Journal aboard Polish staysail schooner
by John Townley, Liaison OfficerMain characters:
Marek – Marek Siurawski, 5th officer, head of music/teaching program
Simon – Simon Spalding, the other American musician/teacher, fiddle player
Anne DeNitto - singer in my former group, The Press Gang
Asha - the ship's doctor, bunked with me, Marek, and Jamie (the third American, from Savannah) in our 6'x6'x6' cabin.
Tony - Tony Davis, of the Liverpool Spinners, longtime friend and Britside organizer
Chris - wife (no longer)
Robin - youngest son (12 at the time)
Neal - eldest son (21 at the time)
Frank, Charles, Bernie (at the very beginning) - fellow shanty singers
Pawel – Pawel Jędrzejko, 6th Officer, head of English-speaking watch
Madalyn – astrologer friend, officer in NCGR
Stan – Stan Hugill, historian and the last, great shantyman, hero of everyone aboard, who died just before the voyage. See lots more about him here.
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July 8, 1992 (Wednesday), 5:14 PM EDT, Long Island Sound -- Finally set up below in my bunk, which has been organized into a very comfortable mini-office. Off watch until midnight. It has been two days of trying to get things sorted out and at last order is becoming established.
But to the beginning. I arrived at Madalyn's before she did, so had time for some Chinese lunch in Ramsey. When she made it in, called the Jersey City marina (Newport Marina) to confirm Zawisza Czarny's presence and found she was not there at all but at Pier 5, Brooklyn. Glad I called. Dropped off Madalyn's kids and headed in, getting to the foot of Atlantic Avenue just as the piers were closing to public. Much security from New York's finest, but prevailed in convincing them I was crew even though I had no ID. Took half my stuff to Zawisza Czarny where I found Marek, then went back for the rest and bid Madalyn thanks and goodbye (needless to say, there was no place to park). It was all just in the nick of time, as no sooner had Marek dumped my stuff aboard than he popped several of us into a car headed for the Polish consulate for a reception and speeches. Made a dinner of peanuts and Gallo wine while noticing that the fact I couldn't understand a word anyone was saying didn't affect the amount of data I was receiving, which in these sort of things is nil, anyway. Just smile and raise you glass to whomever you are meeting and all goes well.
I wanted to get hold of Frank Woerner, but my address book was on the ship, so I borrowed the phone at the reception desk and found he was not listed. It was a Polish phone, no problem, which made the whole experience more confusing, particularly as people kept coming up and asking me for help in Polish, thinking I was receptionist. Racked my brains for anyone who might be listed in information except Bernie Klay, and looked up Diane Cichy, who was still at the same place, which was just a few blocks from the consulate. She didn't have Frank's number, so I said y'all come on over to the Polish consulate if you can make it in fifteen minutes as we're about to be wafted off to Central Park for an evening horse and buggy ride. Still being one to quickly rise to an off-the-cuff (or off-the-wall) occasion, she made it in time and we were dropped into separate cars to rendezvous later at 59th St. My car went zooming off to upper Madison Ave. for reasons I couldn't fathom nor inquire about, but it was only for a good liquor store and party store for champagne and glasses for the ride.
We all did wind up at Central Park, where there commenced a wild and crazy buggy ride in three different vehicles with occupants dashing in and out between them as we drove in order to uncork bottles and pour champagne. A good time was had by all, as only the Poles can get away with, and we all made it home safe though I can't quite remember all the particulars. My bunk felt very good, indeed, around midnight or so -- it had been a very long day.
The next morning was bright and sunny, one of the prettiest days New York can offer, with a dozen different heights and varieties of clouds racing across the sky. After breakfast I headed up into Brooklyn Heights to get to a phone to call Frank and pick up some last minute sundries. Went past 223 Congress St. where Deirdre was born and felt a wave of nostalgia for failed dreams, passed hopes. Went past Steve Brown's house, but he wasn't in. Had a street-kebab which was as good as ever, and finally reached Frank, who said he would try to get down for the evening shipboard concert and bring Charles O'Hegarty. Much missed phone calls and crossed wires (I had to keep calling back to see how Frank's plans were progressing, as he was snowed under by the Democratic Convention preparations), but finally Charles showed up at the gate and I brought him aboard. Then Charles spotted someone on the pier whom I am supposed to know (oh, it's Joy from South Street) but have forgotten, whom Frank also sent down. Frank told her he couldn't make it until later, so they settled in for the ship's concert.
The concert was modest audiencewise, as no one had been told that the day before was the last day the piers were open to the public. Thus, no public, except invited guests who were greeted at the gate and ushered in. Nevertheless, maybe fifty people or so on deck, not enough for a sound system. The young crew, half the time led by Marek, half alone, sang and fiddled and danced innocently and delightfully, pleasing everybody. Lots of musical potential here, so the voyage will be interesting. I was introduced and did three songs in the program, including teaching audience and crew three parts to "Marco Polo" which they performed "in competition" with each other with great spirit.
Afterward, Charles, Marek, Joy, and I went to dinner at the necessary Indian restaurant I had spotted earlier and enjoyed much heat and Brooklyn microbrewery beer, very European. Charles waxed on with his usual humor and it was pleasant, indeed. Back at the dock, after Charles and Joy's departure, Frank finally showed up (he had just missed us for dinner and had spent the time regaling the crew) and we spent the rest of the night on the poop (really a fantail, being not raised but lower than the after cabin) discussing life in general, Frank's retirement, and the miracle of the X Seamen's Institute now blessedly over. Pleasant goodnights.
This morning everyone arose expecting imminent departure after breakfast, but the pilot didn't arrive until nearly eleven, so there was much time for goodbyes from temporary passengers and their loved ones. I spent some time at the ship's rail talking to a couple of NY Port Authority guys, one of whom had been to Liverpool, when one of the crew came up and asked in broken English if he could add his name to the graffiti on the dockside warehouse walls. Not only did they give him permission, they went back to their truck and got him a can of spray paint! Oh, New York...
Finally, the pilot came aboard and we were the second to last to be out of Pier 5, leaving only the Israeli ship which was nursing its injury of the day before -- in an earlier attempt to leave at the wrong tide, it had been swept uncontrollably by the current down upon the next pier and had smashed its bowsprit to pieces right down to the figurehead. Then up past South Street, the U.N., the Big Pig, and all kinds of rich admirers on their Beekman Place terraces, and so on up through Hell's Gate and into Long Island Sound. Pleasant winds half way along allowed sail raising and we now proceed under sail and steam into the increasing darkness and out of a sea of lobster pots that kept all at the helm (including myself) throughout the afternoon in great consternation on behalf of the propeller.
That is a brief wrap on a very long two and a half days, and now I had best be off to sleep as my next watch is at midnight rounding the point of Long Island, and a cold one it will be, as the bag I left on board at Baltimore with all my warm clothing got soaked somehow in the interim and must be laundered before use. It's bare shirts under oilskins tonight under an increasingly cold, rainy, and windy sky -- I thought I had left this scene behind with the Alexandria. Nevertheless, Zawisza Czarny looks great under her spread of unusual sail (more later on that) and it can only get so cold in the summertime, depending on how far north we go!
Photos: Brooklyn Bridge
July 9, 9:15 PM, just out of New Bedford. Nothing I had expected when I last wrote came to pass, except for a long, cold watch off Buzzard's Bay. When I arose at about 8:30 to the cry of all hands, it turned out we were putting in to New Bedford. It was a windy, gray, but not too cold day that later turned into very hot, and we were dogged by well-meaning private vessels which would run up to within a collision's distance of the Zawisza Czarny just to wave and say hi -- we, of course, politely waved back. New Bedford harbor entrance is very fortified, with a castle-like breakwater with two towers enclosing a very small, closable entrance. This was the result of the terrible damage done by the 1957 hurricane I was told.
Once at dock, aboard came several besuited city government types, but with a distinctly laid-back Polish tinge. They were ready to do anything for us, and did. In a few minutes a concert in front of New Bedford City Hall was cooked up and I rushed out with the president of the city council (Frederick M. Kalisz, Jr.) to get lanterns for a Southern Cross ceremony, adapter for the printer for presentation certificates, and the like. We drove all over town while he stayed on his Cadillac cellular phone putting together newspaper and TV coverage, church enlistment, and all possible political contacts to maximize the mutual benefit between Zawisza Czarny and the large New Bedford Polish community.
We got everything needed, including his brother's sound system, and when everybody finally got to City Hall and began performing to TV cameras and quite a sizable crowd, the heavens opened up and soaked performers, audience, and instruments. Not to be defeated, everybody was carted back to the ship (by now it had cleared up) for an even more impromptu concert on the fantail for the mayor, a very Boston Irish lady. Marek, myself, and the captain got interviewed by Channel 6, who filmed the concert, so everybody got to promote themselves. Well, some success was pulled out of it all, and we are scheduled to be bussed back here next Wednesday for a day of Polish cookouts and museum-going. By then we should have produced an appropriate certificate of appreciation upon our newly-operational (I hope) deck-top publishing system. Got Marek to the whaler's bethel (of Moby Dick fame) and got myself a warm coat for under oilskins very cheap at a surplus store. Now we are underway to go through the Cape Cod Canal, allegedly to go to Boston, but there is already a rumor we may head for Provincetown first. Captain Andrsej Drapella is indeed spontaneous and just drops into ports when he feels it might be advantageous. One of the Channel 56 cameramen who are sharing our cabin just came in as I was writing the last sentence and said yes, Provincetown, then Boston by the end of the day. Enough said, or rather speculated. To bed in time to be ready for the morning watch (4 AM).
July 13, 8:30 PM (Monday). It has been an hectic several days and just now some time to recall them. Indeed, we did anchor off Provincetown and run the crew in for shore leave in the Zodiac (or its Polish equivalent). P'town is a total tourist zoo, kind of like Key West all on a single street lining the shore. Mostly junk, but a few nice shops. Picked up some sundries and a very nice conch shell horn for $5. Crew had never seen one and were quite impressed and wished they had gotten one when they heard the price. I shall leave it with the boat -- it is pitched precisely in unison with the Zawisza Czarny's own horn, and it is very humorous to hear them together. It belongs here.
We got underway for Boston about 3 PM and arrived to anchor out with a host of other ships preparing for the parade next day. During this last day I have found my watch to be KP and found it appalling. The galley has no peelers, no can openers (they open cans with a knife), no coffeemaker, no food processor, totally primitive and totally unnecessary. Andre the cook, a small, very sweet mustachioed man who is a professional chef was very patient with me and even taught me once more how to chop onions very fine, as Chris has done so often. This one had an extra twist to it, and I hope I finally remember. Anyway, Andre does miracles with the food, especially now that I see the conditions he faces. Coffee, for instance, is grounds put in the bottom of the cup, and you let them settle -- those that don't wind up between your teeth. Not a quaint European custom, just no coffeemaker. I have since successfully agitated to get the galley some proper equipment, and we go tomorrow morning to accomplish that task.
The next morning we got underway to join in the tall ship parade, and it was really quite a sight. As we still lay at anchor, ships could be seen appearing and disappearing in the mist, sometimes half-shrouded horizontally by layers of fog. I took a few pictures and then went below to work on a Zawisza Czarny promo piece. Every now and then during the parade I would pop up and take a few more pictures, then back down again to do some more, trying to get something finished in time for the captain to have it on arrival. Success, and the printer actually functioned with the power adapter. Marek and the captain were very impressed with the result, a copy of which immediately went to the mayor's office, Polish department (Jack Kowalski who was aboard for the parade) for instant promotion. The parade was very lovely, with a cleared path outside the harbor flanked by a swarming sea of small boat spectators, who blew their horns and yelled and screamed with abandon as the ships passed by. The experience, along with New Bedford and especially Providence, has created this summer's new catch phrase, "Where are you from?"(yelled loudly at a distance). The answer, with recurring frequency, is China, Tasmania, or Fredonia, with great hilarity from the crew. The real answer is, of course, "Is Polish boat, no problem," the other catch phrase of the summer.
Throngs lined the docks of Charlestown Navy Yard, and when we heaved the monkeys' fists ashore, it was the crowds themselves which bore them up and secured the lines with much ado in Polish. Amazing. Saturday was spent meeting shore representatives, reading the Boston Sail '92 captain's manual, and trying to get anything done that had to be while the shops were still open. Our shore liaison officer Ed Wobesky is terrific and really gets things done. We went to the NPS gatehouse where they got the navy to make 200 copies of the promo piece, which was delivered to us by no less than a lieutenant commander in uniform. I asked the captain if the ship had a liaison officer as the manual required, and he said he hadn't noticed the requirement. I said you want one? He said sure, go do it. Instant promotion. Half an hour later I had produced a laminated badge that declared my rank and affiliation (complete with ship's logo) which has since amazed and amused everyone including the captain, as Mac technology and the shucks it allows one are new to this group. Young Pawel my watch commander, who was ordering me around two days ago, is calling me sir (which I shall have to discourage), only half in jest, now that I have added black slacks and white epauletted shirt to my badge. As I left the ship yesterday and he wondered again at the slickness of my badge, I said, pointing to it, "Pawel, this is reality." Since then it has worked very well and opens doors for the ship everywhere I go. How Americans love uniforms, second only to the Germans...
July 15, Wednesday, on the train to New London. Too much has happened in the last several days to remember and there has been no time to write it down as it happened. The Mac has served well in cranking out handbills for the concert last night and certificates of appreciation for New Bedford, with all of which the captain is immensely pleased. I have been off with Andre the cook and Arthur my supposed translator who speaks only a smidgen more English than Andre to get galley stuff at a local commercial kitchen place. Nice folks, gave us 50% off. Went to meet Marek at Cheers where a party of captain and crew and hosts were supposed to meet for lunch after the all-crews parade. I got there fifteen minutes early and found the management had not been informed of the Polish invasion, and the place was packed. The manager was helpful, however, and by the time the 25 Poles showed up fifteen minutes late a special room had been cleared that normally would have been closed and I was able to usher them happily in for Cheers burgers. The liaison officer is doing his job. Speaking of which, liaison officers abound everywhere, mostly from the navy, and mostly lieutenants commanding. They seem to hang about in groups (as I have been with the Sail Boston liaisons), just liaising, I guess.
