|Jeanie Johnston Chronicle
Reports from the ship by a crew member
on the second leg of the US voyage.
Read the first leg reports
|By Tom Kindre |
aboard the Jeanie Johnston on the US voyage
Tom Kindre is a US Coast Guard Auxiliarist and a crew member aboard the Jeanie Johnston as she sails to the US. The second leg of the voyage commenced on Friday 14th March, with the departure from Tenerife in bright sunshine, a sharp contrast to the severe weather leaving Ireland. Below are his reports direct from the ship from 14th to 28th March 03 - later reports are at the top of this page, scroll down for earlier ones. Reports from the first leg of the voyage are to be found here. You can also read the reports with earlier project pictures on the CG Aux website.
Pictures on this page are courtesy of Paul Dolan of FAS Tralee A.V. Unit who is sailing on the voyage, and Michael Diggin, a professional photographer based in Tralee, who flew to Tenerife to meet the ship. Their pictures will be posted on a separate page soon. Thanks to Paul, we now have short video clips of the voyage.
Day 41, Fri, 28 March. Noon position: 20-28 N, 44-52 W.
Vessel inspections and other regulatory matters come under the Department of Marine, which has recently been incorporated into a new catchall Government agency.
The group that most closely resembles our CG Auxiliary is the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), a long-standing heritage from the United Kingdom (UK), which in Ireland is referred to as the Royal National Lifeboat of Ireland.
The RNLI are all volunteers, except for a small core of paid personnel, and they are not supported by the Government. All the dramatic rescues you've heard about in the UK and Ireland over the years were carried out by the RNLI.
The remarkable thing about them is that their modern rescue craft, station buildings and equipment are all financed through their own fund-raising efforts. When the RNLI needs a new rescue boat, they must buy it. A number of the Jeanie Johnston's professional crew are RNLI members as well.
When you come aboard the Jeanie this summer in Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York or Boston, ask to see the plaque and identify yourself as a CG Auxiliary member. You'll get a hearty welcome from these fellow members of the brotherhood of the sea.
Day No. 40, Thurs., 27 March. Noon position: 26-02 N, 42-40W.
Late yesterday I climbed to the highest point on the Jeanie Johnston-- up the ratlines on the main mast shrouds, up a vertical rope ladder to a platform between the main course and topsail yards, up another rope ladder narrowing to a point above the topsail yard, up another that took me past the t'gallant yard and still another, till I stood on the royal yard, the highest point on the ship, 90-some feet above the deck.
The sea was a huge flat saucer, and I was at the center of it. The ship below me looked smaller than I thought it would, and our forward motion through the water was barely perceptible.
"Now reach up and touch those last few feet of the mast above your head," said boatswain Tom Harding. I did, and cheering broke out from the deck far below. People had apparently been watching my progress.
"You're the oldest person ever to climb to the top of the Jeanie's rigging," said Tom. Back down on the deck, there were high fives from everyone I encountered, but the real reward came at dinner.
The Captain had designated a special "over-65" table so we seniors wouldn't have to fight for table room among all the young bodies. Now he came over with a bottle of his best wine, filled glasses all around and raised his own in a toast.
Our plot now is for one of us to reach the top each day, hopefully luring out a new bottle each time. After dinner, the celebration moved into the great cabin, where the wine continued to flow, and we ended up drinking Bailey's and telling ghost stories far into the night.
Day 39: Wed, 26 March. Noon position: 20-49 N, 40-28 W.
In a deck talk today, the Captain said he hoped he wouldn't have to go any farther south, and would do so only if necessary to catch the wind. We left the Canaries at the right time, he said, because they had three days of southwest wind following our departure.
A ship passed us on the starboard side today; the Captain said she was bound from the Orinoco to Lisbon, possibly with a cargo of lumber. A flying fish flew aboard and two bonito were caught off the afterdeck.
Since leaving the Canaries, we have been navigating the old-fashioned way-- by the sun and the stars. John Gill, alternate second mate, has had more than 50 years at sea, 30 of them on square-rigged ships, and several of us have been trying , with his help, to absorb the principles of celestial navigation. John brought his sextant, which had been gathering dust for more than 20 years, and began taking noon sightings of the sun to determine latitude.
