Thursday, April 18, 2013

"To Our Ships at Sea" *

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
The first mate has fallen over board.
He’s half a mile behind!

Craig’s dad, Ted, sang this as I explained our man-overboard procedures to our parents for their day on Alberta Crewed a few weeks ago.  It was a joke from his WWII navy days; something about a stuttering crew member who couldn’t get the words out in his excitement so was asked by the captain to sing the problem.  Ted has a quiet wit that sends us into hysterics at the most inane events.

Ted was a signalman from 1943 to 1946 on Examination Vessels out of Halifax and spent weeks at a time out in the wild, north Atlantic Ocean.  He used semi four flags and operated the signal lights using Morse code to communicate with vessels wanting to enter the harbour.  His vessel also patrolled for German submarines.  (We recently learned that several German submarines were captured here in Florida at that time).  In spite of sitting atop the ship during rocky seas, Ted’s only sea sickness experience was his first day after the shore cook sent him out on a full stomach.  

Ted’s time on Alberta Crewed triggered many navy memories for him.  He remembered that a cup of coffee was a mug-up, and the daily rum ration was called up spirits.  “You drank it or lost it.  No saving it up.”  He described the ritual of folding his dickey (scarf) seven times to represent the seven seas.  Signalman-ing was hard and dangerous work but I sensed that Ted really liked being at sea.  He spent his day on Alberta Crewed at the helm, fascinated with every dial, switch, line, and sail.  I’ve always said that Ted is the one you want with you at museums.  He ponders and reads every display and has a curiosity about the world like no one else I know.  He is also the mate I’d want beside me in stormy seas. 

Kennedy Space Center

Ted Clements, the original designer of our boat, has been writing to me about his father’s experiences in WWII.  Ted Clements knows every bolt, latch, curve, and wire on our boat, as well as how to solve absolutely anything we throw at him.  He is incredibly generous with his genius and writes a fascinating blog at  Anyone buying a boat, dreaming of buying, or just along for the ride will find it fascinating.  He writes in detail about why particular design decisions are made and how to best utilize all of the features of our boat, and for that matter, any boat.  It was through one of his postings that we learned about our formerly-known-as-escape-hatches   Notice the beautiful boat in the photo J.

These are the hatches in each aft cabin that open up to the water below the boat which we thought were for escape in emergencies, particularly a capsize (which will never happen!).  It is more likely, however, that the person(s) outside will need to get back in to wait for rescue.  We now ensure the lock bars are off and the get-back-in hatch can open easily before we leave. 

As to Ted Clements' WWII connection, we have been corresponding about the chance of his father, who also served in the navy on Canada’s east coast, knowing our Ted.  They haven’t made the connection yet but the thread continues as we hear stories from the two of them that tell of their daily lives as young men with adventuresome spirits and fierce commitments to their country.   It is safe to say that they are both responsible for the life we now lead, on land and at sea, and we are most grateful.

And on Alberta Crewed, our Ted continued to captivate us with his poetics:

A marvelous bird is the Pelican.
His bill holds more than his belly can!

*The Blog title is a Traditional Naval Toast, taken from

Friday, April 12, 2013

Goin' Boat

Last Monday, I desperately searched for a women’s salon to get my unruly mop of hair cut but they were all closed.  Craig was sitting in the barber’s chair for his ultra shave so I took a chance.  I ended up with the swirl of the cape around my neck and a young blue haired girl warming up her scissors.  I began my drill for all-who-cut-my-hair.  “Get out those clippers and start shaving.”  They never believe me so without fail will snip gingerly at the strands that have been making their way down my neck.  “No,” I say.  “Fire up the clippers.”  Eyes wide, blue girl puts on a #5 blade and picks away at a few locks.  “A ONE.”  I insist.  I can’t convince her that I want it SHORT.  Her seasoned colleague at another chair yells out, “this one’s goin' boat so cut it off.  She don’t want fuss and muss.  Them folks don’t have time to care about their hair.” 

My good friend Margaret-from-Ottawa has been with us for three weeks and this is her first time living on a boat.  To her, Goin' Boat is a new way of seeing the world.  Here are her words:

Goin Boat is:
-        safety over grace in dinghy boarding and disembarking, and knowing what dinghy-butt is.  You’re not in the Bolsheviks' Ballet.

-       -awareness of resource use, like drinking beer instead of water and not filling the sink of dishes to overflowing.  Or actually don’t even use the dishes please.  Showering isn’t a right; it’s a privilege.

-       throwing around new words like stanchion and cleat, as in “I’d rather polish a stanchion over a cleat any day.”  (Go, Margaret!)

-       closing the saloon door before washing down the deck

-        knowing where the saloon is in the first place

-       you have to plan, be organized, and double check.  “Never forgot my bath towel once!”

-       use the direction the boats are pointing in the marina as wind vanes instead of
-  Knot tying.  “There are as many types of knots as there are things to be tied.  It’s not enough to know how to do the knot.  You have to know the purpose so you can use it in the appropriate place and get it untied quickly”. 

- Where to walk and where not to walk.  Skid coat is your friend.  “I’m not stupid.   I wouldn’t walk on that window.  Or what’s that thing called?”  You have hatches, portholes, and windows and they are all things you look through.
-     It is a different culture.  (Craig is stunned to think we have culture.)  “You help each other.  My neighbor at home would see me bleeding on the street before he’d help me.  In the pouring rain and in a hurry, you helped a guy tie on to his mooring ball.  You knew what he needed and you didn’t blink.”

-       "And now it bothers me that that rope is in the water.”  Margaret points to the boat next to us.  We have been watching its dinghy shackle dangling in the water for days.  It is driving us crazy.
- Things have multiple purposes.  Toothbrushes are good for cleaning heads, and preferably not the toothbrush you are using.

-    Nature.  A bird is not just a bird.  It is an Immature Phalacrocoroax atriceps albiventer, no, it’s a Leucocarbo sensu lato!

“This boat is more than just a pretty face.  It’s beautiful but it’s functional, strong, and very smart.  Every space is utilized and everything has a purpose.  You know how you see a kid who is a dancer and know just by how they walk?  You will always have had this experience and it will always show in everything you do.  Sailing is not all cocktails at five lounging around on the deck.  It is a way of being.  Dolphin spotting doesn’t get old.  Having a dolphin look you in the eye is life.  It brings you back to your childhood.”

Thank you, Margaret.  You are now officially a Goin-Boater.