Anne DeNitto has arrived with a pack of pirates, the Brotherhood of the Coast, which is actually a service organization a la the Shriners who dress up like pirates, get drunk and carouse very publicly, and raise funds for children's hospitals and the like. I got a shower at the dormitory near Copley Square where they are staying and was loaded down with stickers, rum-promoting keyrings, t-shirts and other promotional sundries. Several visited the ship and the black Jamaican fire-eater who also dances on a bed of nails did his dervish-like act after our concert to the tune of Irish jigs played by Simon Spalding and I on fiddle and bones. I even got to eat fire without dropping a beat on the bones.
Speaking of rum, while in New Bedford at a local pub, Marek explained to me that back in Krakow he had created a society for the promotion and promulgation of rum drinking throughout the world and needed a good name with an acronym for it. I reached into a vacant cavity of mind and pulled out World Rum Evangelical Congregation Krakow (WRECK), and such it has become, its membership increasing daily. Marek High Priest and premier wreck, JT Deacon.
Last night's concert was really a smashing success, despite void-of-course Moon and rain right up to and past the 8PM starting time. Everything was soaked, especially the sound system, which crackled ominously and kept cutting out, sending showers of sparks off at the mains and frying the plugs. Pepan managed to keep getting it operational again, and the show went on. It was held on the Downeast schooner next to us (she by the dock, we stacked one ship out) so that the audience was on both ships and the quay above. Right on the full moon, which no doubt added to the festivities in more ways than one. The kids sang and danced beautifully, and Simon is really an excellent fiddler, so we should be able to do some good things on the voyage and in Liverpool. Bill Shustik (blast from past) showed up halfway through, who is shantyman on the Shenandoah anchored just down from us. He had us all out to his ship much too late where everybody sang until I virtually fell asleep and was taken pity on and allowed to return to the Zawisza Czarny. Note: never get trapped where you depend on someone else for your exit, in this case the S's yawl boat. Nevertheless, she is a very impressive boat, historical in every detail and luxuriously appointed.
We are officially scheduled to leave tomorrow, but may have to wait another day for new radar to arrive from California. That would be good, as last night Eileen Brennan, the daughter of the owner of the Downeaster alongside, suggested she had heard there was an active Polish community in Halifax (where she is from) and knew a friend there who might investigate. If there is interest I will pass it by the captain. That is how the ship popped into Charleston, SC where she got a rousing reception of Southern hospitality. My bunkmate Jamie Eden is from there and got an invitation for the boat from the mayor. We are going right by Halifax on the way, and there are lots of ex-CSN families there. I'll give it a shot.
Now if I can just get the computer straightened out today, all will be well. ReadySetGo will not import Claris files, the new astrology program won't print, and there are occasional other malfunctions that mean all is not entirely well, and perhaps Dennis will be able to diagnose. A wonderful research op has happened onto the liaison officer, as I had to get a ship's personnel list to the shore for customs purposes, which includes the birth data (no times, alas) of everyone on the ship! I have squirreled away a copy to play with.
Train is approaching New London, so time to pack up. Hopefully, the next entry will be done at sea.
July 17, at sea. Had a very pleasant afternoon with Dennis Haskell, who managed to straighten out my software problem, so now Io Edition prints. And, more surprisingly, Claris word processor works with RSG. Mysteries...met his lady Julia who is very inquisitive and looks very much her Aquarius ascendant. Had a much-needed shower (the last one for a month). Rode back to Boston with computer and printer in tow where it began to pour rain, which continued all night and spoiled any possibility of the heralded farewell crew party. But the night before's bash was quite as much as one could ask. The next morning was departure time for the Downeaster next to us. We made our farewells to wonderful old raconteur Ed Donohoe (of Maine Maritime Museum) and his daughter Elena (another Aq. rising) who gave me two much-needed shiatzu messages during the process of the concert. She is a Pisces/Aquarius/Gemini like Lauri Wilson. Nice lady but one of these instantly overfamiliar types who in fact is rather distant and cold. They pulled out at eight sharp when we were raising the flag on the poop, and we pulled back up to the pier after she slipped away.
The radar had arrived in half a dozen very important-looking large Japanese cartons, and first officer Feliks spent the day figuring out how to put it together and install it. Evidently he was successful, as here we are. Annie came by to bid us all adieu, bringing along an excellent bottle of coconut rum for WRECK and a bottle of bonnie pepper hot sauce for me. Spent much of the morning with a couple of Boston ladies who were interested in getting the Zawisza Czarny back sometime soon, and as Wilmington is apparently interested as well, perhaps something could be cooked up. Marek got full costs on getting the vessel over, Simon waxed ebulliently about costuming, festivals, and funding, and I gave them a copy of our Dusty Rhodes proposal to see how that was done and to wave in Dusty's face if the opportunity arose, as for sure we were the only maritime culture going on and everyone seems to agree that Dusty indeed missed the boat in that respect (others as well, though I don't know exactly what -- something about her husband cashing in on the logo and concessions). Between the three of us, the ladies were being promoted to the skies, something we will have to be careful to coordinate, as each could do an ample job by himself and we must take care not to fall into competition or step on each other's toes.
Our scheduled sailing time was seven, so I had time to go out with new-found-ashore Larry the bodhran player, who drove me around to find a Radio Shack for a backup converter and a post office to mail a T-shirt and Sail Boston pins to Robin and Chris. As the final departure arrived, everyone was frantically turning out last-minute letters to be mailed by Debbie Kowalski (wife of Jack, the mayor's rep to the Polish community), and I did the same, breaking out the printer and rolling off the first seven pages of this journal for Chris, as it tells what's going on better than what I could do over the phone. Simon ran ashore to get some last minute spirit provisions with money from Marek and himself. I have invested in two already well-stowed plastic 1.75 liter bottles of "Island Rum" on behalf of WRECK, so this journey will be anything but dry, at least for the first couple of weeks. Then the ship's musicians were summoned to serenade our sponsors off the boat, an occurrence which kept repeating itself, as one final photo or presentation had to be made, and then another. But they don't go...Marek commented, "Well, the English leave without saying goodbye," to which I added, "But the Poles say goodbye without leaving."
Well, we finally did get underway at nine o'clock, five hours after the official beginning of the race, and rode out into a very chilly and damp night, setting sail after we got clear of the harbor. On watch until midnight, then bed. Now I am on a new watch, number one, with Marek on the watch and Simon along as well as a full complement of others to fill in for tasks that Simon and I are excused from for being instructors. This morning for me has been spent in changing from shoreside to seaside clothing and gear and stowing what's not needed thoroughly out of the way. I'm pretty well stowed, but this will go on the rest of the day, as the cabin is still pretty much chaos. Took my first baby-wipe bath, which was quite pleasant and beats trying to make the two-liter water allowance serve the purpose. That will do quite nicely for teeth-brushing, and so on -- hope the baby-wipes last!
July 17, evening. The cleanup was elaborate indeed. I was all stowed and very neatly but had to totally rearrange to make way for the overall plan, which, the moon being void-of-course, hasn't a prayer of sustenance. I will rearrange back again tomorrow. Another void-of-course effort was designing what the teaching program will be, which Simon very much dominated (he's got Pluto on my Mercury which can be most annoying). It all looks very much in order, but I have a feeling the kids are going to throw a monkey wrench into it, and a welcome one. Right now I'm supposed to do a week-long series on Confederate raiders and another on astrology, science and the understanding of the sky, while Simon does blockade runners and early exploration and navigation. Morning and evening sessions of about an hour. Plus afternoon music, which includes further rehearsal, and Simon on shanties and I on forebitters and pop music.
Sudden pause for abandon ship drill. This is the second in an hour or so. The first was actually an all hands to change sail to go greet a trawler which had offered us some free fish. On the way to her the real drill happened with all turning out on deck in orange survival suits and life jackets except for Simon and me who hadn't been given suits. We promptly were issued them and put them on, mine extra large -- the day-glo orange doughboy. During turn for fishboat, first whale spotted, everyone ran to port side, "Orca!" Middle watch tonight, enough already...
July 18, Saturday, 43N 67W, 60 miles SW Cape Sable, Nova Scotia. The stop for the fishing boat was not in vain, as today's lunch was pan-fried deep-sea flounder of awesome size and delicate flavor, well-spiced by Andre. We have spent the day in deep mist, much of the time with the horn blasting deafeningly, driving everybody crazy. The captain actually came down to my "office" and spent three quarters of an hour learning about the Mac and what it could do. We now have a newsletter planned, and I have just run off a questionnaire for the crew about their American experience which will make the theme for the first issue. Put together a fun membership certificate for WRECK, a good laugh all around.
The wind has varied from barely moderate to barely existent, with a considerable swell nonetheless which keeps the decks wet through the scuppers at the waist. With a very low waist, she will be awash all the time in any kind of weather, which should be interesting. We are graced by a few terns, which skim the water with astonishing accuracy, just inches above the surface, and then disappear into the mist, as well as a smaller version with very pointy wings and a white V on the tail. The sun almost broke through, but not quite, leaving a shimmering trail of reflection on the waves astern. Very ghostly sailing, indeed. I am now responsible for only an hour and a half on each watch on deck (lookout, helm, lookout), after which I am freed to go below and do computer things, while still being available for anything that comes up above. As lookout, of course, there is absolutely nothing to see except a flat horizon and lovely swell, so I try to pick up the news on the radio. WBZ is fading fast, so I'm now getting most of it from Radio Moscow, BBC, VOA and the like on short wave.
I spent some time with Simon (who knows modern European languages better than I, particularly Dutch) and Marek getting acquainted with names for sail commands and boat and rigging parts, so Polish is beginning to sink in. Better was copying the captain's questionnaire, where I'm beginning to see the faintest hint of linguistic order. Doing the newsletter in Polish certainly ought to broaden that landscape, despite my illiteracy. If Quebecoises could typeset the Inside News, not speaking a word of English, why not I? Workshops with the students start on Monday, so I shall have to get my material together. Marek says they should definitely learn "Hail, Queen of Heaven" and likely "Death and Victory of Nelson" for which I have four-part arrangements on disk, so that should be fun. Tomorrow is galley duty for the watch, from which I am excused, so I will pull my program stuff together and start working on the program text that will allegedly turn this voyage into royalties somewhere down the line.
July 19, Sunday, 11:30 AM, steaming toward Halifax. Sure enough, we are going for Halifax. It was another very last minute decision caused by the weather, I suspect. Last night we had the captain for coffee and rum in our cabin and then put to bed early, as we had the morning watch (4 AM). That arrived all too soon, and once on deck it appeared we were virtually becalmed. For the whole watch the watch officer (Wojciech) vainly tried to gain some headway, changing tack repeatedly to everyone's annoyance, but you know you're getting nowhere when you see a large clump of sargasso weed astern overtaking you! No problem, Polish boat...glad when the watch was over and collapsed into my bunk, where I was wakened several hours later by the sound of the engine and the news we are going to Halifax. Apparently, since we were getting nowhere there was no purpose in continuing in the cross-Atlantic race, so why not see what can be dug up ashore? Jamie has docked there before and says the maritime museum has facilities for docking and is very generous, so I found the museum's title and address (but no phone #) in the CNHS CAMM list, and the captain is on the radio to information trying to set it all up if the museum is up for it. Of course, there will be a concert, press releases and the like -- as Simon said as I rose from my bunk on hearing the news, "All hands to publicity stations!"
July 23 (Thursday), 7:20 AM, steaming north off Nova Scotia. Halifax has come and gone, a very successful visit. Now to recall as much as possible. We steamed in through the dense fog, which lifted as we got into the approach to Halifax and were informed the museum would dock us. Low, rocky shoreline, kind of like Maine. Halifax is a very modern-looking city, lots of steel and glass, with a large earth and stone fort atop the city called the Citadel. It faces on a "roads" opposite another, more industrial town, which leads into a large round body of water which contains a major container ship port. It is mostly all modern because the explosion of an ammunition ship during WWI flattened most of the town, killing several thousand people, so it had to be rebuilt. The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic has an ample quay where we docked right next to its own museum ship the Acadia, an early 20th century oceanographic research vessel, and a museum corvette, the last of the Canadian WWII convoy escorts, replete with razzle-dazzle camouflage.
While we waited for immigration clearance, I talked to Kathy Brown, the museum PR person, to arrange a concert, media coverage, and the like for the next day (Tuesday) at lunchtime, which subsequently got changed to 2 PM because there was already a jazz concert at noon. Finally, as immigration did not come, I just walked, trusting in my American driver's license to immunize me against any accusations of illegal entry, and went into the museum and met the curator Melven Moore and negotiated a pile of xeroxing of new publicity material and a shower for myself. Clean and fresh, I plunged into town to find the tourist office where I picked up 42 maps, city tourist mags, and Halifax stickers to bring back to the crew. Once all that was buttoned down, I broached the subject of the possibility of going next to St. John's, Newfoundland with the captain. Marek, Simon, and I had discussed possible stopovers on the way to England, and only St. John's and Reykjavik seemed feasible. Simon even had a bunch of recent connections in Iceland, but it has turned out to be 1000 miles out of our way, so much for that. St. John's, on the other hand, is right along the route, so the captain after brief deliberation, gave an impish grin and said OK if you keep it a secret, go make arrangements. Unfortunately for the secret part, he didn't impart the covertness of the deed sufficiently to mate Tomac whom he sent to get the chart of the area, so it leaked out. I got on the phone with St. John's tourist board, who were quite receptive and agreed to waive docking fees and cover the pilot cost and may even get us some financial support on refueling. I hyped them as best I could. Communications were somewhat difficult, as the sun and moon were both void-of-course and Mercury just turned retrograde, but it sorted itself out with a little extra trouble and several faxes over the time we were there. A final ship to shore call this morning should button everything down, hopefully. Monday evening, tired but wired, I walked up the hill past the Citadel to the cemetery, hoping to find Confederate remains, but no luck -- only folks from the Titanic and one who was killed in the eruption of Mt. Pelee. Called Chris who found out from Kevin who might be here, and later Marven Moore unearthed John Taylor Wood's cutlass from storage for a photo shot. He will also copy some slides he has, one of a very old and bearded JTW and also a shot of a local school named after the Tallahassee along the Eastern Passage where she slipped out to sea past the Union blockaders. Her pilot was the great-grandfather of the museum's director.