"That's the easy stuff," said John. All you have to do, after you learn the sextant, is to hold it steady and measure the angle of the sun above the horizon as precisely as the rolling of the ship permits (It's best to take about three sightings and average them out). Then you resort to Norie's Nautical Tables and the Nautical Almanac to find the sun's correction and the sun's declination, do some computations and come out with a latitude reading.
With John's help, a couple of students were able to get results within one cable (600 feet) accuracy. Flushed with success, and assured of our interest, John next turned to mid-morning sun sights, with longitude in mind, and morning and evening star sights.
Fortunately, he'd brought along his cadet notebooks from the 50s, with their longitude formulas,, and the results have been so good that we're sure we can find our way to San Salvador without the GPS. In our hubris, we wanted to disable the GPS, but John takes a more lenient view. Now that we've confirmed its accuracy, he says, "why don't we just keep it as a backup system."
Day 38: Tuesday, 25 March. Noon position: 21-44 N, 38-04 W.
The wind was slowly dying, and if it quit altogether, the Captain promised us a swimming stop. He'd be able to do that only if it were totally calm. Then he'd douse the sails, heave to, and the ship would sit motionless in the water.
But just as all hands were looking forward to a dip, a wind could be seen approaching from the northeast, so plans were changed. All sails were set and we began moving again. Making headway is more important than anything.
Meanwhile, we were slowly getting the ship ready for her premiere appearance in America. Over several days, we sanded and oiled the rails all the way around from bow to stern, and the watch leaders varnished them.
Next came the belaying pins, which, dropped into holes in the pin rails and pipe rails, hold the scores of sheets, lines and halyards that control the sails. There must be more than 100 of them in use, and we removed as many as we could at a time, then sanded, oiled and varnished them.
These communal work sessions are highly social events, usually interrupted by a rest break, with coffee, tea, fruit and cookies brought out from the galley. This morning we embarked on the most ambitious task yet-- sanding, oiling and varnishing the entire forward deck house. This will take several days, and then we must tackle the aft deck house.
There comes a point in any long voyage when boredom spawns either mutiny or silliness, and silliness seems to be creeping in on us-- only among the young, of course.
Outrageous hair styles have already run their course. Now novel face makeup is in order, and cross-dressing. We hear giggles from a secluded area of the foredeck, and there is our watch leader, John, in a girl's dress, wearing makeup and posing for photos with several of the real girls.
It's something we wouldn't have expected from John, who is taking this voyage as a break from his pursuit of a PhD in computer sciences. But life at sea changes people. I wonder who will be next.
Day 37, Monday 24 March. Noon position: 21-31 N, 35-41 W.
One of the factors that moved me to make this voyage was a 16-year-old Irish girl. She sailed these seas to America 140 years ago and grew up to be my grandmother. Joanna O'Brien was born in County Cork, though exactly where I don't know; and she died before I was born, so I never knew her. It was partly in her honor that I wanted to sail on the Jeanie Johnston, and one of my goals was to try to imagine how a sea voyage would have affected an Irish teenager in 1863.
We have Irish teenagers aboard, and I thought that would help, but it hasn't. These young people are educated, computer-literate and worldly-wise. They have traveled; they are familiar with American music, movies and popular culture. Some have American friends; most follow the news and have world political views.
The cultural chasm that separates them from 16-year-old Joanna O'Brien is unbridgeable and unfathomable. She was alone, penniless and illiterate. Very likely a country girl with limited contacts, she was born in 1847, the first famine year, and was lucky to have survived as an infant. Why her family shipped her off to America is unknown to me.
Was it the despair of poverty, the hope of opportunity, or both, that motivated them? She arrived in a New York whose employment ads invariably ended with the phrase, "Irish need not apply." The two Irish cultural classifications of those days were "lace curtain" and "shanty," and Joanna was as deep into the shanty category as she could be.
