I was born in the wrong century.
Okay, maybe I wasn’t. Because I do know how physically demanding a life at sea was in the centuries before the development of the steam engine. And I doubt I would survive if I had to work 17 hour days, climb masts 100 feet high, haul miles of rope that weigh hundreds of pounds, scrub and clean thousands of yards of canvas, and hundreds of feet of wood deck, raise said canvas up said masts, lower said canvas down said masts, and all the while subsist on maggot-ridden crackers, rancid jerky, and brackish water. Add the fact that all of these tasks often had to be performed in downright rotten weather, including ferocious ice storms and hurricanes, and well, I wouldn’t have made it out of the port of departure. Nope. Life at sea pre-1900 is definitely not for me.
But a couple of hours pulling on some rope to raise a sail, and steering a replica schooner from the 1770s, while laughing and taking pictures? That I can definitely handle.
And that is what I did today. J and I headed down to Dana Point for an Adventure Sail aboard the Spirit of Dana Point, a replica, as I mentioned, of an 18th century schooner – the type of ship used during the American Revolution – and while life aboard this type of ship in its heyday was strenuous, demanding, and dangerous… today, it was one of the most incredible experiences of my young-ish life!
We not only set sail along the beautiful coast of Dana Point on the 100-foot Spirit, but we also “helped the crew,” with the tasks of running a sailing ship, like raising the sails. And I helped steer for a few minutes too. That was the epitome, the crème de la crème – I was standing at the ship’s wheel, turning it here and there to keep the ship headed on its course, which I tracked by reading the compass mounted in front of me. Just as real sailors did in the good ol’ days before the dawn of GPS and radar and satellite tracking software…
I steered a ship.
I steered a schooner.
I am still in awe that I was actually at the wheel of a real time sailing ship and I was steering it.
We don’t need to mention that I managed to steer the schooner about 10 degrees off course. We’ll skip that part.
Needless to say, it was a breathless two and a half hours. I felt like a kid at Disneyland when I pulled the halyard to raise the sails (along with 10 other people, but still). I felt a deep peace when we got out to sea, and all we could hear was the slight patting of the waves against the hull, and the creak of the masts and ropes as the sails pulled on them. It felt like a journey to another plane when I stood at the ship’s wheel and steered it. I was so absorbed in what I was doing, so enthralled with the task in front of me, that nothing else was there. Just me and the Spirit of Dana Point and the green waters of the Pacific all around.
Maybe I was born in the wrong century. But regardless of which time should be my own, I definitely love experiencing the maritime past!