The museum people were simply wonderful, as helpful as could be, and the museum itself is a jewel. Not huge, but well-displayed and all the right choices made about what to display and how to do it. Bob Webb and Tom Lewis are due in Friday for a concert aboard Concordia, the Polish-built Canadian tall ship, so I left an envelope with tape, Zawisza Czarny PR stuff, and catalog for the local (fabulous) nautical bookstore as care package. There before you, Bob-o Webb-o, had to run, see you in Liverpool.
The concert went off on schedule, very nice with a fair and enthusiastic audience. Ended with Polish version of "Farewell to Nova Scotia" (Simon's inspiration) which tore them up. For St. John's, we do "I's the B'ye." Pawel translates, and very well, with meter and rhyme. Got to get me moose, b'ye. St. John's should be perfect for the Poles, being almost as much of a party culture -- we will get "screeched" and in return will "WRECK" them. No one else aboard has been there, including the captain, so the whole thing is a personal present to the ship from JT, who is honored and delighted to have the opportunity. Have been working closely with the captain, who continues to be very pleased and said when he becomes skipper of the Dar Mlodziezy I've got a job if I want it, albeit at low salary. I believe he means it. He wants to take her to China.
After dinner went to serenade on a Russian yacht docked nearby, then to bed for me rather than follow Pawel and Simon for further revels at a local pub. This morning was last-minute phone calls to St. John's, where the circuits were all screwed up, and locating a Polish font for the Mac to get sent ahead express mail so newsletter and crew certificates can be done in Polish. We were due to leave at 12:30 just after a presentation from the mayor's office, but captain and wife disappeared about 11:45 with videocam in hand, so I stood in for the captain for the presentation and after went off to the local pub with Marek, Simon, Asha, Ela, and a local Citadel interpreter for some Captain Morgan black rum to await the captain. Meanwhile a large sailing yacht is standing off in the roads waiting for us to vacate the pier space. Captain appears about three, so we give a quick farewell mini-concert and cast off, singing. On watch until eight, up at four for clear, calm sunrise. I only do lookout and steer, occasionally handle sail and lines. My drill is stowing and unstowing computer, coil cables or break out AC adaptors, according to captain's latest inspiration or the needs of WRECK. I can get computer and printer entirely unpacked, deployed, and piece printed out and in captain's hand in five to ten minutes. Wish I could just leave it out, but there is no room. Initiated Andre last night in his rather spacious cabin, where he broke out lots of excellent Polish beer and a huge stash of European chocolate. Marek wants a computerized membership list and ID cards and to send tales of WRECK to all the major rum producers to see if we can get a rise out of them. Will be a busy couple of days, starting teaching workshops, gathering material for first newsletter, and the like, mostly computer tasks. While at Halifax I got the Nova Scotia Museum folks to scan some Zawisza Czarny graphics for me, but now I can't figure out how to make them work with Superpaint, so that will be a trick. Maybe Claris Works will do it, which I need to study, anyway, as it looks like computer instruction will be one of my workshops...
July 24, 11 AM, in the Laurentian Channel. Deskpaint, of all things, did the trick. This morning I awoke to a distinct chill in the air and a sea radically changed in color, from the usual dark gray-green to a brilliant robin's-egg blue or aquamarine. We are now in the Labrador Current, which swings around Newfoundland bringing arctic water south along the shore inside the Gulf Stream. Schools of dolphins arrived to play underneath our bows along with flocks of arctic terns, which skim the water just an inch below their wing tips without ever touching the surface. While photographing the birds and dolphins I spotted what appeared to be a whale well off the starboard bow, and about ten minutes later a sudden shriek went up from the crew who spotted it as well and ran to the side, jumping up and down and wildly gesticulating with excitement. We soon found ourselves surrounded by pilot whales, which kept their distance mostly, but provided great fun for our host of whale watchers. Marek smiled and said, "You know, there is a very special emotion in this." Surely there is -- big friends out there saying hi.
The most exciting developments happened yesterday, however. Around noon I was trying to think of some other place in Britain to go, as we will doubtless reach Liverpool early. Milford Haven, Swansea, and Cork all had tall ships last year, so that's no good, and then -- Aberdovey! Of course, we can go give a memorial concert for Stan, take advantage of the BBC branch competitiveness to get BBC Wales to promote it nationwide, and Tony Davis can set the thing up and do all the advance work. Scoop the bigger tall ships before their arrival. I approached the captain, who seemed interested and took it under advisement. Later that night, down in Rychard the engineer's cabin where we were initiating him along with Feliks the vice-master, the captain joined us and said that Aberdovey was indeed the best possible idea and we would definitely do it. A pat on the head for the L.O. -- I can hardly believe it, to tell the truth. What an opportunity and an honor. But lots of PR work to get on with the moment we hit St. John's. We will need a whole promotional package to fax to Tony, only part of which is already in hand.
Last night there was a general gathering of the crew in the main cabin at which the captain scolded the crew somewhat for not writing their reports to home well. Worse, there would be no leave at St. John's for those who hadn't done it correctly. But, as Marek put it, it's hard and some folks just can't write, so Simon suggested we put together an editorial strike force to assist anyone who needed help. I forwarded that to the crew using a copy of Planets In Love as an example of a writer forced to go back and do it over -- but for his own good, in the end. At the same meeting, the captain pointed out that we had best keep a sharp lookout in our crossing, as the cool summer has put a number of icebergs south into our path. Later, in Rychard's cabin, I asked the captain if we sighted a berg in daylight could we heave to, break out the Zodiac and board it. Great photo op and lots of fun for the crew. He said definitely, good idea. I hope we spot one -- what great sport!
I keep dreaming up more work for myself. We need short bios of all the crew for press purposes, so we can highlight the personal experience side of the cruise. They do indeed come from all walks of life and are headed with their lives in every conceivable direction. The plan is to get a half page from each person which Pawel will translate (and if I am smart, will typeset as he does it).
After lunch and a stint as lookout -- the water has changed back to deep gray-green again, as we are now on the St. Pierre Bank up against southern Newfoundland. Only 53 fathoms deep as opposed to 450. The sails are set and a brisk breeze has us moving right along under sail and steam at ten to twelve knots. Pawel is pacing the deck plotting with Simon on how to get laid in St. John's. The poor boy is desperate. Simon (and almost I) went out pub crawling in Halifax with instruments, chumming the waters as it were with spontaneous international sea music, but to no avail. I have assured him that St. John's is the party town of the greatest party animal culture in Canada. Truly, next to the Poles, the Newfies know how to party, and many Poles will get "screeched" (named after Newfie rum, a ceremony complete with certificate) as WRECK tries to keep pace with the local culture. Good luck, Pawel.
A marvelous cherry-and-pasta soup for lunch, along with cod and red cabbage and onions. Andre is truly a fine cook. Plus this is a great culture for one who likes cabbage and onions, as I do. Cabbage and onions, how many ways may I serve thee? In soups, stews, chopped and raw, cooked then chilled, mixed in with potatoes, pureed, grated, fried, you name it and just add some tomatoes and sausage or pork along the way and you've got Polish cooking. Plus lots of fish. The smell of raw onions on rising (it is the main breakfast condiment, next to the strawberry preserves) might be a bit much for some, but one doesn't have to worry about bad breath here because I'm sure no one would notice. Eat raw onions in self-defense. Actually, you can't help it, because they are snuck into everything in the most unlikely places (in cooked dishes, for instance, where only the onion is raw). Nevertheless, the cooking is superb, particularly considering what Andre has to work with. I may truly get my fill of cabbage and onions by the end of the voyage, however.
9 PM on watch but no duties. At dinner I looked next to me on the bench and in a box were two small birds, of the small dark kind with the white stripe on the tail, not like the larger terns, and which are much fewer in number around the ship. Apparently they had collapsed exhausted on deck and been picked up by the crew. They were desperately trying to eat the box, though one was so weak it could hardly move. I asked for water but someone said they had already had had some, but there was none in the box. Not bird-keepers these. So I corralled a soup bowl of water, which the birds promptly dived into, and then a cup of fish squashed to order (none left over from breakfast), which I hope they ate after I covered them up. Too much chaos in the main cabin for lost and lonely birds. If they are still alive in the morning, I will photograph them and send them ashore when we get near St. John's.
Spent the rest of off-watch time converting an image of Zawisza Czarny into a CSN raider with Simon. Stretched it, put on a sidewheel, Blakeley 11-inch, and Stars and Bars, very funny, the Black Zavvy, herewith reproduced at 80% of original size. Now a long watch till midnight and tomorrow St.John's.
July 25, Saturday, 7:30 AM:
"We'll scrape her and we'll scrub her, with holystone and sand,
And we'll think of those cold northwesters on the banks of Newfoundland."
The crew is busily scrubbing the decks under a sunny sky and calm, green sea with the low green mountains of Newfoundland rising just a few miles to our port. A pretty picture, indeed. Last night I was put on iceberg watch in the chart/radio room, a new assignment, which was explained rather nebulously as listening to the marine forecasts and jotting down the iceberg warnings. Well, the evening's warning, which didn't change at all, had icebergs from 56 North where the pack ice begins all the way to the latitude of New York, with no special locations for any bergs. The captain being present, I asked him if we oughtn't have on the radar if we really wanted to see anything. He agreed, turned on the rig, and we went over its operation together -- I remaining with the detail despite a couple of calls from the watch commander to put me elsewhere. It seems there was no one awake to watch the radar but the captain, as none of the crew could work it yet, I being the first. It is very new, state-of-the-art Japanese, with a little tracking ball like a Mac that allows you to select objects spotted and get their bearing, distance, speed, and the like. Neat. Ended my watch as lookout forward, very cold.
This morning found Abelard and Heloise, as Marek has nicknamed the two foundling sea birds, in fine fettle, having devoured their fish and puttering around their box looking for something to do. A successful rescue. Marek went over many of the crew's newspaper reports yesterday (no one came to Simon or myself), and he says it's just hopeless. Not only do most of them write badly, they do not organize their thoughts to begin with, despite several months of teaching. He suggests forming a press bureau of those who can write and making up joint reports on behalf of everybody when necessary. Hopefully the captain will feel the same, as this could drag on forever.
This will be a long day, as captain expressed intent of having a dockside concert on arrival to take advantage of the TV that's supposed to show up, so all press releases have to be done by then so I can be clear to deal with the shore live. Now it's on to 8 AM assembly aft and then on with it.
July 26, Sunday, 11:23 AM, St. John's Newfoundland. No assembly as it turned out, but pushing on to St. John's. I started to put together a sample concert program sheet for promo when I was called to the radio room to try to get the pilot and tourist bureau connections straight, which took some time in a combination of English and Polish, as I needed to do the talking but Feliks knew how to work the radio. I think I got Bernadette Walsh out of bed with the news we were going to be in between two and three instead of seven, so she had her work cut out to get the media reinformed. Meanwhile Simon and Marek finished the text for the program for me -- it's nice others are getting acquainted with the Mac. While they did that, I went up on deck and enjoyed a warm, sunny morning. The waters off Newfoundland were alive with creatures. Puffins were everywhere, sporting and splashing about in the most comical way. They put their legs out in back as rudders and flap their wings on the water like crazy, propelling themselves along like crazed speedboats. Then suddenly they will dive and not be seen again, they stay under water so long. Conversely, one may be staring at a calm patch of water with nothing around it and up will pop a puffin who had submerged who knows how far away or long ago. Several schools of the largest dolphin I have ever seen, brown with blotchy cream patches, accompanied the ship. The first one was wildly enthusiastic, leaping out of the water a la a Seaquarium show, which seemed like quite a welcome, but as they kept doing it until well aft of us, I think their motivation may have been something other than just Zawisza Czarny. Then, as I was staring at a vacant patch of water through the binoculars, a very large humpback whale surfaced before my eyes, spouted, and then went flukes out into a dive. Very impressive, indeed.
When the concert copy was finished after lunch, I went back to work formatting and printing it out, along with an article Simon had done the day before on learning dance on deck. Finally got it all done and printed and ready to hit the shore and then went on deck to watch the entrance into the harbor. To my great surprise, coming out of the harbor in the distance was a large white barkentine setting sail, plus a small, rakish schooner racing along from the other direction. Had we been scooped by a competitor? Actually not -- the barkentine was the ship from Oman which stopped in for only three hours for some reason, and the schooner was the local tourist boat which cut smartly across our port bow and saluted as we took on the pilot and hoisted sail. The wind was quite favorable and we took her under sail alone through the narrows and the harbor and to within fifty yards of the quay, no mean feat in St. John's harbor. The entrance to the harbor is breathtaking, a narrow cut between high, steep cliffs opening into a bowl-shaped harbor with the city rising in terraces around it. Though I did not know it until later, here was where Abelard and Heloise returned to freedom, lofting themselves to the cliffsides when released by the crew. The weather was perfect, as it turned out the first good day of a very cold and rainy summer, the same as at Halifax. Got lots of good action shots of the crew all the way in, at least I hope I did. Will get them developed tomorrow. [Image from the narrows: young(16) Patricia is at the helm, and as the pilot barks the heading, she smartly replies, "Tree-fife-sero!" and spins the helm around with decidedly more style than necessary. The ship is in good hands. Later, I have a picture of her curled up in her bunk, fast asleep, wrapped around her stuffed animal.]
The city has rolled out the red carpet for us. As we tied up, I jumped onto the pier where Bernadette Walsh was waiting and we jumped into her car for instant liaise. She had done her job well -- CBC-TV and other news cameras had shot the whole arrival, and a formal welcome from the deputy mayor with special performances from local performers was scheduled for seven in the evening. I gave her all my promo stuff for copying and picked up brochures for the crew, then went off to reconnoiter. Found the wine store and the Indian restaurant, bought some Screech, and Marek I and will eat Indian tonight after checking out the basilica, supposed to be the best piece of Gothic architecture in America. Liquor is very overpriced here, so St. John's must be sober indeed, in that the cod-fishing has been stopped for two years while the stock recovers, which means that 40% of the populace is on unemployment. Got a lead on a Hudson's Bay coat for Chris, then went back to the boat where Bernadette appeared with all the promo and the day's official schedule turned into an official press kit. Bleachers had been set up and a small red-carpeted stage put out with podium and chairs for the deputy mayor, the captain and his wife, and Marek and myself.
