Monday, July 6, 2009

A Catch-Up Post from LW Mate Jimmy McManus

Lady Washington's first mate Jimmy McManus sent us this comprehensive update today of the boat's activities from the crew's perspective.

Hey folks,

This is Jimmy again. Sorry for the long time without posting, but it’s been a whirlwind the last two weeks, between finishing the last ports of the Columbia, to Rusty Scuppers Pirate Daze, to finally a long-awaited homecoming, and a birthday celebration. Wheeew, time to go back to sea.

Whooaaaa, last blog was from Washougal. Well, in Washougal, we made the boat a brig again, by sending up both fore and main t’gallant masts, then yards and sails. Also, we removed our broken starboard generator block, hauled it out from the engine room, off the boat to the dock, all with block and tackle (I personally believe I could rule, I mean move the world with a handy billy.) Then we reversed the process with the new one back into the engine room.

From Washougal, we headed to St Helens, Ore., the coziest town I had seen on the Columbia, and the reception was huge. Captains from both vessels were presented with keys to the cities, within moments of landing on the dock. Hundreds of people came down to tour the ships. Unlike past ports on the Columbia, the wind was enough to get in some real sailing. Several of our sails were sailing from beginning to end, without having to engage the motor. The local businesses were very supportive of the ships, providing meals. All I can say is Thank YOU. Welcomes such as those make this job surreal.

After St Helens, the ships traveled to Rainer Ore., another town with great hearts for the boats. Onto Astoria, which means we were only 12 miles from the ocean, we could smell the salt and feel the coastal breeze. Astoria was wonderful; unfortunately the dock we usually frequent at the Columbia River Maritime Museum is no longer there, so we put in the East Basin with the working boats. But the museum still let crew members tour their wonderful exhibits. If you haven’t been there, put it on your list. It is wonderful, featuring the history of the Columbia, from the natives that lived along its shores to the Coast Guard rescue station. Very thorough.

From Astoria we headed for Ilwaco, but not before paying respects first. The original Lady Washington was one of the first vessels to make contact with the Chinook Nation, and the modern day Lady Washington recognizes its right to the river. Before the Lady Washington travels the Columbia, we ask permission of the Chinook, and their blessing. Unfortunately, this year due to weather, we were so late that we weren’t able to meet up with the Chinook. But our partner ship, Hawaiian Chieftain, was able to do so. So to ask forgiveness and pay respects to the Chinook ancestors, we left an offering for them. Members of the crew who had been aboard for the entirety of the Columbia tour parted with meaningful items in a sign of reverence.

Underway at last, leaving Ilwaco, leaving the Columbia River, heading HOME. We crossed the Columbia River bar at 0320 in the dark in 10ft seas. Made our north-bound turn to have the wind come around right onto our nose. We were trying our best to make it for Rusty Scuppers Pirate Daze. We were moving at a blistering 3 knots, and I don’t know if I had a magic hand that day or if Lady Washington really was liking me, but when I took over the helm, she shot up to 4.5kts. In seconds, it was eerie. Being a sailor, I tested the superstition and gave the helm back over to another person. We went back to 3 knots. I didn’t move the tiller, no fancy tricks. I just stood by it with hand on it and boom, we were increasing speed. I tried all sorts of tests on this magic, and found if I stood with one hand on the tiller, feet squared, other hand at my side is when she would go fast, any deviation and she would slow down. So I found myself steering the better part of my watch, rather uncomfortable, but making up lost time.

If you’ve never been to Rusty Scuppers, GO. It is an event for the family, for everyone that loves nautical themes. From a pirate costume contest (even the dogs get dressed up) to great food vendors, to real tall ships, and their cute counterpart small ships, that are about 8ft long. It is a great event, we had great weather, or at least it didn’t rain. A lot of wind and a lot of fun.

From Westport we left Sunday evening with a group of students that sailed aboard last summer with the youth camp. This was a great group of youths. I refrain from using the word “kids,” because they had come into their own last year, and every one of them was eager to set sail and ride Lady Washington into her home. We had the wind to do so. With gusts to 45 miles per hour, we sailed from Westport to Aberdeen under deep reefed fore and main top sails and fore staysail.

The drive and energy it takes to move ship from point A to point B is enormous, from the staff in our office coordinating ports and contacts, to the officers reviewing charts, tides, schedules, to the trainees stubbornly learning to tie a bowline, and remember clew bunts reef. It is a team operation, not achieved by any single individual. When we landed in Aberdeen, everyone involved came down, people who helped with the construction, or just remember seeing her constructed and launched, came back to take another look, 20 years later. Our theme this year is “Lady Washington: 20 Years of Changing Peoples’ Lives.”

Although March 7 was her launch date, a celebration in Aberdeen was held June 29, honoring her 20 years, the people involved, those who support the mission, and its goals. The show, the testimonials, presentations, all were moving. I’m sure Lady Washington will carry on, not just another 20 years, but another 100. Thank you to everyone who has held interest in the program. Thank you to countless of volunteers that ever came to the boat to help with tours, paint the brown, climb the rig to set sail, to the crew that has weathered storm and foul weather, to the office staff that sets everything in motion for the boat to deliver. It is a village effort that makes the Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain happen. Thank you.

After the event, we got an opportunity to get some good maintenance done. We’ve painted the brown stripe, and yellow all the way around the rails, with new colors. The yellow, being a little more yellow and not so light, the brown being lighter and not so glossy. Many are up in the air about the brown, some not liking it, others indifferent. The quarterdeck was re-seamed which turned out to be a colossal effort; next opportunity we will start on the main deck. Everything on the foremast was tarred, and a majority of the fore and aft standing rigging was tarred as well. The sprit yard was finally unswung, and painted. I’m sure I’m forgetting other stuff. Oh yeah, RUST BUSTING. Once we had the boat apart, we put her back together for the celebration of our nation’s birthday.

Now we are holding station off Westport, waiting to go inside and take on fuel for our trip to Puget Sound. We are going to the Seafair festival in Seattle, stopping first at Shilshole Bay, then on to Lake Union and the Center for Wooden Boats. The weather is overcast, but it’s looking great for the transit, I will try to report in tomorrow with another update, but we might be having too much fun.


Jimmy McManus

Mate of the Lady Washington

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