Aug 14

A short visit to the Gazela

Category: Uncategorized

I used to be a really active crew member, working on the ship all the time and sailing her in blue water when the chance arose. Now, living so far away, I only get to visit once in a while. I know it’s not what most people think is a good time, but I consider it a privilege to pitch in and do what I can when I am in the area. My sister and I stopped by Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia and spent the afternoon painting some cramped places in and near the shaft alley (a belowdecks area at the most extreme aft and lower end of the ship, behind the engine). I took the time to get a few “tourist” shots on the bowsprit. My heart soars every time I see the ship and am reminded of how inspiring it is to sail her into some port, walk into town, then turn around and see those masts towering over buildings and trees.

In the background, across the broad Delaware river, are the buildings of Camden.

That’s the Benjamin Franklin Bridge in the background.  Under me is a dory, which is a specialized kind of rowboat (which can also be sailed) that was used to catch cod when the Gazela was a Portuguese fishing vessel.

I’ve pulled many an hour at this helm, alternately ecstatic, nervous, seasick, afraid, or bored.  Ecstatic, because who wouldn’t be when they’ve got this 350-ton, 180-foot long vessel at their command, feeling her respond and heel over as you find just the right place in the eye of the wind.  nervous, because you don’t want the captain dressing you down for not doing it right.  Seasick – well, that requires no explanation.  Afraid – in a heavy sea, holding the wheel in an iron grip, trying to anticipate the next wave that will slap the wheel out of your hands, fighting the cold, wind, and the surprisingly deep green waves rolling across the deck (which is pretty cool too).  Bored – just part of the package sometimes, specially at 4 AM during the dog watch, when you can’t see anything but the compass illuminated by the red light; you’re doing your all to keep the heading true without falling asleep, and you know it’s going to be a long, long time before your watch is relieved.

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