In the air, on the ground


A boat without care stops being a boat. A ship without care becomes a derelict.  The proud aircraft carrier YORKTOWN ended its days tied to the pier next to my much loved oil recovery ship or ORV SHEARWATER there in Port Angeles.  Over several months, I watched as it was cut to bits and pieces and loaded into itself, the hull becoming a hulk, and then it was towed away scrap.  Nothing last forever. 

I was privileged to be the Boatswain of some very mighty ships, The ICEBREAKER POLAR SEA, the ICEBREAKER POLAR STAR, and the COAST GURARD CUTTER MELLON.  The nautical dictionary defined the boatswain as this, “The ship’s husband, the one who cares for the ship.”

When THE LADY WASHINGTON was hauled out of the water and gently placed ashore it was said of her, “She’s on the hard” meaning she had been placed on hard ground for the crew to do that work that can only be done in dry air.  THE CAP’N LEM is out “on the hard”.  This brief respite from travels is anything but restful.  I had hoped to raise her with the ammas deployed.  The travel lift would accommodate it, but the water well would not, just inches too narrow.  The debate ranged from lifting with one amma out to tilting her on her side, but in the end, we just folded her up and set her on the hard.

I’ve said before but want to say again how my time, brief as it was, onboard THE LADY, forged some of the greatest friendships of my life.  Ships do that.  They bring together people who otherwise would never meet, let alone live together, for a common reason.  The ship, always the ship.  In that focus of attention to coax motion from the wind something happens among the crew.  Perhaps it’s the interdependence shipmates  gain going aloft to cast the gaskets in preparation to make sail.   (Don’t ya just love the music of those words?!!!…go aloft…cast the gaskets…make sail!  Must be a sailor thing.)  Ok, maybe not for everyone, I’ve known those once on shore swore to never step on a boat again, but it happened for me.  And the list is long… Hal, Kari, Josh, Tiny (Ben), Bruce, Barb, Pattie, Ken, Bob, Joe, Lydia, Samantha, Liz (oh Liz, but 16 years old and done more than most men have done at 40.  I smile every time I say your name) Darryl, Ryan, Rob, JB and on and on.  And the name, Shipmate, becomes as dear as Brother or Sister.  “Allow me to introduce to you “Tiny” Ben Saint and Josh Landry.  They are my… Shipmates.”

What kind of friends are shipmates?  I will tell ya this, with the CAP’N LEM on the hard, it was Tiny and Josh that were underneath scrubbing the slime and sanding to prep for pant.  On the fine little Yacht, STORM TREE, it was Tim and Marshel, on AVANTI it was Dave Cullen.  To all sailors who read these words, my hope for you is this, to have such friends as would clean your bottom in a time of need.

In the air

In the air

6 Responses to “In the air, on the ground”

  1. Kari Thoresen says:

    “Laying Aloft!” The hoarse shout ingites every nerve in your body as you bound over the yellow rail, hands gripping shrouds, feet scrambling upon ratlins. The smells of salt spray, pine tar, and clean sweat explode in your nostrils like firecrackers, propelling you higher. Within seconds, the futtocks loom before your upturned face and you pause, grasping at air while you time the roll of the ship then leap over the top, flying on adreniline.

    “Laying on Stbd!” “Laying on Port!” the voices of shipmates reach your ears, dim through the roar of the wind and the flapping of canvas. As you reach the yard, your gaze falls through the spidery web of rigging to the deck 70 feet below, and your stomach jumbs into your throat. With a gulp you step onto a footrope barely wider than your thumb, seized in place by your shipmates, and toss your life into the callused hands of the man next to you. Without a backward glance, he catches it, as your presence has simultaneously caught his.

    “There is no better company anywhere than men who love the sea” – John le Carre

    Tommy, Tiny, Josh, Ken… HOLDFAST!

  2. Cecilia Jacobs says:

    So Tommy,
    How are you doing? Where in the heck are you? I think of you out there in the cold all alone and hope you are safe and well. All is well in Sequim. Today was a beautiful, blustery day. I planted my mothers day rhodies and enjoyed memorial day.
    Wishing you great sailing,

  3. Bill says:

    Ahh the irony … as Tiny and Josh lay beneath the Cap’n Lem scrubbin’ & paintin’, I also spent the weekend beneath my “ship”, the fine yacht Blueberry (yacht … all 22′ of her), sandin’ & paintin’ and waxin’ … sore muscles and all getting her ready for a Lake Superior launch … a full two months after you and the Cap’n Lem. I truly envy you and your journey.
    — Bill
    Houghton, Keweenaw

  4. Donna Gibson says:

    Cap’n T,
    Following along with you and inspired to excess. Give my hello to ‘Tiny’.
    How do you like his “bluebird” tats.? Quite a billboard there.!! (big hug Tiny)
    Your chart yet remains unchanged – non interactive. I started a paper map
    to track your moorings and feel thru your musings every wake and wave.
    Personally planning a trip to Traverse City in July to test Cookie-Tinas’
    new expertise with the wood burner on the Manitou. Again thank you.

  5. unstranger says:

    Excellent post Cap’n. Keep writing. The book should be good. Looking forward to that.

  6. S says:

    You can unfold the boat on the hard with some stands. I can email you the info and pics.
    Great writing.