Day 36, Sunday 23 March. Noon position: 21-29 N, 33-23 W.
The wind has let us down, dropping to less than 10 knots, and we have been under power all night and into this morning. We are near the bottom of that gentle curve that the trade winds and currents follow in their perpetual clockwise motion around the great central Bermuda-Azores high that dominates the North Atlantic. Our course, therefore, is approaching due west.
The sun rises almost directly behind us and drops, blazing and sizzling, into the sea off our bow. We shade our eyes as it sets and watch in vain for the green flash--a tropical phenomenon that occurs occasionally when conditions are just right. I've seen it twice-- both times in Grenada. Rob, the first mate, has seen it once, but Capt. McCarthy, in 32 years at sea, has not been so lucky.
The North Equatorial Current is giving us a push of only about half a knot-- not enough to do much good against the wind deficit, so we must continue to motor. The Captain's rule of thumb is that if our speed drops below five knots for an appreciable period, he wants the engines on.
The plan is to arrive off San Salvador on April 11 or 12, anchor and go ashore by boat to touch base with Columbus, put in briefly at Nassau, and then head for West Palm Beach.
We have received a sobering telex message on the ship's EGC (Enhanced Group Calling) service, which gives us weather and other information via satellite. It's a safety message directed primarily to ships in the Persian Gulf area, and it warns that Coalition Naval Forces "are prepared to take measures in self-defense," and that "all maritime vessels or activities that are determined to be threats ...will be subject to defensive measures, including boarding, seizure, disabling or destruction without regard to registry or location." Vessels operating in the war zone are "subject to query, being stopped, boarded and searched." If they are found to be carrying contraband, bound for Iraq, they are "subject to detention, seizure or destruction." This is serious business, and we are glad we are making our way placidly across the Atlantic, far from the war zone.
Day 35, Saturday 22 March. Noon position: 21-26 N, 30-51 W.
It's been a week since we left Gomera, which was also Columbus's departure point for his first voyage of discovery. Comparing our progress with his on a day-to-day basis didn't make sense-- he was becalmed for the first three days while we simply motored our way to where the wind was-- but on a weekly basis, the figures may have more meaning.
When Columbus returned from the first voyage, he presented his logbook to the King and Queen. Some time later they gave him a copy, which was kept in the family archives. A Dominican historian, Las Casas, made an abstract of it, copying some parts word for word and abridging others, and his abstract is all we have today.
In it, the Admiral of the Ocean Sea notes on September 13 that the currents were against him, meaning probably that he was slightly to the north and west of us. Ocean currents are well charted today, and we have been aided by the Canary Current and will shortly enter the North Equatorial Current, which could give us a boost of up to one and a half knots.
Columbus describes "temperate breezes, so that it was a great delight to enjoy the mornings, and nothing was lacking except to hear nightingales." The weather, he said, "was like April in Andalusia." Some 500 years later, we are finding much the same.
Day 33, Thurs. 20 March. Noon position: 22-28 N. Miles from West Palm Beach: 3028.
We now have the Jeanie Johnston's official US port visiting schedule from her arrival in West Palm Beach on 17 April through 14 July:
Our present sailing mode is so different from that of the Fenit to Madeira leg of the voyage there might almost be two Jeanie Johnstons.
Since leaving the Canaries behind, each day has been a fine one. With the trade wind behind us and blowing at 17 to 20 knots much of the time now (I have mistakenly been reporting apparent winds rather than actual winds. These figures are closer to what we have been experiencing), we can easily do from five and a half knots to seven knots. That moves us at a rate of 130 to 160 miles per 24 hours.
We are heading generally west but can go a bit farther south, so that gives us a little maneuvering room. Depending on where the wind is, we ca adjust our heading slightly to get it on either our port or starboard quarter, the best point of sailing for a square rigger.
Adjustments can also be made to the sails themselves-- bracing the yards back to port or starboard, or squaring them. If the wind were too strong, we'd need to reduce sail.
Day 32, 19 March. Position at 1500: 23-01 N, 24-30 W.