After a formal welcome speech by deputy mayor and captain, Heather Kao, a darling 14-year-old fiddle player, performed several Newfoundland traditional favorites, starting with "I's the B'ye." She was instantly surrounded by videocams and photographers but played bravely on without dropping a note. After that, a troupe of even younger Scottish dancers put on a show to the accompaniment of a second, older female fiddler, including "I's the B'ye" again. Wait until they hear it in Polish this afternoon! We returned the favor in kind with four numbers and a couple of dances, while Pawel took my camera into the rigging to capture the scene, and afterwards the party broke up with much conviviality as the public crowded aboard to tour the ship.
After dinner I snagged Marek and Simon and got Bernadette to drive us to the top of Signal Hill, where the view is staggering. The widest angle lens could not capture it. We had actually been beaten to the top by several others of the crew who had also snagged some tourist board folks with a car. The wind blows at the top with the same kind of relentlessness as Lindisfarne. Came back down exhausted and passed up an offer by Simon and Pawel to go on a hunting expedition (Simon had found a likely party to attend). I heard later they had a good time and it turned out to be a farewell party for an old friend of Simon's, but I don't think Pawel was successful. Nevertheless Simon is resolute in his determination to get Pawel's ashes hauled before the trip is out. I spent the rest of the evening over tea, rum, pickles, and canapés in the galley with Marek and various others of the crew, played a few tunes below, and packed it in with a pleasant conversation about the ship, its style, and Polish culture in general with Jamie in the cabin.
I was awakened after a fairly fitful night (the bunk has too much stuff in it, not enough room for me) at just before 8AM. Assembly aft, breakfast, then to the captain for an estimate for arrival at Aberdovey. August 10th or 11th, but we'll have to push it, as we are running late now. I called Tony Davis who put a wet blanket on the whole thing by suggesting the bar at Aberdovey was too silted-in for us to get in. He will try his best to set something up, but thinks it unlikely, will know tomorrow night. Damn. Then a call to Chris whom I woke up out of bed, as I forgot the time change of an hour and a half. Things are not going well at home -- car broke down, phone lines being cut by vandals, crank phone calls. What a bummer. Makes me feel very guilty to be here doing something I truly like and am good at. But I have very mixed emotions -- I have spent three whole weeks without being insulted or abused about what an awful person I am, even once. Quite the opposite here, where I am wanted, appreciated, and can contribute. Not so, were I home. I would like to be trying to be in love again like last summer (albeit fueled with determination to make things work), writing long affectionate letters to much-missed loved ones, but when I think about it my heart hurts (literally) and curls up into a corner in retreat. I do miss home, particularly Robin (though he sounds too busy to be missing me much), and I feel really bad that Chris is having to cope with so much gratuitous grief and I am sorry I cannot help. I regret that both cannot share the whales and the puffins (though not the smells and the discomforts), and indeed that is the main reason I am writing this journal and snapping so many pictures -- so we can share this together at least that much. But when I view a future of increasing difficulty and reviling at home, as must happen unless some one or more of my desperately deployed frying pans start to cook furiously, I feel utterly trapped, with no allies to help me through, frantically paddling a sinking boat laden down with cargo that cannot honorably be lightened. Next to this, Zawisza Czarny is a paradise, one I can only enjoy for a time, so I shall do that and see what develops. Well, this is getting depressing, and there is no point in it -- the moon is VOC all day and all will doubtless turn out otherwise, so go do laundry and lunch. Concert at 3 PM, with "I's the B'ye" in utterly confounding Polish, if we get it right. I still have to teach everybody to say in chorus, "Got to get me moose, b'ye!"
July 28, 3:55 PM, outward bound from Newfoundland. The concert went down in a gale of wind, rather like Newcastle '86 without the coal dust, but the crew outdid themselves and the audience loved it. I gave Pawel my camera to cover the event, since I being in it could not, and he forthwith scampered up the ratlines to get panoramas from above and got some very nice shots. The crowd loved "I's the B'ye" and particularly "Got to get me moose." Bought a copy of the tape it's on so the crew will understand what was happening. Various and sundry media were interviewing everybody, and I did a passionate (!) interview with CBC which I think I now have a copy of (videocassette arrived by messenger, but didn't get to play it.). Marek, Ella, Irec, a local Pole and I went out to dinner at the Indian restaurant where I ordered for everyone and all had a delightful meal. Marek was taken by the lee by what he thought was salad (looked rather like something Andre would cook up with onions, cucumbers, and tomatoes) but was extreme hot relish. Various local musicians appeared on deck and jammed with Simon later in the evening, but I was too tired and chose to turn in.
The next day I made it to the Ethnic Cultural Association offices, our landside station, to send faxes to Poland (unsuccessful) and get last-minute artwork copied for certificates, etc. While xeroxing I did a radio interview with some DJ who was sure we were all starving like the Russians and wanted to know what it was like living on handouts. I straightened him out as politely as possible and just made it back in time to dress for lunch with the mayor. This was actually a tough call, as I asked the captain what he thought we ought to wear, and he said he though he'd wear just his khakis, so I delicately suggested something more formal. Good, he had a black captain's suit. Now I had a glorious, if somewhat silly, set of whites consisting of officer's shirt with epaulets, flashy Chilean navy white dress coat, with white Levi 501's and white canvas deck shoes. Not sure if the captain was really going to wear his suit, I forewent the jacket, put a pair of Neal's Hargrave black and gold covers on the shirt epaulets and went with navy baseball cap and shades. Captain loved it, and so did the crew, an officer and maybe a gentlemen suddenly come out from under cover. Lunched at City Hall with mayor and a variety of local brass, including head of naval operations for the area (in real whites), my table having Simon, the county clerk, and the fire chief. About a third of the table places were empty, folks being on vacation, and after the shrimp cocktail, there were quite a lot of shrimps going to waste. I couldn't bear it after a while, so I said I didn't know if it was proper protocol, but the extra shrimp looked awfully good, which started a run on them until they were eaten every one. Newfoundlanders don't like waste. Speeches, exchanges, gifts, out of which Marek, Simon, and I got St. John's books (sent on before leaving to Chris and Robin) and too-large polo shirts. I think Neal is going to inherit a lot of large gift clothing when I get back.
On to the concert, which went fine although rudely interrupted by a junior female newspaper reporter who insisted on pulling me aside during the performance to get an interview, which she later put her own unique slant to -- to wit, that the ship didn't really need money, anyway. Well, from rags to riches in the press in a single day. Got her straightened out via her editor, later. Picked up eight rolls of developed pictures which cost a fortune and ordered Hudson's Bay coat to be sent to Chris.
Being organized in the midst of all this was a benefit concert which happened in the evening in a local theater to a modest but enthusiastic audience, together with performances by local folkies, some of them quite remarkable. The first was a dance group whose snake-like maneuvers were very intricate and who stamped their feet a lot and spun each other with fearsome centrifugal force. A good solo female fiddler, followed by two guys named Tickle Harbour, a terrific fiddler and a bohdran player even more remarkable -- he sounded more like a bass player. Then a guy who played "ugly stick" (a version of our devil stick, Australian lager stick, with bottle tops and a can on top of a mop), whom the mayor had located when I mentioned my interest. He gave his stick to the captain at the end. Then a very unlikely Russian lady, who spoke not a word of English, just returned from a long stay in Cuba, who sang "Guantanamera" and strummed the guitar Spanish-style very convincingly indeed. Get back, Charro. This was followed by a terrible local a capella singer, who needed pitch lessons. Then the Poles, who began and finished the whole affair. Much applause, well-wishing, and a compliment from the mayor on my rendition of "I's the B'ye." Back to the boat, finally, exhausted, though some stayed up and partied on, as next morning revealed. Called Tony Davis at intermission and found that Aberdovey was impossible, but that Wirral had adopted Zawisza Czarny so all her costs would be covered and lots of publicity would happen. To this event I added my Chilean jacket and new straw hat with the feather I found in Boston common, to some admiration/ribbing of the crew. Returning I was nickname John Travolta (Simon already suffers Simon and Garfunkel), to which the natural reply was "Too-li-ay," which roused much hilarity. It is now a running gag, one of many already in use -- a hallmark, it seems, of Polish humor.
This morning I arose with considerable hangover (first of the voyage) and was off immediately to the cultural office to get a fax to Tony and cover other last-minute chores. Still no sign of Polish font software, which had been promised before noon by Federal Express (it had been held up for days at customs in Montreal). Goodbye from mayor at 11 AM but sailing is held up still pending arrival of "spare parts" (Polish font). Eventually, just before lunch, it arrives, and we eat and sail off with much hugs and partings into a thick fog. As we steam out, I armtwist Pawel (despite the fact he's watch officer) into taking a picture of me in my "officer's" uniform (costume) with the captain. Captain turns to me with a large grin, shakes my hand and says, "Excellent job. Very excellent job." LO is very proud.
Now back in jeans trying to file and stow all the papers generated in port and get into the seagoing routine again. Watch 8 to midnight and it will be very cold indeed. Then noon to four tomorrow. Time to get into teaching, writing, at long last. Two weeks to do lots more than two weeks worth. No more liaison until August 12th.
July 29, 6:47 AM, recently underwater. Last night's watch was cold and windy, with an ever-increasing swell and wind strength. Nevertheless, it seemed to get a bit warmer as time went by. I was cursing nobody in particular, as the oilskin trousers I had so carefully hung beneath my slicker when we came into port had vanished, so I had to do without. Fortunately, when I was on deck it hadn't begun to pour. By midnight at the change of the watch it was raining savagely and the drops propelled by the gale felt like so many BBs pelting my face so that I had to turn away whenever possible. Glad the next watch has to deal with this, to bed.
But, I woke up at about 5:30, deciding to visit the head topside when I discovered our cabin is awash. Not again, more shades of the Alexandria...so I hop into my boots and jacket and poke around with my flashlight (it was pitch dark) to see where it was coming from because I could hear water running. I traced it to the sink, which was backed up and overflowing into the cabin beneath its cover, and whose valve I could not budge with my small wrench. I concluded someone forgot to close the main seacock when we left port. Seeing no one on deck who spoke English, I woke Marek, who was grieved to see a lot of his books which had flown off the shelves because of the uncontrolled bilgy heaving of the ship soaked on the floor. I showed him the trouble, described the cause, and after contacting someone else he says it's not the seacock, nobody knows what it is and it's everywhere. It's the seacock, says I again, Cassandra-like. If you can't fix that then shut off the sink drains. Well, of course, it was the seacock, as later materialized, or a variation on same, though the cabin was flooded once again before they cut off the sink valves as I had first suggested. Up on deck everything was thoroughly awash, a la Irving Johnson round the horn. Waves were breaking over the waist, which is where the pumps are. The only thing to do is clip on your safety line and work among them. The waves are running maybe 20 feet, so that you look up at them coming down on you on the main deck, and as Marek and I (and later another lad, don't know his name) pumped away when a good swell came along it would just break right over us like we were on a beach. Hang on and keep pumping. Over the mountainous swell and through the howling wind, the seabirds skim lightly along doing business as usual. It certainly illustrates who belongs out here and who doesn't.
Eventually the water level dropped and now our cabin is dry. I tried to get some pictures, but there was very little light and not enough purchase on deck to hold the camera still, so I gave up and went back to pumping. Finally the captain appeared and told us to belay, as he had turned on the main pumps. So, back below to wring out socks and survey the damage. My things have been spared, as nothing of mine was stowed on the floor or in lower drawers, but most of Simon's stuff was soaked. It will be a long day of salvaging and drying out, if there is time, as the weather does not seem to be calming, though at least it's not raining. I've got my sandals on (shoes are soaked) and am beginning to chill, so I will stop this and rummage around for some socks.
Addendum 11:12 AM, Lat. 49 N, Long. 50 W. The day has cleared, bright and hazy sun, 25-knot wind blowing off the tops of swells slightly less awesome than before. Weather fax has us in a high for a while, just about what the North Atlantic ought to be in summer. The crew and much of the stores and sails are strewn about the ship limp, wet and exhausted from pumping out, cleaning out, and drying out. The pumping was continuous from dawn, so Marek, Simon, and I tried out every pumping shanty we knew. These are simple hand lever pumps with single vertical levers, worked by one or two persons, which are not nearly long enough to get a good mechanical advantage. Even someone of my height has to bend over to work them so it's hard to get a good rhythm going. "Strike the Bell" was much too fast for these, "Pump Away" was borderline, but "Fire Down Below" really worked best. After exhausting everything we knew Simon tried "Singing In The Rain" which did as well as any, ending with a very silly, sloppy dance by both pumpers in boots and oilskins in imitation of Gene Kelly. We are proceeding under steam and three staysails, our WWII German U-boat engine rumbling along nicely, making nine to ten knots. While looking for Marek (who is sacked out) I ran into the captain in the chart room and we exchanged pleasantries on the improved conditions. I assured him the computer was dry and well (he had come down earlier in the middle of everything just to check on it). He smiled and said he was glad to have an occasional episode like this or this would become a pleasure cruise ship. I asked him about our position and the weather, and he indicated where we were and reiterated that we were disqualified from the official race not only by having our engine on, but also by our course. With a wave of his hand he indicated the southern limits of the iceberg area and that that was where the regular race was required to go. We are headed straight into the middle of the icebergs, on the other hand, and the captain said he really thought it would be memorable for the crew to get to see a berg or two. I'm afraid he has found as much to enthuse about in my suggestion as I did, though Jamie recently regaled me with horror stories about unstable bergs that turn over on you when you try to mess with them or get too close. I trust we will thread our way through with success.
