Sunday, 29 January 2012

For all you OMG SHIP people: some initial thoughts on tall ship training

First of all, here's the web site for the ship in question, a replica of the 17C Dutch Pinnace that settled Delaware for the Swedes.

It's a bigger boat than the Mayflower - 317 tons - with seven square sails and a lateen mizzen to serve as a wind rudder. It hails from a pre-steering wheel era and so is steered by what is, in essence, a giant lever attached to the tiller. The helmsman can't see directly ahead and so has to reply on the commands of the officer in control of the ship.

I'm 3 classes into the training. We've been working on knots, belaying, line handling and safety procedures.

Writerly thoughts:

1) Language really is important. A lot of what we're learning right now is vocabulary, because you can't obey an order to "man the halyard" without knowing what a halyard is and what "manning" means.

It's interesting to me how quickly words like "Avast" go from being colorful bits of nautical parlance to words that actually mean something specific, and that you start to respond to automatically. For example, "avast" doesn't mean "stop" -- which is what I vaguely thought it meant before doing this. It's actual meaning is "stop but maintain tension!"

As in, you're hauling up a sail and an officer spots that a passenger has stepped into a coil of rope, risking imminent death. To shout "stop" might prompt some sailors to drop the rope, leading to a sail crashing down and possibly more imminent death. So instead the officer yells "Avast!" The sailors stop hauling but do not let go of the rope. The passenger is rescued. Everyone's happy.

So the phrase "Avast there you land-lubbers!" no longer makes sense to me. What are the land-lubbers supposed to be doing, that they should halt the activity but not abandon it completely? If they were talking when you saw them, should they now just make rhubarb-rhubarb noises?

2) Safety: A tall ship is a giant working machine, and you are standing in the middle of it. That means rings, long hair, necklaces, hoodie ties etc. are dangerous, because they can lead you to be dragged along with a rope or mashed into a belaying pin. All sailors on the KN must have their hair tied back, necklaces and ties tucked away, rings removed etc. And while real 17C sailors were far less safety conscious, I'm now scratching my head over the number of nautical adventure covers that show women and men standing on top of rigging with their hair flying in the wind. Um... no.

No comments:

Post a Comment