating skippers and the self-medicating crew and the self esteem issues of them all. Every ship on which I found myself had another unfounded rumor about the last ship I'd sailed, and an equally implausible explanation for the one that I'd heard about them. Every ship was as different -- in culture, manner, and hygiene -- as its pinrail configuration was different from the last. But being able to suss out a line's purpose by recognizing angles of its ascent and which blocks it encounters -- secretly admired by mates who'd rather not explain anything to newbies -- is not easily pointed up on a landlocked résumé, and even less eagerly obliged during the interview. And unlike a résumé -- which can be altered to highlight or downplay or obscure experience -- a ship T-shirt or cap relates every tale. Often, the ones that you haven't heard yet.
Upon hearing which, you really want to lose your memory. And the key chain or hat or whatever premium gift they gave you for tossing or catching a heaving line or standing a watch or running up the ratlines to disinvolve a halyard.
But no, although I survived some rough seas and a few rough moments on a few rough ships, I never helped anyone into a survival suit, or lifted them onto a liferaft, or had to wait in cold dark wet for rescue. And I never had to replace or miss or eulogize "the hand less at the halyard or the brace" lost at sea.
"Hey, ThirdMate! Where'd you go? It's your round."
"Yeah, " I put another bill on the bar. "Here. This one's for absent mates."

3 comments:

karie said...

Nice job, Michael Westen.
(perfect delivery!)

"...And unlike a résumé -- which can be altered to highlight or downplay or obscure experience -- a ship T-shirt or cap relates every tale. Often, the ones that you haven't heard yet.
Upon hearing which, you really want to lose your memory. And the key chain or hat or whatever premium gift they gave you for tossing or catching a heaving line or standing a watch..."
inside info ;)

Anonymous said...

LMFAO @ ASTAHOLES!!

PJ said...

Anonymous 8:38,

I did not coin that monicker. Back last century, there were some sailors and crew who resented regimentation and rules and longterm goals. If you are one of them, welcome aboard! I'd like to hear about your experiences.

When I first started on TallShips™ last century, I was warned by crewmates to stay away from the American Sail Training Association representatives at waterfront events whom they described as fussy and imperious cheerleaders with clipboards and neatly-pressed Bermuda shorts who would demand that our (often severely) hungover crew take part in some knot-tying contest at 7 am. You may remember that they smelled better than we did.

I was a scoundrel but fancied myself a serious educator onboard. I guess that I was an "anonymous ASTAhole." But the TallShip™ paradigm was shifting: "Sailing" was becoming "Sail Training" and it was only a matter of time before those with little patience for children or stomach for meetings were weeded out of the square-rig world.