One more addendum, 7:55 PM. It appears I have already missed two bergs, one last night which Simon steered around though he didn't see it, and one this morning which I could have seen had I been on deck -- it was about 300 meters long by 60 meters high and we passed barely 200 meters alongside it. Next one, maybe. This morning I was not in particularly good viewing shape, anyway, being seasick for the first time since childhood. I think the cause was too much dissipation on behalf of WRECK, and I tested the theory by taking a couple of swallows of Screech to see if that helped. It very thoroughly did not, and I just made it on deck in time to return my tot to leeward, and as the day has worn on am feeling much improved. I guess I will get to smoke my pipe for a few days, after all, in lieu of any further risk of illness.
July 30, 49 N, 46W30, quiet rolling water, clear but low mist, proceeding mainly under steam. Passed several bergs on radar during my watch (12-4) last night but no light to see them. Skipped breakfast and slept until after ten, by which time, mirabile dictu, both crew toilets were operational again, having been put out of commission by yesterdays leaks. I was pleased to see someone repairing the valve around the port pump head. A last remark on the logistics of our recent crisis: the pump head which was rail under and leaked badly was the culprit, because in a backward sort of way, it is the main port sea cock. That is because the sinks and all the "gray water" drain directly into the bilge (rather than into a gray water tank as on modern ships), which is then periodically pumped dry by hand. Thus, the pump head was leaking directly into the bilge, which then backed up straight into the sinks, there being no intermediary intercessor. What a ship!
Today things get back onto, or rather get onto to begin with, schedule, with rehearsal at 3PM and class at 7PM. Marek talks about weather, I tell tales including the weather, Simon talks about other types of sail rigs and how they are run. Feeling much improved today, goodbye Screech for a while. That's OK, variety is the spice and I need to be in my busywork mode for a while with the partnership of Mother Nicotea. WRECK was good for the high-energy, high-inspiration work ashore, but it's time for a change. Break out the St. Bruno and memories of Stan.
Dreams have been odd indeed here, sort of a jumble of seaside and shoreside influences. On the whole, they have been stressful, more so than waking hours. At first mostly hostile social encounters mainly with Chris, the funniest (though not at the time in the dream) was her asking me not to go in to a social/business gathering because I had bad breath. She would reluctantly take on my responsibilities instead. Thanks a lot. No problem with that on this boat. Had a neat sea monster dream, where I was on bow watch in a sort of truncated version of Zawisza Czarny off an undisclosed rocky harbor when a dark, slithery sea monster appeared rolling in the waves. As it approached, it turned out to be a gigantic (as big as the boat) black swimming lion with curved pointy ears like a leprechaun. Its intentions were unknown and swam after us with more speed than we could muster, coming up under the bow where it actually touched me over the rail before swimming off back toward the entrance to the harbor. It was concluded by the crew to be not a natural sea monster but a captive display beast from a marine biology place on the point which should be warned in the future not to let it out for free swims when vessels such as ours were about. I think this was created by seeing a number of whales running silent beneath the bow without surfacing mixed with Marek's warning to watch out for those "damn growlers" (low underwater bergs that don't show up on radar). What sea monster lurks underwater and growls -- a black, swimming lion, of course! Last night featured one of my entertainment extravaganzas with occasional erotic overtones (when you're this long-out that becomes regular), a just-before turn-of-the-century middle European revolution being helped out by former Confederates (there actually was a movie like that). Much firing of pistols and rifles and rushing about fields and roads, all of which devolved by the end into an actual movie reenactment with rather shoddy costumes onto which Chris, Anne Larkum, and several Lancaster County yuppie types wandered inquiring what was going on and did anyone have anything to smoke (I did, just tobacco, in a two-piece pipe made out of a branch which had been left in the cheap-o motel room I had been using as home base for the revolution). Silly times, indeed: low-budget late-night homemade thrillers.
Addendum 4:42 PM. Found our iceberg. Smooth rolling seas, we sent down the Zodiac to board her. Captain said we should collect some ice and taste it, and Marek suggested with a little rum. Marek, Tomac, Adam, another, and I set out with camera, four plastic cocktail glasses, and a bottle of Screech to do the deed. Paddled like crazy up to a big floating chunk of ice and latched onto it with a pick, chopping off pieces and tossing them into the Zodiac where they were stowed in bags to bring aboard. Got several shots of me and the crew and Marek and the crew holding up the bottle and glasses filled with ice, label clearly displayed -- "Screech (or whatever bottle a computer wants to insert), it's good on ice" -- with iceberg and Zawisza Czarny on either side in the background. What a thrill. Took a few other shots of Zawisza Czarny and berg and then back to the ship to put on the outboard and bring the captain on with the videocam. I had to get off, and went below briefly to get more film, and in the interim there turned out to be room aboard for me for the second trip, but they left without me. Too bad. Had to content myself taking lots of pix from ship. I'm sure they got lots of good publicity shots for their sponsor Piakol, as they put up the square sail with the sponsor's name on it and took lots of good pix. The berg looked like an old man from one point of view, a mountain or a cloud from another, but most of all like a tremendous steamer or ram with a great prow, waves breaking spectacularly across it from all directions, exploding into the sky like a volcanic eruption. It was a double berg, with a main part, a channel, and a smaller square second half, and to run that channel with waves surging about would have been a daredevil's dream. Missed all but the last part of a shot of Zawisza Czarny right between the two, thanks to everyone falling down in the Zodiac trying to get the shot, but the second trip got it repeatedly. It was hard to judge the berg's size, but probably several hundred meters by sixty or so high, though underwater it was much bigger, and we could see it blue beneath us as we skirted its underpinnings.
This certainly has been a moment to remember for all of us, and I am very glad I had the temerity to suggest it and the captain had the imagination to carry it through. I suspect there is some extra support for Zawisza Czarny somewhere in this, let us hope, though the experience itself is quite sufficient.
Final addendum, 11:05 PM. After struggling with the Polish font, which won't work right, had a brief program with birthday party for Magda, who cried, and an intro to what will be daily instruction (sort of), which comprised an intro to Simon and me and how we got here. He played a nice Middle-Eastern piece on fiddle, we both played "Hava Nageela" rather out of sync, upon request for an Israeli song. He played a strathspey and a Cajun tune to demonstrate range of styles, and I told the Coast Guard burial at sea story to the usual hilarity. Ended with request for an example of Goombay style from Tomac, did "Delia's Gone" and done.
Afterwards we were invited to Tomac's cabin to initiate him, and Asha arrived with a small sack of glacial ice and some glasses. We had first a few drops of scotch, then a few drops of rum (very few, the ice was the thing), and listened to the ice. It sang. It was so full of air bubbles that it fizzled and cracked as it melted and the louder pings had a distinct musical tone about them, like tiny high bells ringing the songs of long, long ago when mastodons roamed the earth. It does the same thing when you suck on a piece, but in tactile tone. Amazing stuff, amazing day, very special. To bed.
July 31, just before midnight. Today was truly frustrating, thanks to the organizing (or lack of it) qualities of the Poles. We were wakened by Ela a half hour early, with no explanation, at 3:15 AM instead of 3:45, then scolded for not moving along quickly enough. Rolled out on deck and stood forward watch in a confused state, not being informed of what other positions on the watch we would serve later. I figured out we must have gone a half hour onto the next time zone, though Marek was sure the clock was normal (no one wears a watch around here and can tell the difference). Of course it was not. I would have spent most of the watch below struggling with the Polish-English seaman's dictionary that has been laid on me by Pawel, but I didn't know when I would be able to be below because the assistant watch officer had the duty roster in his pocket and refrained from taking it out. It has been a signature of this voyage that no one finds out what is going on until it's just about to happen, as everyone who is entrusted with relevant knowledge keeps it to himself as a weird control gesture until he/she has to give it up. It's a real East bloc thing, as a ship can't be run on a need-to-know basis, especially when it's right down to what time it is. I hope this sort of mind-set can be freed up amongst the youth, or they'll never compete in a communications society. Already the women do better at it, leaving the watch assignments on the table for everyone to see, but the guys, no way. Jamie has really noticed this and commented on it repeatedly in conversations together. Also notable is the Polish work ethic which demands that you labor yourself to death and then it's OK, whatever the result. If someone gets results without a great deal of apparent labor, he is suspect. If one labors greatly, well, no problem, even if there is no result (witness pointless sail maneuvers in a dead calm). Simon and I suffer from this in the crew's eyes, since we clearly don't subscribe to it and are officially exempt from most of it, and something diplomatic needs to be done about explaining the thing. We are in a halfway position which is neither that of officer/aristocracy/high bureaucrat to be labored for or common person to labor with. Our Western society has a lot of reasonable mixtures that are OK, and the idea of getting a job done whatever the technique (the simpler and easier the better) is really quite foreign to these folks. I hope we can communicate some of the alternatives.
Similarly, the music training reflects the difference in cultural approach. The crew has learned some wonderful harmonizing pieces, but all are learned by rote, one part at a time, which they pick up very fast, TAG kids that they are. But the idea of the internal structure behind it all is lacking for most of them, so we will have some successful formal performances, but a spontaneous sing-in with brand-new songs introduced by a new singer is impossible, and there is not enough time to teach the art, considering everything else that gets in the way. It is hard enough to get the watches juggled so we can have rehearsals with the necessary personnel. In some ways, this artistic educational endeavor is a real failure by the design of the ship's culture and environment itself. William and Mary should have a crack at this group.
August 1, 7:42 AM, 49 N, 41 W. Scary dream last night. Some crazed fellow was after Chris, determined to have her for his own or kill her (or both). He was actually attractive in a Mansonesque kind of way and Chris seemed rather unconcerned and even flattered by the attention. Meanwhile, my efforts to get him to leave us alone and to thwart the danger were themselves thwarted as so often in dreams, though the police were finally becoming concerned when it was learned the fellow had bought a high-powered rifle with a telescopic sight and rented a room across the street with a direct view of our bedroom window. The night before's dream was more fun, wherein Simon and I had been called to the U.S. Army chorus which was doing a performance at the White House next Wednesday of "Juke Box Songs From Around The World." Here are your uniforms, can you learn all the parts by Wednesday? No problem...
Today I go on deck for the second day in a row with no safety line. I left my harness and line stowed on deck to go in the Zodiac and when I returned the line was gone and when I took the harness below little (and very loud) Patricia absconded with it claiming it was hers. I have finally located an extra harness (they are to be had, as the survival suits, which nearly everyone wears but me because they have ones that fit, have built-in harnesses) but a line eludes me and Marek says they are in short supply. So where is the one I had to begin with? Is Polish boat...
9:55 AM. Well, that is a problem that can be attacked alone. There is a harness and line on a hook nearby that looks undisturbed for a while. I have put a special kink in it to identify if it gets used. If not, I snatch it and see if anyone hollers. Small progress elsewhere as well: as a result of a talk I had with Marek, the watch stations will be posted in the mess room at the beginning of each watch from now on, so people can know what to expect and make greater use of their time. One step at a time.
Much struggle with the Polish (and pan-European) font has got it all working except that the "z" and the "y" transpose, even in regular fonts, when the special keyboard is installed in the control panel file. Considering that Polish has more z's and y's per line than any other language on earth, this is most annoying but for the same reason it will become second nature quickly. However, it means that when I get the software corrected, I will have to reverse them again in everything I have written! Is Polish font...
Yesterday's rehearsal went nicely, with all four parts of "Hail Queen Of Heaven" mostly memorized by the gang. Atari the fiddle player along with Simon of course in the bass section could read the part, but otherwise it was entirely done through rote listening and repeating. Four separate tunes going at the same time. In the end, perhaps, a blend...
The weather has actually warmed up, though no sun, and a brisk breeze and rolling swell with big whitecaps keeps us trucking along under sail alone at six knots. A very Fortean explosion happened fairly high in the air just to port of the main mast this morning. It sounded like a shotgun blast, but much louder. At first I thought it was an engine backfire (the exhaust port is at the top of the main mast), but the engine was not on. Nor was it a sail pop, as the sails were very evenly filled out at the time. Mysterious atmospherics -- appropriate, as my talk at the teaching session last night was about the Fata Morgana in conjunction with Marek's remarks on fog, so I'll bring on the Barisal Guns tonight. (Further reports reveal that a number of similar aerial explosions have been heard over a period of several days, which have worried crew and officers. Now that they know it is a semi-common, though unexplained, phenomenon at sea, some relief is felt).
2 PM. The swell has increased to magnificent proportions, huge enough to be awesome but not enough to be scary. The waist is constantly awash, and those not in their boots and oilskins wait for a brief pause to race from the after cabin or galley to the main cabin or forward where it is still dry. We have come about so that the swell is now on our stern, so we run slowly aloft to the top of a wave and then back down in the valley behind it, from where we look up all around us and see nothing but blue-black North Atlantic water. I tried to get some pictures but the lens can't get the grandeur, though on my last shot of the roll I got more than I was looking for -- a face full of water as a wave came over the side and me, too. Coming about was a real trip this time as we had the square sail up, which hangs from a single yard from the foremast down to the deck rail like a Viking ship. As the new tack put the wind on our beam, the square sail went crazy, flapping like a mad beast, flinging the heavy metal sheet blocks all about. The order came to strike it, and as we tried to bring it down, it fought all the way, and despite several other sailors and myself cling to and laying on the lowered (port) half of it, it lifted us up in the air from the wind in the other side and nearly pitched us bodily over the foresail boom. Powerful and dangerous beast. Beasts lurk below us as well -- saw a large dorsal fin and back of what appeared to be a seriously-proportioned shark while on watch this morning. If you fall overboard, the cleanup squad is not far behind.
Went to hand the first edition of the bilingual sailor's dictionary to the captain this morning who was pleased to point out to me that he had my tape on his boom box that very moment (he had asked for a copy the night before). I asked him to think about copy for the crew certificates, now that the Polish font was in gear, and he said he thought it might be better to do them in English, for an international touch. Good idea, maybe a mix. Got to get the crew to understand that just as English was the lingua franca of the sea during the last century, it is that to the world now, and they need to know it to succeed, just as folks living in the Roman Empire had to know Latin or previously under Alexander, Greek. The dictionary will help that cause, being not just to acquaint us foreigners with the Polish sea lingo, but the other way round, which would be critical knowledge on any non-Polish ship. Pawel was delighted to see it, it being his brainchild, and promises to have many more additions (we have around 65 so far).
