Tales From the Fo’c’sle
It’s crunch time at the New London City Pier, and everybody knows it, all the way from the skipper down to the lowest ranking crew member – that’s me, your humble stowaway. The crew calls me “Stowie” now, but seeing how they’ve come up with a different name for me every other day, I can’t guarantee “Stowie” is going to stick.
As I type this from the most hidden crook in the fo’c’sle, light pours down from the deck prism above.
I’m still adjusting to life aboard ship. Yesterday, a woman peered into the fo’c’sle and said “I feel bad for the people who don’t snore. That’s got to be terrible.” It’s definitely challenging. As someone who doesn’t snore, the past two nights have been like sleeping between two running air compressors. As the night drags on, the sound rises to the level of low revving chainsaws. On top of the symphony of snoring, the trains start blaring their horns at around 4 a.m.. Isn’t ship life grand?
But I can’t really complain because I’m on the last whaling wooden whaling ship left in the world. Over 150 years ago the American whaling fleet included nearly 2,700 vessels — 329 in New Bedford alone. And to think, I’m typing on a laptop, sending words into cyberspace from an iPhone, all aboard the last surviving wooden whaling vessel. Times have changed.
On Saturday, the Morgan will travel under sail for the first time in more than 90 years. The clouds are clearing out and it looks like we’ll have “wicked good” sailing weather this weekend.
Working aboard the Charles W. Morgan appears to be orchestrated chaos in the eyes of a layman. But to the trained sailor, every action is deliberate and precise, and there’s no room for mistakes. The sails are drying from the drizzle yesterday, and we’re removing excess materials from the ship to make room for all of the people (nearly 50 in total) who be aboard at 9 a.m for tomorrow’s sea trial. Some crew members are tuning the rig on the main top gallant staysail, and foremast back stays. That’s at least what I gathered, based on the foreign sailor speak.
I’m feeling a little overwhelmed due to my lack of sailing experience. I spent a little time sailing in turnabouts as a child. At one point, I was enrolled in a junior sailing program at the Boothbay Harbor Yacht Club. I was learning to sail a 420 dinghy when a kid named Phillipe intentionally capsized the boat. He thought it was funny. I didn’t agree. Now I find myself standing on a 113-foot, square-rigged vessel — a “bark” to be precise. She is both impressive and intimidating.
Although I’m not qualified to go aloft and tune the rigging, I have assisted with small tasks like helping the steward with laundry and moving materials on and off the vessel, while continuing to discover the charms of New London. On Thursday, I toured the Lyman Allyn Art Museum. Today (Friday), I am touring the New London County Historical Society. I’ve learned so much about New London’s history, and by the end of this weekend I’ll post a video showcasing the local color.
Saturday promises to be a big day. I will keep you in the loop through my Twitter, Instagram and Facebook feeds, so check them periodically throughout the day.
In the meantime, here’s a highlight reel from Thursday: