A Deckhands Perspective

2013-07-10 21.27.44

“What are you hoping to get out of this experience?” It’s a perfectly fair question, but not one I was altogether prepared to answer. I told Nikki, “Sailing experience, with an eye on a possible career change,” but I’m not certain that’s the full answer.

The cuticles on all my fingers are torn up and streaked with dried blood. When I wash the heads, using a vinegar/water solution so I don’t damage the woodwork, the cuts burn. My muscles are sore, which isn’t surprising, considering I left a desk job to come aboard, but I’m an athlete and it’s been four days… Hopefully, my body will adjust to the climbing and squatting and pulling in the next few.

On my first voyage we circumnavigated the Isle of Mull, exploring caves, viewing puffins, and tromping up to Gylen Castle, which has a grim history reminiscent of A Game of Thrones. That was tourism, though, and while those small trips were fun – in fact, they are the purpose for many visitors – those trips weren’t my purpose. This is a tour ship, but it’s also a living community, a century-old trading ship worked and maintained by a small crew. The experience of working a vessel is what I am here for, and despite the physical strain and the foibles of literally learning the ropes, I’m experiencing a sense of satisfaction that I haven’t in a long time.

I can’t pronounce, much less spell, some of the knots I’m using: the bowline, clove hitch, reef knot, sheef (sp) shank (?), and slip knot. We coil clockwise “halyards”, “lines”, and “sheets” – not “rope”. We lower the main sail “throat” first, followed by its “peak”. All these words, which I struggle to remember in a pinch, are becoming a part of my daily vocabulary. Aboard the Bessie Ellen, I am trading a comfortable office for sea spray and “dreek” Scottish weather; swapping the summer sunshine of my home in Istanbul for rain and fog and cold; and leaving behind the bustle of 23m people for a small boat with fewer than 20 passengers and crew, sailing remote islands that feel like they’re locked in the 19th century.

The Bessie Ellen - 27/08/2013

It’s jolly good fun.  Today will be the start of my second voyage with the Bessie Ellen. More learning and cleaning and work awaits. Tonight, we’re bound for Loch Buie, continuing our search for good wind to sail and eagles to watch. Sometime in the course of all this excitement, I hope to find an answer to Nikki’s question, but I get the feeling that I don’t need to be in a hurry to do so.

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