Friday, February 6, 2009

Wow. This is really something else.

Unfortunately I am unable to upload any photos yet but must share what I have done up to now. On my last night, The Heathens played an incredible show at The Avalon Bar in Costa Mesa, where I have been helping out. So many people showed up and I was so flattered. There were so many incredible motorcycles out in front and along the side of the bar. We played what felt like a blistering set, precluded by Mr. Ryan Ritchie and his public address, which was a great success and great to hear. We also were able to play a Naked Soul cover which is one of my favorite songs that Mike Conley, who built the Avalon Bar, wrote during his time in that band. It felt good to play that one as a thank you to him and to Sid, who has been such a very good friend to me and has been so supportive during this transition. I had only a few hours of sleep before driving 100 miles-an-hour to LAX to make my flight to Seattle, Alaska Airlines hub and home of my sister, Terae. She picked me up on the 1st of February and we drove around Seattle, where I saw the most incredible 1970's Ford LTD full show custom that had been put out in a driveway to rot. I took video and when you see it, you will die. Drews will die. Trevelen will die. Harpoon will have a stroke. This is the real deal. I can't wait to post it up for everyone. The 34 Ford is now officially up for sale.

I flew into Orlando on the second of February and rented a car from National. Since my flight landed at 9:30pm, it was drive the two hours to St. Petersburg, where the ship is docked, or sleep there at the airport. I chose to drive and aside from having to run an unmanned tollbooth for lack of exact change, there were no problems all the way to the St. Petersburg Pier. I did stop at the tollbooth and wrote a note with a dollar attached to it. I tried to stuff it under a door but they make it so you can't do anything like that...presumably so they can say you didn't try to pay after going thru so they can charge you 40 dollars penalty. Frustrating but I still left the note and dollar at the toll door. So on to the pier. I arrived about midnight and parked on the Pier. Walking up was odd. The ship was silent and is docked right at the end. I didn't dare to get too close. It was dark and what an interesting feeling to think I am going to be on that old ship for a month. I wondered if back when the original bounty was in Florida in the 1800s', was there a guy looking at her docked at midnight before boarding the next day thinking and feeling the same way I was. Interesting mix of emotions but as excited as I was, I was certainly tired and knew that I needed to get some sleep before showing up the next day. Off I went to find the Clearwater Airport. The closest and only National Rent a Car in the area. I found the airport about 20 minutes away after driving lost for two hours, pulled behind a Motel 6 and slept uncomfortably until 8:30am, February 3rd. After dropping the car off, I proceeded to walk a mile to find 49th Street, where I caught a bus to the St. Petersburg Pier. A short walk and I was standing on the gangplank looking onto the ship and a blonde guy and a shaggy, dark haired guy working on lines. I hailed and the blonde guy looked up and asked if I was Gabriel. I said I was and he said he was also. Neat. He was working with Adam, securing rigging. Much of what they were working with I was lost on but recognized the masts, some rigging and some other details I had drilled into my head over the last month or so. They welcomed me aboard and sent me to the tween'decks, which is below the top deck or the middledeck to find Rebecca, who is the girl I met when Rodney and I first saw the ship in San Pedro, California at the Tall Ships Festival. We were out for a fun drive in the 1967 International Scout I had just finished dialing in and came across the festival. Rodney and I went aboard and I asked some questions of Rebecca. She told me to take a brochure and send a resume if I wanted to work aboard ship. I sent the resume as soon as I got home. She and her husband Caleb have been aboard for the last 5 years and were tween'decks to greet me as I came down. She introduced me to the Captain, who happened to be aboard at the time and to her husband, who she had previously spoke about. They were all very nice. As far as the Captain goes, all my reading up to now has said that only Officers can speak to the Captain unless he speaks directly to you. I don't think it is as strict as that here but just to be on the safe side... I put my bags down and asked Rebecca to put me right to work. She had shown me the crew quarters, which were on the lowest level of the ship and would have been storage originally. One level below tween'deck. There was a four-bunk room that was primered but not painted. There are four-four bunk rooms in all in the cabin area, no more than two sets of bunks, upper and lower, facing each other. Think two bunk-beds with 12 inches of space between them and that's it. I asked if I could paint on of the rooms to start and Rebecca had no problem with that. It actually took me two days to complete but everyone was so nice up to this point that I figured that I would haze myself and take a crappy job to start it all off. Before I cornered Caleb to show me the 'bosuns area, where the paint and tools are stored, Rebecca took me up into the rigging for the first time. I'll be honest. That is a crazy feeling to be so high up and just hanging on by a net. I later went up with Gabe the Younger and he's all over, crawling WAY up, finding holds where I don't even see them to pull himself up. I am sure this all comes from experience but he says he has only been on this particular ship a month. I hope that I can become more confident climbing around. It is still nerve-wracking up there.

I finished the painting project Thursday night after dinner and turned in. During the day, the crew members give guided tours of the ship on the half-hour from 11am to 4:30pm. At the end of Wednesday, I gave my first tour. Trial by fire, I guess. I had followed a couple of them on their own tours to see exactly what they said and maybe copy a bit of it but you get your own rhythm and after a while, the 30 minutes seems like 5 minutes. Thursday I helped Adam and Gabe the Younger to secure some lines and ran a few tours. Today, Friday, the 6th of February, Caleb and I attached a plywood bench off of the side of the ship and from a foot off of the water, proceeded to hammer a large chizzle between the planking along the length of the ship, near the fore, or front. Into this space we will be laying oakum, a thready substance which looks like dirty cotton and smells like tobacco along the seam and hammering it into the seam to keep out water. That, I think, is a priority.
Since my motorcycle accident, my shoulder muscle isn't what it used to be. With my broken scapula, the nerves have been blocked which allow the shoulder muscle to regenerate. I was worried about my strength and notice it is slightly weaker than my right arm but really feel it in my elbow after pulling myself up twelve feet by rope to get from the platform back to the deck of the ship. I'll survive and hope the flexion and extension I am putting it thru will help it to become stronger. I also dove off of the ship into the water after we stopped working. My right eardrum blew out when I hit the water and when I came up for air, I was noticeably out of it, almost like vertigo. I could also taste the saltwater coming thru my ear canal, which I didn't like. I swam back to the ship and swore off the water until I can have that looked at.

We have been eating very well, Caleb and Rebecca cooking large dinners for the five of us. I have not really had time for anything but eating, sleeping, reading up on lines and the ship, and work. I miss talking to all of my friends but know that I will be back in March, where I can spend some quality time with my friends, get some projects completed and hopefully get my rooms rented and come back for the Atlantic crossing.

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