At 0200 today we entered a new time zone, so clocks went back an hour. We're now only four time zones from the US east coast. The Captain had planned to go down to 22 degrees latitude by now, but the winds are so good here (17-20 knots) he's decided to continue as we are.
Paddy O'Pigeon has taken off on a reconnaissance mission to the west. In the direction he's heading, it's something over 3000 miles as the pigeon flies to West Palm Beach. We hope he'll give up his quest and come back to roost.
The mysteries of a wooden ship continue to reveal themselves. Sitting in the great cabin with a fair wind moving us, I heard serious groaning from the mizzen mast, which goes right through the cabin to the keel below. A close look revealed a small vertical shake in the mast. As the mast flexed, the shake opened and closed. I ran to find Tom the boatswain. "Nothing to worry about," said Tom, "as long as the shake goes with the grain. It might go on for months or even years before it becomes a real problem." Still, I hate to hear it groan.
Yesterday saw another general alarm practice drill. A simulated fire was extinguished and a simulated injured person was carried up from below on a stretcher.
After lunch, a haircut marathon got underway on deck. Dave the boatswain's mate was the first victim, and he emerged with a proper-looking Mohican, or Mohawk haircut. Others got the same-- even Frida, the watch leader. John the watch leader ended up with a set of long ringlets that the girls offered to braid but he wisely turned down the offer.
I started a beard some days ago but gave it up after looking in the mirror. I may work instead on a seaman's ponytail. Rob the first mate sports a fine ponytail and has offered to advise me, though it may take a longer voyage than this one to do it right.
Day 31, 18 March. Position at 1400, 24-53 N, 22-28 W.
We're at the halfway point of this voyage-- 30 days behind us and 30 ahead. Since our second day out of Gomera, we've had the northeast trade winds behind us- - No engines, quiet nights, steady ship, full sails, and delightful weather-- the best a wooden ship can offer.
I'll say this about wooden ships: once you've learned to love them, they can do no wrong. It's the romance and the sense of history that have drawn us to this tiny moving speck on the Atlantic, and the blemishes we can put up with. "What about the water that drips down on my bunk when they hose the deck?" I asked Peter the engineer. "Don't worry about it," said Peter. "When we get closer to the tropics, and the seams open a bit, it'll get even worse."
Even so, Peter and Dave, the boatswains mate, have rigged a sheet of plastic to divert the water from my bunk to the compartment floor, and tomorrow they will caulk the deck above my head. Peter is philosophic about this. "Wooden ships leak," he says. "That's their nature. As long as we keep most of the water out, we're all right."
On the run from Fenit to Madeira, water dripped down my neck at the mess table, and I saw water sloshing across the floor from someone's bunk compartment. There are other small annoyances too. Jim, my roommate, stowed some belongings in a convenient niche next to his bunk only to hear them splash into the bilge far below.
On a cruise ship, we'd be suing. Here we pay for the privilege of being uncomfortable. But all that is forgotten when I step on deck at night and see a startlingly brilliant moon illuminating the sails with a ghostly daylight; Orion's Belt sparkling like diamonds over the top of the foremast; soft, bright cumulus clouds ringing the horizon; a pleasant 12-knot wind moving us at five to six knots; and a gentle sea with long slow swells that add just enough motion to keep us alert when moving about. How could life get any sweeter?
ABOARD ON PADDY'S DAY
Day 30, 17 March. Position at 1430-- 25-39 N, 20-52 W
St. Patrick's Day on an Irish ship can only be a special occasion, and this one is. It began this morning with spirited music on deck.
Among the new sail trainees is one with a strong voice, a good hand with the guitar and a store of Irish ballads. He was accompanied by more beating of large and small drums, pots and pans and flutes and pipes than I've ever seen at one time.
St. Patrick has given us a favorable wind for the second day, and though I can't confirm this, it appears that a full moon is about to rise in the good Saint's honor. Then, to top it all off, just as the music was reaching its crescendo, a pigeon circled the ship three or four times and came to roost on the semi-rigid inflatable boat that's carried on a davit off the stern.