8:32 PM. A discussion with the captain on an almost VOC moon revealed he is in earnest about the job offer. Apparently there is another larger, much more well-appointed ship being completed, more like the Frederyk Chopin, of which he may become master. His plan is to take a mix of paying passengers and crew to the Antarctic and in the process resupply stations there. On board would be a (would you believe it?) media room with video equipment, etc. to provide passengers with something to take home whether they filmed it or not, plus general documentation. I am offered the position of general media person, documentarian, LO, protocol officer, what have you. I told him I had to make a living at it, and he asked what family I had and how old. Very expensive, he acknowledged, but it didn't seem to phase him. Pipe dreams perhaps, but who knows? I told him if the money was OK, he could count on me. A job is where you find it, these days. We talked about the iceberg, and he imagined filming a boat paddled through the middle passage, after which a time for a taste of the sponsor's rum, or whatever. Great minds...
August 2, 6:46 PM. A lovely, mild day, going under steam and sail for lack of much wind. Woke up drained, exhausted, could hardly make it to breakfast. I think it was a combination of dehydration and exhaustion, plus a bit of a lower tract bug which Marek had been complaining about as well. Ate and drank at breakfast to the max and collapsed back in bed for the rest of the morning, and by lunch was back in gear. Washed my hair at the waist, with salt water and shampoo, then fresh water rinse from canteen. Very pleasant, though some laughed at me, for apparently water isn't that rationed and you can do this with all fresh water inside. Not in our sink, which is cut off. Nevertheless, I never had a better shampoo, hair light and fluffy instead of a greasy mess.
I got the biographical questionnaire done, my first major crack at setting Polish, which went pretty easily, mostly questions of what do you do, why did you come, where are you going in life, etc.
Dinner had a new Polish dish, very ad hoc but I am told by Marek quite traditional: spaghetti with cottage cheese upon which you sprinkle sugar. Properly done at home, it also includes cream and butter. Cholesterol cocktail. I made do with lunch's revived goulash on my spaghetti but noted the custom. Not much else to say about today. Captain expressed concern about how Liverpool was to be handled, since he had to make up for dropping out of the race. He would like to do a concert for the rest of the ships' crews (albeit greatly reduced, as the South American and U.S. vessels packed up and went home after Boston). We'll see what turns up. Tony Davis has an evening ZC concert (Thurs., Aug 13, 7 PM) booked at a local concert hall and a Stan Hugill memorial(Fri., 14th) with all the singers at a local church. I have asked Tony to find some studio time to do a quick album in the midst of it all, but we'll see. It will all work out, no doubt. Get some shuteye, have the midwatch.
August 3, end of midwatch, God knows what time, somewhere in the vicinity of 3:30 or 4 AM. I say that because we are again changing time zones in true Polish fashion, not an hour at a time but by increments, so as to spread it out among the watches. By sometime tomorrow it will be an additional hour later, but till then, who knows? Poor Zusha, the watch assistant, found that in meting out the duties, each watch division got shortened by three minutes, making everything go at odd times, piled upon the initial odd time to begin with. An enjoyable watch, all in all, with a warm wind (by comparison) and a gentle rain setting in towards the end. When I took over the helm from Simon, the ship had been steering with difficulty, but as the rain began, the breeze dropped a bit and she began to steer so delicately and softly that just a single turn of the wheel would suffice to keep her on 80 degrees compass bearing. Lovely.
10:30-ish AM. Slept through breakfast, along with the rest of the mid-watch (Marek is still out), full of dreams and schemes. In dreamland I had a fairly involved meeting with some big advertising guy to whom I was introduced by a real small-timer. It turned out he was an artist and had known Dominic Turturro way back when and was definitely interested in the iceberg rum advertising idea. Went back to where we were staying and Chris had become romantically involved with a very pleasant older guy associated with the folks we were staying with. It actually was rather enjoyable to see -- go for it, Chris -- and far better than the homicidal maniac of a few nights earlier...
I went out on deck to see it had stopped raining and the Atlantic smelled very fresh and inviting, worth several delicious deep breaths -- had a very pleasant smile and good morning from the captain who had been noticing my obvious pleasure with the situation. Nothing to do up there, so back down to my bunk to lay dozing and musing, going over what I might be able to dig some money out of from this expedition. Contact Apple and MacWorld for story and possible support of ship. Recontact Smithsonian Magazine. Contact liquor companies about iceberg ad (if pictures come out half-decent) -- for the price of a regular ad they could finance an entire ZC voyage and have money for me and the captain, to boot. Also the possibility of marketing berg ice to the upscale consumer market in the U.S. It is surely a seductive product. Plus St. John's has most of the equipment to implement it overnight and all lying fallow looking for a job -- refrigerator ships and storage and shipping containers and a rich supply of ice just offshore. Call some ice companies and specialty food stores (like D'Agostino's) in the U.S. and inquire and write the mayor of St. John's to come in on it and try to make it happen. Such a product...enjoy the sound of the ages in your whiskey glass. Listen to the scintillating song of mammoths and mastodons, produced by the constant release of air from the time of the cave people before pollution was dreamed-of. Ice purer than the finest spring water yet older than the pyramids. You spend top dollar on the finest of spirits, why dilute it with suspect frozen tap water when you can enjoy the purest taste of prehistory for only a few dollars more...and it's an environmentally friendly infinitely renewable resource.
August 4, 1:45 PM, 50N15, 29W56, course 80. The morning watch at 4 AM started off most inauspiciously, as Simon and I stumbled up the companionway into the still dark and blustery wee hours. As we reached the top of the stairs and opened the door, the ship hit a particularly large swell and Simon lost his footing and control of the heavy iron door, which slammed back shut on his right wrist. It was all I could do to get the door back open when I, too, slipped and followed Simon down the lee side in the surf to the gunwale. Fortunately Asha had some special medicine to apply along with an ace bandage, which was astonishingly effective in reducing what should have been extreme swelling. Simon was up an about again, using the bandaged hand and wrist by breakfast, but I should say he was lucky it was not his fingers, which could have been permanently disabled by that kind of accident. I have been very paranoid of just such an incident (it has happened to several other crew members since I've been aboard), and try to be sure I insert my whole body in the door crack or nothing at all. And, of course, I still have no safety line (the one I had my eye on was taken, after all), so it's one hand for myself and one for the ship, how traditional.
The weather has cleared and we are rolling along at between six and seven knots. We are making good time and will be early if it keeps up like this. There is the off-chance, as always, that we might put into Cork if there is time (she was supposed to go there last year but was held up at Kiel for engine repairs), but this time I'd just as soon not. There is already too much for me to do before we reach Liverpool without spending a couple of days being full-time LO to the land of Irish whiskey (enjoyable as that might be).
Last night's teaching session had Marek on weather, Simon on the brig Niagara, and me with the navigation story of the Flying Fish leaving Beaufort, NC for Gibraltar and mysteriously winding up in Christensound, Norway because of a common math error in the sun's declination. A number of the crew are studying navigation and know the math of shooting the sun, and it was the first crowd I've told it to which could really appreciate the humor of the story. The captain, not to be outdone, told one of his own, wherein the fairly drunken skipper and mate of an oversized and underpowered Liberty-type freighter start off from Gdynia one evening for a port down the coast. They motor on all night and to their shock dawn finds them still in Gdynia. It appears they neglected to hoist the anchor...
10:15 PM. A lovely day of much rest (every 4th day kitchen watch, from which I escape). The watch rotation system is especially exhausting in a cyclical rhythm, as opposed to the shoreside night and day shifts. Your body never really has time to get readjusted to being awake at night, so on the two days of middle watch and morning watch, everybody is, in essence, asleep standing up, particularly on the latter. After the rotation, you need some extra recovery, and then it all happens again. It's very traditional in all maritime cultures, but there's got to be a better way, since accidents like Simon's are inevitable artifacts of the current system.
This evening we had a late rehearsal, in which "Queen of Heaven" finally started to come together, since all of the voices were there and most had real familiarity with the piece. A foo-foo band piece is being attempted, but it's slow going so far. After we had a small party for out youngest (15) Dominika, who's name day it is. We sang her songs and Jamie gave her a print of Charleston and I gave her a Virginia fairy cross with a card from the CSN and the sovereign state of Virginia. She was very happy. Jammed a while mostly on mandolin with Simon and some of the crew, doing everything from "Fishing Blues" to "Hava Nageela" as request for the captain. "10th St. Stumble" was a hit on harmonica and may become part of the repertoire. Afterwards spent time conversing with Asha in the cabin and later Simon joined us, which has spawned what may be yet another running (emergency amputation) joke, concerning the risks of injury for various (legitimate and illegitimate) reasons: "Get the rum. Asha, get the saw."
August 5, 7:35 AM, 50N35, 25W56. A night of light entertainment, TV in my dreams. I drive Angela Lansbury to where she was staying in Coconut Grove and, lo, there is a dead body in the apartment. Well, almost dead, so we call the emergency medics who take him to the hospital, but he dies on the way -- whodunit? Cut to a bus going up the upper East Side of NY, joking with the black driver about bus design (wraparound rubber bumpers would solve a host of problems). Bus turns into a cab and while stopped in traffic, an attractive young lady wanders out and hails us, is very tipsy and cannot remember who she is, needs help. Take her to Belleview? No way, this is a TV mystery, remember, and someone is probably after her and will do her in if the authorities are tipped off. Find a friend with an apartment to stash her safely away from the hit men until her memory returns, and so on...Kiwi wakes me and it's breakfast time with fish and onions and then the forenoon watch.
I was right about Cork. Marek buttonholed me on deck, fresh from the captain, and asked if there was anyone we knew in Cork to make arrangements for a free visit or if Tony Davis could do it. Here we go again. Ask Simon, maybe he knows, otherwise it's a ship-to-shore call to Tony when we are within range, which will be very short notice, because it will take a while for him to get into action and we will have to make a second call later to confirm. Also, tonight at 10 PM a party for the Americans...
10:51 PM. No party, cancelled till tomorrow on account of crew having to finish writing assignments on their visit to Canada. It's been buzzing like the night before final exams in high school around here tonight, sheets of paper filled with Polish on every flat surface available. Simon has been trying to help them write something real, like the captain wants, personal impressions of the experience, but he says that all that comes out is, "...the main street is called Water Street and there is a very famous tower on the hill..." and so on, straight out of the guide book. Like Marek says, writing -- or, indeed, thinking -- is not everyone's calling.
I was most flattered that the captain asked me today if I could stay with the ship beyond Liverpool at least through a visit to Dublin. I was very sorry to have to decline, but it will be all I can do to get my stuff in England done as it is. Next time, with higher pay, please. As further discussions with the captain and with Marek continue, the picture becomes clearer. The captain truly thinks he can swing an international maritime culture ship with backers from Poland, Germany, and elsewhere (I also had to decline the shipping magnates' party and regatta in Denmark on the way) and a ship from Poland. It is realized that Marek and I or anyone else teaching or promoting cannot go second-class or for cheap, so we'll see what materializes. Marek is in the same boat I am, sort of, needing to get paid for all this wonderful stuff that has been delivered too often for free, or he'll have to do something else. We scheme. I am invited to Poland for Krakow next winter, but this time to do that festival and a number of other gigs for real money ($!) on top of free airfare and food, etc., so maybe reality is around the corner in this biz. Also I am invited, if it can be put together in time, to a combination maritime and folk festival in Silesia the end of October which, with some other gigs on the side, will pay me about $1500 cash with air fare and all expenses paid on top. This is more like it. Plus there is astrology to be sold there, too, in which Marek is beginning to take a real interest. Keep them frying pans a-shakin'', Br'er John.
Simon has had no luck this evening with the ship-to-shore trying to reach his friends in Cork, so will try again tomorrow. It will be interesting to set foot in “the ould sod,” albeit only marginally my ould sod, but I'll take a piece to send back to Chris's dad. I hope they will be as receptive as previous ports to "Suddenly Zawisza" as it will be up to me to sell it to them over the radiotelephone. Since they had the tall ships last year, it may be a bit more dodgy to get everything for free on short notice.
As I am writing a crew member comes up to me and asks for a copy of the Polish-English Seaman's Dictionary (in progress). There has really been much enthusiasm for this, even among the usually aloof officers (I still don't have the bio forms back from Feliks and Tomac). I only had one copy of the English edition (alphabetized on the English side) left, but he was happy with that. Today's other project was an article to fax to Tony to feed the press about ZC's unique and somewhat neglected position as a loner in the fleet of tall ships. The captain has a real legitimate axe to grind here, as the ship has been repeatedly forgotten in the roll calls of official officers' receptions, she was designated to a dock with insufficient depth in New Jersey where she subsequently ran aground, and she was even forgotten when the shoreside tall ship billboards were passed out to every ship but ours. He's pissed, and rightly so -- no wonder we go off and do our own thing -- but how to express it? I think I got it right in an implied comparison between ZC and Wirral, both looking out for real people (read: Socialist and Labor parties) and being neglected and kicked around by the establishment (read: Tories), while the real people applauded our efforts. I hope I was subtle enough -- it is a good sign that Jamie read the piece and thought it beautiful and inspired(he asked for a copy) without a clue to its British political intent. Herewith:
Roving Ship Of Dreams
By John Townley, special to the Rappahannock Record, Kilmarnock, Virginia
In this regimented world of proper thinking, proper jobs, and proper behaviour, some people just don't fit in. The dreamers, the visionaries, and those whose direction in life is inspired from within rather than imposed from without often find themselves at sea in the world. Official society often doesn't have a proper niche for these most precious of souls who have the most to give and may be the least appreciated.
Ships are the same way -- particularly tall ships. Most are grand, impressive vessels, run shipshape and Bristol fashion, uniformed cadets scampering to their places at the signal of the boatswain's call. They make a marvellous backdrop for a picnic by the Mersey, but you might not want to live aboard one -- there really isn't much to do except swab the decks, peel potatoes, and run the rigging, hard and thankless tasks all. Not particularly fulfilling work, either, unless you believe that discipline is its own reward and is all you need in life.
