Sunday, August 3, 2008

Surprise Prepares For Los Angeles Festival of Sail!

Bert Creighton
MMSD Volunteer

In the coming days you'll get to meet many of us through this blog as we report our experiences aboard a movie star, HMS Surprise. You'll get to know a little about our volunteers that come from all walks of life, to form a crew that loves tall ships - and is fortunate to sail them. Perhaps you'll catch the bug and come join us as we continue "the great age of sail."

The crew list for our upcoming Surprise voyages was published last Thursday. HMS Surprise will sail three legs in the next few weeks. First up is the San Diego to Los Angeles (San Pedro) leg, where we'll take part in the Los Angeles Festival of Sail. The second leg is a transit from Los Angeles back to San Diego. Once back in our home port we'll get the ship ready to head out to San Diego's Buoy 1, just offshore from Coronado and Pt. Loma, where we will rendezvous with the other tall ships taking part in San Diego's Festival of Sail (FOS as we call it) and we'll parade into San Diego, one after another. This will kick off the largest event ever held on San Diego Bay, a "don't miss event."

Earning A Sail Crew Position

I was excited to see my name on the 1st leg and 2nd leg roster for several reasons. I worked in West Los Angeles for the past five years (VP of Marketing) and I have friends, relatives and co-workers that have all heard me talk about our wonderful Museum and maintaining and sailing our ships - and now they can come see us, or should I say we're going north to see them! Beyond seeing everyone onboard Surprise there is the purely romantic notion of going to sea on a tall ship (OK, even if it is for only 5 days). I know my crew mates share thoughts of sailing on a ship made famous by Russell Crowe and the movie Master and Commander.

I remember seeing Master and Commander with my wife. I felt like I was taken back to the Napoleonic battles, the transoceanic sailing, the resourcefulness of the crew, and life aboard the 6th Rate Frigate. The movie's soundtrack also was enthralling. Do you remember the film's credentials?

Winner: Best Cinematography, Best Sound Editing

Nominee: Best Picture, Best Director (Peter Weir), Best Art Direction--Set Decoration, Best Sound, Best Editing, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup, Best Visual Effects

After seeing the movie, being able to be one of the first crew to start maintenance work on Surprise two years ago was an honor. My first tasks in 2006 were learning how to "rattle down" - spicing the ratlines onto the shrouds after we first cut away the old ones. Fast forward to today - much rigging, painting, installation of new safety systems and much more have been completed. Our ship's spirit is renewed after her movie sabbatical. Commands are being called out again, the deck and rigging are busy with hands preparing to leave San Diego.

Coming Together As A Crew

Today we "sailed at the dock." Captain Welton first assigned us to our masts and talked to us before we went to muster with our mast captains. I was assigned to the Forem'st under Mr. Herndon. I was on the Star of India's Forem'ast crew last November, so this was a mast assignment on Surprise I was pleased with (though you could put me on any mast and I'd be as happy as a clam at high tide).

Welcome to the Dog Pound!

Mr. Herndon assigned me to the top crew (woo hoo!) and to the "dog pound" - the crew that mans the Dog Rail (near the cat heads, below the ratlines). Dog, cat, rat - I wonder if Noah came up with these names on the Ark?

Soon the Captain's orders were heard and the mast captains began translating them into the many actions we must execute. The climbers laid aloft and put all sails into their gear. This was the first of many evolutions we'll go through as a crew over the coming weeks, putting sails into their gear, manning the braces, furling and hosting guests aboard Surprise. 

Foremast Crew is "making up gaskets" after putting sails into their gear.

Surprise's Mains'l in it's gear, the Main Tops'l set.

We continued training until the noon meal was served aboard the Star of India - stew, rolls, "bug juice" and birthday cake to celebrate the 50th birthday of Yankee (that's another story).

We had a final muster with the Captain then put a good harbor furl on our sails. There was a lot of discussion among the crew about our upcoming adventures aboard Surprise. Some talked of the items they will bring aboard, and others talked about the meals and the weather. I can picture these same discussions aboard tall ships since they first began their oceanic travels.

Our modern lives will soon be put aside for a little while and we'll be focused on sailing Surprise north to join crews from other cities, states and countries. Surprise will be our time machine, joining us with the crews that sailed before us. Wind and tide will carry us off and we'll post more to our blog soon - bc.