Friday, March 23, 2012

It's A Small World

We have arrived at Atlantis once again.  For almost 12 years, Steadfast has come and gone from the port of Nassau and never graced the docks of this august realm.  This season, we are now amazed to report our third visit in three months!


I LOVE it here!

Yesterday, we pulled into Paradise with two seasick guest-sailors aboard, just around mid-afternoon. 
 (I'm not pointing any fingers or making accusations, but some people just can not drink all night and  sail the next day.  Enough said.)

Our slip assignment put us alongside the Discoverer on one side and Modus Vivendi on the other.  Two sailboats.  
Two different stories.

Modus Vivendi is home to two adorable little girls who are in love with Nelson, and he with them.  They hail from Toronto's RCYC.  Small world.

The fourteen sailors on Discoverer are all from the British Military Services.

Built as a racing sailboat in 1991 and refitted in 1996, Discoverer is a steel hulled, 67 foot British Armed Forces training vessel.  A crew of 14 mans this vessel at all times, wherever it sails.  

They do things the hard way....
There are no port holes.  With a steel hull and steel decks and no ventilation, the boat is a floating hot box.
They do around-the-world races, backwards, against the prevailing winds.
Sails are hung and raised as needed, not stored on deck.

Check out the view from the main companionway...this is no leisure cruiser!!!!
It's all business, a lesson in claustrophobia and endurance.

Three to a cabin, hot bunks, meaning, one crew sleeps in the bunks, while the other crew stands watch, and then they switch. 
We're talking sweating, unbathed men here, six days, or more, at sea at a time.  They hit the marina docks running for the showers.

Can you spot the "lee cloths"?  They are slings clipped in to keep a body from falling out of the narrow births as the vessel keels over to one side or the other.

 The forward vee-birth area has been given over to storage for fenders, sails and extra lines.
There are two heads, the kind where you sit on the John and hose yourself down with cold water for showering.

The "Wet Locker"...can you smell it???
And the boat had aired out before our visit!!!!!

I had to go for a second tour to take pictures with no people.  Photos of men in service are not allowed to be published online, or so they say.
Yes, they have volunteered to serve this duty.  They pay their own flights to join the crew wherever it might be when their tour begins, and then their flights home again.  Still and all, they get to see and enjoy places they would never ordinarily afford to visit.  They are on duty, paid a wage by the service of the force they belong to for the duration of their voyage.  Russ laughingly told us he was "on the job" while floating down the "Lazy River" ride and taking a plunge down the "Abyss" water slide.

We asked them how this worked.
What is the point of this endeavour?
How does the military benefit from this sailing, racing around the world?
What do the individual service men get from this?
Why do men and women volunteer for this duty?

We toured their boat.
They came aboard Steadfast.
Beer and wine were involved.
Admiral Lord Nelson was much vetted.

It took awhile, but eventually, this is what we came away with:
A tour of duty onboard the Discoverer is a perk.  Service men and women request permission to crew her.  Tonight we met a totally, all-male crew.  Two weeks ago, there were five women and nine men onboard.  Crews change over on a two week basis during these expeditions.  The boat had just crossed from Portsmouth, England, to Saint Thomas in 6 days, then Saint Thomas to Nassau in six days.  In twenty-four hours, they will make Miami.  (Change of crew.)   From there, they head for Eastern Canada--Halifax,  (change of crew) and then to Alaska.  There are 21 vessels of various types in this British Military Training program cruising around the world and 4500 service men and women participating in expeditions annually.  Assignments vary in length from one week to one year.

Veterans of Afghanistan and Libya "take a cruise" to help them rehabilitate back into non-combatant life conditions, even those with physical and mental wounds.  The support of military brotherhood helps them bridge the leap from the regimented life of the corps to routine daily life.  One of the men we met had just finished his seventh tour in Afghanistan.

Some of the men we met were near the end of their military careers.  Some were just beginning.
None of them had known each other before their time aboard Discoverer began.  Engineers, Medics, Cooks, Pilots, non-sailors, Captains, Lieutenants, Sergeants, Army, Air Force, Navy...they are a real mix that has to work at being a team. 

It seems the focus is on learning and re-enforcing team building and leadership skills.
""Fit to fight, fit for life" is their motto.

Here we see the navigation station on Discoverer.  My guess is the Navigator/Captain gets the best seat in the house--a seat all for him/herself, not to be crowded out by buddy-boys hogging the cushy seats.

There are three standing Watches while this training vessel is at sea:  
One (4 men) is on helm.  
One is asleep.  
One is "Mother".  (Remember we are talking British here:  Mother pours the tea.)
There is one Captain, and three Mates.  There is one Mate is on watch at all times.
The watches rotate on a regular schedule.

Here is their galley.

How do YOU like your coffee?

You ABSOLUTELY have to enlarge this photo and read around the flash burn to learn the duties of the Mother Watch.  I want one of these plaques in MY galley.

Each crew person gets one plastic box to store personal items.
Maybe Steadfast should enforce this system on our guests to keep clutter at a minimum.

We meet the most interesting people when Steadfast comes to port and when we make it ashore from the various anchorages we frequent.  Tonight, the world became a friendlier and cozier place as we became acquainted with men from the other side of the globe.

Dog lovers.
Beer Drinkers.


Don't you just love making new friends?

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