Well, they're not quite all like that. Like, for instance, that one over there -- no, behind that giant Russian one, a little past the massive German one over on the left. Yes, it's that little three-masted staysail schooner (little, she's 140 feet long), she's Polish and she's called the Zawisza Czarny. Don't ask me how to pronounce that, but if you listen carefully, you can hear her crew singing together on deck. And if you accept their invitation to come on board, chances are you'll wind up joining in and dancing a hornpipe or a polka to the sound of fiddles, concertinas, mandolins, and a host of other shipboard instruments.
That's because Zawisza Czarny is -- well, a little different. She's not fast, not by any standard, being built on the slow but steady hull of a trawler. In fact, she didn't even try to win the tall ships race. She has better things to do: places to go, things to see, people to meet in a dozen ports and countries along the way. And most important of all, she has songs to sing. Of all the several hundred 1992 tall ships, sadly half of which turned tail and went home before even getting this far, she is the only one whose primary mission is not sail training, military discipline, or private or national promotion, but rather international maritime history and culture. Her crew of young Polish sea scouts know how to run the rigging with the best of them, and swabbing the decks and peeling potatoes are necessary chores for everyone, but their primary reason for being on board is to learn and perform the songs, dances, arts, crafts, and culture of the men and women who built and operated the tall ships of last century. For these scouts, history is not something you only see in a museum, but a living, breathing experience that pulls you in and lets you understand what it was that made our sailing forefathers and mothers so extraordinary. The tall ships are, after all, only reflections of the people who created them, and it is their voices that bring meaning to the winged masts and proud figureheads of their creations -- voices that too often get lost in the spectacle and clamor of the parade. They do not get lost on Zawisza Czarny.
For that important difference, the crew has paid the price. Literally. Unlike most of the other ships, there isn't any government or big corporate backing. Each member of the crew had to put out the equivalent of three months' of their families' wages to fund the voyage, gladly given for the cause. Fortunately, as the ship has travelled from one unscheduled port to another, giving dozens of free public maritime concerts and exhibitions along the way, generous townspeople and city governments have contributed ship's supplies and provisions to help her along with her mission. While the main body of the tall ships fervently raced between just a few ports (Cadiz, Lisbon, Las Palmas, San Juan, New York, Boston, Liverpool), this missionary of music, dance and maritime culture found time to visit Charleston (South Carolina), Baltimore, New Bedford (Massachusetts), Provincetown (Massachusetts), Halifax (Nova Scotia), St. John's (Newfoundland), and Cork, everywhere putting on performances and making lifelong friends along the way. She even stopped in mid-Atlantic to rendezvous with an iceberg and collect great chunks of prehistoric ice for the crew to taste and to take back in her freezer. She will yet see a half dozen more singing stops in Ireland, Scotland, and northern Europe before making her way back to her home port of Gdynia.
The other price she has paid? Oh, yes -- she has by this, of course, been disqualified from the regatta, a race she could never have won to begin with. But the reward is a wealth of experience, friendship, and international awareness in which the young scouts get the best of the deal. It is a race they have surely won.
You might also think that such a glamorous voyage would make her a star among the tall ships, but just the opposite has been true. That's what happens when you march to a different drummer. Among her fellow ships she has been all-too-frequently lost, misplaced, or forgotten. When she arrived in New York, she was shunted off to a pier which couldn't take her draft and she ran aground. Repeatedly, her captain has shown up at the official officers' gatherings to find his name and ship not even listed. No awards, no plaques, no trophies, no recognition -- not even the official tall ships billboard with public ship's information which the other ships received. This people-to-people approach apparently has its drawbacks...
Yet it should not come as a surprise to Britons and Americans who daily hear their governments tell them that what is important is production, not people, currency, not culture. With this kind of priority rampant around us, what wonder that a brave, little light like Zawisza Czarny finds herself so quickly and easily shunted aside? It happens to most of us, daily.
But to the thousands of everyday citizens who have clapped, sung, and danced along with the crew on both sides of the Western Ocean, Zawisza Czarny will be a long-cherished memory of an inside look at what the old tall ships and sailor life were really about, and many visitors will return again to the vacation ports where they saw her in hopes of repeating the experience.
That is as it should be. For when we see the dream enacted upon the stage, the dreamer within us awakes, and when we share another's vision, our own is brought to life. When we hear that different drummer, we recognize the echo of our own hearts. If your version of the land of tomorrow has real, live people in it and not just hardware, let us hope that on the sea at least, Zawisza Czarny and her ilk will have been mother of the fleet.
Come visit her at.....concert at....
August 6, 2:15 PM, 51N, 20W, under steam and sail, warmish and raining. It's scrub and grease her day. The whole crew is on deck unscrewing, greasing, and rescrewing everything that moves on the ship, chipping off rust, rewrapping and resplicing standing rigging, you name it. The main cabin is covered in sails being mended with needle and sail palm, in which Simon is gleefully participating, trying out his Polish on a new set of tasks.
Marek spent the morning translating the bio questionnaires, which went slowly as he's never really used a word processor before, so not quite eight got done. He assures me that between him and Pawel it will be done by tomorrow. I hope so, as I've got my work cut out for me after that to do forty thumbnail sketches based on what's been translated, plus the crew certificates have to be done, for which the captain has not given me copy. Then there's "Tom Bowling" to rehearse with Marek and Simon for Stan's memorial service and the newborn foo-foo band number to tighten, along with "Hail, Queen of Heaven" (which is actually going quite well). And all before next Wednesday, discounting anything getting done Sunday or Monday in Cork except liaison and performances. And of course a chart reading for Ela (in return for laundry) and one for Marek to get him into it sufficiently, and the usual maritime subject workshops. Next for me comes the history of ensouling ships with the Bequia mine story as example, which little Dominika is greatly looking forward to (are you going to tell it this evening?) but it keeps getting put off for other ship's business. Tonight at nine, drinks and party with the captain. Yesterday afternoon, he invited Marek and me into his office and produce three shot glasses of vodka, which we of course had to down in a single gulp. He jested that the reason I wouldn't stay on with them to Dublin was that the captain didn't serve enough rum and so he was trying to make up for it.
August 7, 12:40 PM, 51N14, 15W24. Drinks and party with the captain was a little more than just that. It was a dinner party for the Americans, which included also Derek from St. John's ethnic cultural center, Marek, Asha, Feliks and the captain's wife. Everybody dressed for the occasion, which for Simon and Marek was a clean, white St. John's t-shirt, for Asha fresh water pearls, for me Chileno jacket and hat with feather, the captain his black dress uniform, and Jamie in a suit and tie! What a stitch. Presented captain with the conch horn, which he sounded enthusiastically, and also captain's rank for him and his wife in CNHS. Many toasts in Polish beer, vodka, rum (we initiated the captain and his wife, plus Asha and Derek into WRECK) and cherry cordials. Yes, I was a little hung this morning. But in the food and service Andre absolutely outdid himself. The first course was chicken Kiev, which was more than I could eat, so I didn't finish mine, knowing there were two more courses to come. Next arrives whole rainbow trout in aspic, cool and delicious, well-garnished with pickled mushrooms and peppers. Finally, appears two platters with two little alligator shaped beasties garnished with onion cut into petals with raw egg yolks at the centers like daisies. They are made of steak tartar, served with egg yolk over chopped onions and peppers. You mash it all up together and it is simply delicious -- only the second time I've had steak tartar in my life. Michael, the crew member who was playing waiter, had put on a formal jacket, and what with the formal white linen and special glassware we could have been on the Cunard Line and not on ZC! Surely a night to always remember.
After the party we had the midwatch, and after we had done our "oko's" and "ster" Marek and I came down and tried to keep on translating crew bio forms but our brains were too muddled to get more than one very long and involved one done (the captain's wife), so gave up until next day. I lay down for just a minute's rest and didn't wake up until the watch was over. Today is warm, with calm seas and sparkling sunshine and blue water out to the horizon in all directions. Ireland is just around the corner, and Marek and I will spend this afternoon not enjoying the sunshine but slaving over a hot computer to get ten more forms completed. Then it's up to me to put them all together into something attractive and relatively cogent.
August 9, off the Head of Kinsale, southern Ireland, 11:30 PM. All translations completed, but what a task. 4-8 morning watch did me in again. Feels just like arriving at Gatwick, totally jetlagged. Not I alone, but the whole watch sleeps the morning till lunch to make up for it. Most of the last couple of days have been spent at the keyboard, except for time on watch with lovely weather and empty seas. Saw one very large seabird that might have been an albatross, but it never got close enough to really inspect clearly.
Had a good rehearsal today, foo-foo band is coming together, as is “Tom Bowling.” After showing pictures in our cabin Pati and Bozena announce we have a party, dropping a package of Skittles and M&M's on our desk. That's all it takes, get the grapefruit juice and we're off. But what do you do to entertain two very fast, smart young teenage girls? Videogames, of course -- glad I brought some along. Ensued an hour of great concentration mixed with glee as the hockey puck explodes or the helicopter drops the guy on the horse and extinguishes it, and so on. Pati is like lightning, knows computers, programs in Pascal. Tomorrow Cork, which seems to have been arranged entirely by the captain, so I will have less liaising to do, which is a relief, since there is too much else to do before L'pool, including making up my own certificate of honor -- kind of like wrapping your own Christmas present, though I'm assured by Marek that I will also get one done by Magda with her matchless illustrations, which I shall treasure.
Over the last several days, the ship has been repainted and varnished, all the booms taken off, rust spots sanded and repainted, a complete overhaul, including restowing half her stores. She's looking ready for a reception, crew is cleaning up for port, hopefully Ela will have my whites ready (did her chart), if not for Cork, then Liverpool. Simon did lots of revision and expansion of sea dictionary today and began work on a sail diagram. It will be interesting to see what the final disk of joint ZC computer accomplishments looks like finalized next Saturday when I have to come ashore. I will be sad to leave, but glad to get on with the rest of life.
August 10, 7:45 AM, Cork. We sighted Ireland in the mist first thing yesterday morning, and as the mist cleared it kept getting greener and greener. As we got into the River Lee the water itself took on a deep reflective green reminiscent of beer on St. Paddy's Day in the U.S. Cork is a goodly distance up the Lee, so we had a tour of various little towns along the way, three fortresses, and a small castle. Most noticeable was Cobh Cathedral, which is very large and beautiful and sits two blocks from the shore, with two rows of pubs and chandleries below it. The whole area goes to make up the "Holy Ground once more" of the song (to the Welsh, "Swansea Town," of course), as no doubt the church owned all that property at some time (maybe still does). As we passed a very large Swansea ferry, a cheer arose from the crew because her home port and flag was, of all things, Polish! The private architecture along the river is darling, with lots of Hansel and Gretel wedding-cake lace houses dotting the shorline. As the river narrows dramatically and forks, one comes to Cork proper, the river made tighter by the presence of large freighters and livestock ships at quays along the edges.
As we were warping our way in to the pier, a small currack propelled by two oarsmen who had followed us halfway up the river from a rowing club hailed us and struck up a conversation with Simon. After some discussion we threw them a line and brought them aboard for lunch. It was very fortuitous, as they (Frank and Patrick) are super nice people and well-connected here. Frank later came with his son David and girlfriend Victoria and whisked me off to the local newspaper for an interview, which was fortunate, as they were just going to run a picture with a caption and let it be, thinking there was no story. It was all I could do to get the reporter to listen, but when he finally did he got really interested, scribbled furiously and went off with pages of ZC promo promising us front page. We'll see. I have to do the same to the radio station this morning, concert is at 1 PM. We had Frank and Patrick plus wives and children for dinner, and Patrick's son Sean, still in diapers, got entranced with my ocarina and was so proud when he learned to get a sound out of it that he clapped for himself. By the time they left, I had taught him how to "gimme five" and he and all the kids were bouncing about the pier giving each other five on the way home. The evening was spent in a rather boring pub drinking local stout and feeling rather tired and drained.
A busy day ahead, getting pix developed, contacting Tony, xeroxes, fax, and the like if I can cadge same off tourist bureau. Then concert, then to sea.
6:50 PM. A busy day, indeed. We didn't get the front page (Ireland got a gold medal in the Olympics, first in 30 years) but an OK picture of Simon, the captain, and myself and a good article, with Simon referred to seriously as Simon Spaldynski, which we had told the reporter in jest. Marek and I spent the day doing errands, during which time we must have circumambulated Cork six times. A trip to the radio station where they did some sincere but confused xeroxing for us on an ancient machine and the news editor did a long interview with me (she couldn't handle Marek's accent), which aired later in the morning. At long last, we finally did manage phone calls to Tony and Aberdeen, using a phone card you buy at the post office here, and a fax to Tony, plus some more reasonable xeroxes for the captain, laundry for Marek, and photo development (most came out with a drab yellowish tinge, need color correction, though a few came out perfectly balanced, mysterious). And, of course, the concert, for which there was a modest but sufficient crowd, well enough to surround the concert and dance area on the quay. Not a great performance, either, as the crew was a little worn out from staying up for a pop music festival that happened to be going on last night.
Cork is small, but very intensely commercial, with every kind of shopping you would want, including a wonderful meat and vegetable market with all sorts of very fresh and inviting things to take home to cook. The people here are very reticent, which Simon had previously warned us of, and do not warm up easily. You have to go out of your way to be extra inviting, charming, and outgoing to get a rise out of anybody, with few exceptions. You really see it in the small kids, who are terminally shy and will not even easily meet your gaze (or participate in the concert, as the dancers found out). How different from Newfoundland, where people accost you on the street just to tell you a good story...Nevertheless, Marek and I were accosted on the way out of the launderette by a young lady from Kerry who said how much she enjoyed us and how Celtic it sounded (small surprise) and it reminded her of home. Now that's a compliment to an American and a Pole both playing Irish music in disguise!