A set of stuns'ls (studdingsails) was opened on deck, and Tom the boatswain is working out a plan to deploy them. They'll go on special spars on the foremast between the topsails and the topgallants and outboard of both. When they're in place, they will greatly widen the spread of sail.
As for Columbus, it's too early to make comparisons but we'll continue to work on it. Columbus recorded his distances sailed in leagues, and his league equaled four Roman miles (4,850 feet), so a league translates into about 3.19 nautical miles. More on this later.
Day 29, Sunday, 16 March. Position at 1400: 26-45 N, 19-08 W.
On Friday night, a fine wind moved us through the night from Tenerife to Gomera, where we docked, about 1130, at the port of San Sebastian.
The church where Columbus prayed has an ancient look about it. A funeral moved in so we barely got to see it. Columbus, in his day, cut quite a figure on Gomera, falling in love with a prominent heiress and living for some time in a house in town that is still well preserved.
Like many of the earth's out-of-the-way places, this one has its share of escapees who have had a change of heart. "Please help us to buy a ticket home," said a roughly lettered sign behind a display of handcrafted jewelry in San Sebastian's market. The youthful proprietors had a tired look about them.
We have a new contingent of young sail trainees and paying crew members aboard now, and the oldest, Tom, 74, climbs the rigging with agility. I have decided reluctantly that my bones are no longer to be trusted aloft, and it may be time to forget about that aspect of the voyage.
Rowan MacSweeney, 2nd mate and communications officer, with whom I work, points out that we have a common birthday, May 19, though we are separated by 54 years. "How can two Taureans get along without butting heads?" I ask, and Rowan smiles.
We are now on the track of Columbus, though it will be difficult to make comparisons until we have had a full day or two of sailing. Columbus at the moment is at a disadvantage, since we motored through the night after leaving Gomera and are only now (Sunday, 1200) sailing, whereas Columbus was becalmed for three days.
Day 27 and 28, 14 and 15 March. Position, 15 March at 1700, 27-59 N, 17-15 W.
14 March, about 2100 hours-- I am standing on the afterdeck in the moonlight, watching the fading lights of Tenerife glimmer in our wake when suddenly I am transported back in time.
It's April 1943, and I stand at the taffrail of the British troop ship "Andes", bound from Newport News to Casablanca with 15,000 American soldiers aboard. By chance or by fate, I am found to be the senior 2nd Lt. aboard, so I am put in charge of the guard unit.
One of our principal jobs is to ensure total blackout conditions at night. An alert U-boat commander might spot even the flick of a cigarette lighter several miles away.
Fifteen thousand lives are a huge responsibility for a 22-year-old, and I take to sleeping during the day and prowling the ship at night. I spend a lot of time watching the stars, and I become aware that our course is constantly changing.
I strike up an acquaintance one night with a young ship's officer who is on watch. He tells me the Admiralty has determined that it takes a U-boat (German submarine) eight and a half minutes to access a target, launch a torpedo and score a hit, so the "Andes" is changing course every seven and a half minutes. We are zigzagging across the Atlantic.
He tells me also that the "Andes" is well known to the German wolf packs and much sought after, because the skipper who sinks her will be sure to get an Iron Cross (high ranking German medal).
We go through two great Atlantic storms, and down below, where the bunks are 10-high and the men sleep in shifts, the decks are slippery with vomit. After each storm, 5,000 men are allowed on deck at a time while clean-up proceeds below.
We arrive in Casablanca on a foggy morning, and as we creep past the harbor buoys, we see bodies and debris floating past. My friend the ship's officer tells me that German Intelligence has learned the "Andes'" schedule, and U-boats were lying in wait but they mistakenly sank the ship just ahead of us.
Back aboard the Jeanie Johnston, I wonder idly why the "Andes" left a brilliant phosphorescent wake while we do not. I realize that her huge propellers were churning up tons of seawater while we glide silently along under wind power alone.
There's one other big difference, and it's one to cherish-- we don't have any U-boats chasing us. The seas at least are at peace these days.
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