Got last-minute postcards off to Patrick in the currack as we pulled out, with the captain doing a masterful spin of the ship in the river hardly wider than her length, and off we went, waving to our new-found friends, back past castles and forts and cathedral and a ship from Riga with her name painted in white European letters just above the raised, but blacked-out name in Soviet cyrillic. Fortunately I got hungry in town and had some chicken kebabs, because Andre did his first major disaster for dinner, a very peculiar thing intended to be pizza. It was on a sort of chewy crust, with a very strong, sharp cheese and lots of sauteed onions, and to ameliorate the edge of the cheese there was a sweet cream and cottage cheese sauce to put over it. Why have just one dose of cholesterol when you can have two? No problem...
I found my whites sparkling on my bunk this afternoon, Ela true to her promise. Mid-watch tonight, which will not help last-minute efforts mostly at computer, followed by morning watch the day of arrival in Liverpool, compounded by Moon in Aquarius. I shall be a wreck when I least need it -- fortunately I'll stay on the ship until Saturday, which will make for an easier recovery than staying at Tony's.
August 12, 9:30 AM, anchored off Cammel-Laird's, Birkenhead. Yesterday was a long haul, but a successful one. The crew has been in a turmoil because the pressure of work and performance has gotten too much for some of them, so Marek has had them meet a couple of times in the main cabin to let off steam and thrash it out. Most of their complaints are about the officers giving them too much work and not enough control over their own lives, whereas the officers complain that they have to do too much work and the crew is undisciplined. Both sides have something to be said for them, but it is as usual lack of communication and a clear idea of the ship's mission and its priorities that are at fault. My comment to Marek and Pawel: where is Fletcher Christian when you need him?...This, too, shall pass, but I hope it does not damp their ability to perform well here, where it is so important.
Attending these grousing meetings took up a lot of time when I should have been getting the crew biographies done, but I got myself excused from watches after my turn at the helm yesterday afternoon and worked through until one o'clock to get it done. I woke up this morning and sighted Fort Perch, and it never looked better. Definitely brought tears to my eyes. I printed out the bio piece (it runs seven pages, small type, and reads well) and donned my whites and brought it to the captain, who immediately went below to read it. I meanwhile chatted with the pilot who, it turns out, is a good friend of Phil and Joy Hockey and Tony and Beryl, and we generally gossiped about Liverpool. The captain came up later and escorted me for a meeting down to our cabin, where I found a bottle of Polish Luxury Vodka ("distilled from select potatoes") awaiting me on my bunk. I guess he liked the piece. We had a lovely chat about computers and ship program possibilities (the Polish ballet school, it appears, is ready to sail with him, just given the word and a large enough ship). Now we await the opening of the lock about ten twenty (the engine just turned on as I write), and hopefully Tony Davis and company waiting to greet us at the pier with (as he phrased it over the ship to shore) "tons of food and money." In my Liverpool home...
10:45 PM. What a hassle! It turns out all the money and food (tons of it, literally) has been created by an underinformed and overenthusiastic newspaper campaign that depicted us as starving Poles. After docking (a magnificent maneuver on the part of the captain in space that required a tug and lots of dockhands, of which we had neither) the Wirral Globe showed up with a van full of food and lots more to come, with two mayors to have their pictures taken as a part of the generosity campaign. The captain wouldn't have his picture taken with the piles of stores loaded on deck, not wanting to be seen taking handouts. I filled in for photos with Miss Wirral Globe in miniskirt, et al, assuring captain that spin control is in full swing and everything will be OK. I hope it will. Spin doctor Townley. I subsequently arranged for extra stores to go to big Ukrainian ship Tovarich, which Tony assured me was really starving, but ran across our captain on the pier on way to crew barbecue who wasn't so sure and didn't want "propaganda" made of how we redistributed what we didn't need, and maybe the smaller ships needed it more. It's not propaganda, captain, it's publicity, and there is a difference, the difference between slanting the truth and outright lies. Giving to your former oppressor (but not quite) is perfect, but don't be too proud to take advantage of what you deserve.
Otherwise the day has been OK, with Hendryka meeting us on the pier and Tony rushing about as usual. A big stage has been prepared around the corner from us mainly for the Dutch pilots, but apparently it's insufficient for their stage set needs, which they will do at the theater tomorrow night. I already have a whole day tomorrow of performing with Simon on the Krusenstern, the local radio, plugging one of our donors (Premier Foods) for newspaper pix, dealing with food arriving and possibly departing first thing in the morning, and concert at night. Plus to do something on the stage, which will apparently be empty. Moon in Aquarius I do not need. Perhaps Friday will be an improvement, but tomorrow does not look good. At least the crew is balling it up at the barbecue, which I briefly visited, to the sound of a Beatles clone band brought all the way from Russia.
August 18, 8:45 AM, ashore at Tony and Beryl Davis's, Wallasey. I have done a horary on each port we visited and all but Liverpool were rosy and came out on the mark. Not so Liverpool, which showed moderate success after great difficulty, and so it has been. But to continue where I left off...the next day was VOC all day and totally screwed up. We had a lovely meeting with the shipping agent and shore liaison officer in the morning, in which the former did everything for us and the latter nothing. Since we were on time and not early like everyone else, there were no regatta badges left, and not even enough hastily-printed crew permits to go around to assure the crew getting safely on and off the grounds (the docks area is cordoned off and folks are charged £4.50 to get in). No tourist guides are available and the only map is a single xeroxed one of Birkenhead, of which there is only one copy, so the crew is virtually confined to quarters by lack of information and not speaking the language, the same as happened in New York. Plus the phone company will not take my credit card number, so I am incommunicado with home, which resulted later in much needless stress and grief. Not good. Nevertheless, the agent has their act together and I get compliments for organization in front of the captain and they take all my material to bring back as a real formal press package that afternoon. Jane Young and David Williams of the Wirral Globe arrive on time at one to whisk me off to Premier Foods, which will turn into another fun fiasco, since I am supposed to be singing at two on Merseyside Radio and two-thirty on Krusenstern, which just won't happen. Marek and I arrive at the factory in Morton, which is huge (acres) and produces Typhoo tea and Cadbury chocolates, to find the manager is absent and the photographer has not arrived. So we wait, and finally assistant manager offers to take us on a tour of the tea operation, so we go, giving all hope of making the singing gig and figuring to go with the flow and enjoy it. It was quite fascinating, inspecting machines that cleverly turn raw tea and packaging materials into a finished, sealed product at blinding speed. An hour and a half later the photographer finally arrives, also the manager, and we get our pix taken accepting a carload of tea and chocolates as well as personal shopping bags full of tea, which I later gave to Bob and Moya Buckle as a house present. I also cadged a handful of really interesting tea-maker hats which we were required to wear while touring -- they are quite nautical, and I gave one to Andre and Simon, as well as Marek.
When we finally got back to the dock, I rushed off to the Krusenstern, an hour late, expecting to find Simon there. No sign of him, only a very put-off lady who is running the obviously well-heeled private party there who informs me we were supposed to have been there at 12:30 and the party's virtually over. I bowed out, leaving Tony to sort it all out later, and wandered off to the Merseyside Radio tent where I found Tony and did a set for them, after all. Unbeknownst to me, Simon now woke up from his bunk, where he had fallen asleep exhausted hours earlier, and raced over to the Krusenstern, encountered the same lady, but refused to be put off by her and played solo until five, brave lad. To use the current British term, a cock-up all around.
When I got back to the boat, Marek was missing and Tony informed us that we all had to be on the bus to the theater at six, leaving no time for dinner for the crew. Well, the crew had dinner anyway -- Polish boat, no problem -- while Tony managed to hold the bus for almost an hour. We arrived at the Gladstone theater in Port Sunlight twenty minutes before curtain time, with Tony literally coming unglued, sure his whole show was about to come to pieces. I was being overly confident, telling him not to worry, no problem, which he didn't appreciate at all. But I had seen the Poles repeatedly spring into action in foreign quarters with amazing speed and accuracy, bringing astonishing order out of the greatest seeming chaos, so I figured it would happen again. It did. Pepan checked out the sound system, Artur eyed the flies for places to string up the dead horse and Southern Cross, and right on time the show went on and they did the best performance of the trip. Brilliant. Just five minutes before the Americans are due on stage, Bob Webb showed up (unheard from to this moment) and we walked on unrehearsed (Bob, Simon, and I) and proceeded to do a faultless twenty-minute performance. After that, the Dutch pilots elaborate stage settings and formal presentation, skilled as it was, was an anticlimax, as we were repeatedly told by audience members later. The Poles stole the show, and I am very proud of them.
I had to make a special point of that the next morning at 8 AM colors assembly aft, spin doctoring away, as the captain had been so impressed by the Americans' performance that he ragged on the crew for not doing well, which was simply not so. So I gave a nice Polish speech to them telling them that they had shown extreme valor and professionalism under fire and that if the captain informed them their next performance would be in hell, Pepan would simply plug his system into the brimstone, Boshka would lead her dancers fearlessly through the flames, and all of us would get a standing ovation from the devils all around. That did the trick, as they very much needed and deserved praise and not further criticism at that point, particularly as they still had a record album to do on Saturday.
Friday afternoon brought us on the bus to St. Nicholas seaman's church in Liverpool for a service for Stan. I had quietly passed out "Celebrate Stan" buttons to the select (none to Chris Roche & Co.) -- Mystic had shipped me some which were waiting at Tony's -- and Bron was very weepy but glad to see her friends, and Martin and Phillip were quite cheery and welcoming. Throughout the service I found myself fighting back tears, very uncertain that I would be able to perform when the time came. Hearts of Oak did "Fiddlers Green," an old friend of Stan did a testimony, and the Dutch pilots did "Rolling Home," and the Poles did "Hail, Queen Of Heaven," followed by a tribute from Tony. Then my turn. I took my guitar to the center of the nave and leaned on it, eschewing the badly-miked pulpit, and talked about Stan, the Batu Cave, and Robin for a few minutes and then brought up Marek and Simon to do "Tom Bowling," which we played and sung quite ably under the circumstances, my voice breaking on the harmony twice, more from fatigue than emotion. Then Martin and Phil did "Liverpool Packet" (with very nice mandolin work by Martin), and after a long prayer by the priest and "Eternal Father, Strong To Save" it was over and we said our farewells, got our pix taken with the priest for the Catholic news, and took the train home. Not much else that day, went to bed early exhausted and wrung out.
After congratulatory certificates with speeches for Simon and me at colors, Saturday was an all-day recording session. We took off early for Bob's, as it was an hour trip by foot and subway. The Poles were a merry caravan, bearing various foo-foo instruments and crates of oranges and chocolates on their heads along the way. We found lots of ripe raspberries along the fences going up Victoria Street in New Brighton, just out of the station, which everyone stopped to pick and eat. It was quite a long walk, and for a while they began to think I was leading them into oblivion. Nevertheless, when we got there Pepan was very happy with the studio and I just leaned back and let them all produce and arrange, as between Pepan, Atari, Marek, Bob, and Simon there were more than enough producers to go around. I just came in periodically and checked to make sure it was going all right and went and bought lunch and snacks for everybody at the local grocery. The performances were not as good as some they had done live, as they were really at the end of their tether energywise, but for a five-hour two-track album it was not bad at all. It poured rain when everyone left and we had to go fetch them from the street with the cars we had arranged, because they just up and rushed off into the rain when it was over.
There was just time at the boat for Simon and I to change costume and head for Merseyside Maritime Museum by train for a paying gig being nautical background music for a reception by Royal Mail. We were well taken care of by the staff, who made sure we were properly watered and fed, and we left early to get back to the boat for the shipping agent's private party. There I found myself lionized with speeches by the captain and yet another bottle of vodka to take home and played with Marek and Simon on deck until I finally dragged all my belongings to Tony's car about one in the morning and bid all farewell. In the midst of all this, the strain began to show. Atari collapsed and had to be carried to his bunk. Piotr had a panic/stress attack that everyone thought was a heart attack and was carried to hospital by and ambulance. The captain and LO carried on smiling throughout, and the ship sailed on time the next morning, with Piotr back aboard and her sails all set and lovely.
Sunday I slept in and woke up with a cold and sore throat, a general systemic breakdown after 40 days of stress. Still, up and to work, as Tony and I had to go down and sing the ships out as in 1984. The agenda was the same, with speakers all along the promenade from Birkenhead to New Brighton and even the same BBC announcer, Alan Jackson, plus Mick and Cliff of the Spinners. The only difference was that it was I leading the crowd in "Blow The Man Down" and being the main interviewee, not Stan, and Chris was not with me. Sorrowful de ja vu, indeed. Tried to reach home when I got back, but there was no answer.
Yesterday was my 47th birthday and a mixed blessing. I spent most of the day driving around with Tony on various errands, including getting haircuts at his haircutter Shirley's house. I had intended to try to call home again as soon as we got back, but Chris beat me to the punch with a terrible, unhappy call of where are you, everything is awful, why have you abandoned us but don't bother to come home for all of it, and so on. Happy birthday. Tony and Beryl took me out to a lovely Indonesian restaurant at the Albert Dock for a birthday dinner, after which we visited a sailboat with some friends of Tony and Beryl who had just been around the world after getting married in the South Seas. Finally we went to the Monday jazz club where I was put up to sing "Sailing Down the Chesapeake Bay" on the spot with the jazz band. It's a good thing they remembered all the words, because I certainly didn't. Plus, they do it at half the speed it was written, so phrasing what is essentially rag doggerel at such a ponderous and meaningful pace was more challenge than I was up to by that time of night. Oh well.
No time for rest when we got home, as I called Elizabeth Morrow at Blair-Murrah to find she had already signed a contract for me the same weekend as the astrological conference at Dallas, so I now have to cancel that at the price of Madalyn's everlasting resentment and some considerable harm to my newly-reborn astrological frying pan. The final, happier conclusion to a very mixed birthday was another call to Chris with much more cheering results -- that I am wanted and welcome at home, after all, it's just been a difficult summer all around. On that happy and hopeful note, I will end this tale. After 3265 nautical miles, eight ports and an iceberg, and forty days of untold (well, partly-told here) joys and burdens, including some hopes of a new career, this journey is ended, and with it, my journal.
|Copyright © John Townley 2006. All rights reserved.|