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Life's journey has been varied. As a 30 year career soldier its been geographically, emotionally and intellectually nomadic, at times exciting, sometimes frustrating, its had highs and lows and it has challenged me, sometimes beyond what I thought possible. On the whole I have been lucky. I've developed a reputation for being unconventional, even unorthodox. I've made mistakes, plenty of them. Success and failure have left their marks. I've been able to develop my passions and interests. From the office to the trench, from ocean sailing to Antarctic exploration, from the philosophies of Kurt Hahn to the lyrics of Tom Lewis, and much more besides and between. Now I want to share them.

I am trying to bring meaning and sense to these experiences, learning from the past so as to signpost the future, not just mine but anyone else who might benefit vicariously. This blog, set in Shetland sailing aboard "Swan", a 100 year old ex herring drifter delivering youth development and sail training opportunities for young people, is a living reflection on that journey.

To share it read on . . . .

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Settling in


Firstly an apology, I don’t have unlimited access to the “net” and posting is often difficult – I hope it will improve but if you are following, I hope service will improve. I am now settling in and getting used to Shetland Life. I am still getting use to the local dialect and the locals do sometimes have to fall back on sign language.

Communication 1: Shetland for two



Communication 2: Shetland for happy

Which might be a good moment to introduce Scott. Fortunately I have landed on my feet with the bosun. Like me he is newly appointed but unlike me he has sailed on swan before and he is a Shetlander. I was spoilt by my first bosun, Si “Bosun”or Holman who taught me so much and with whom I sailed over 10000 miles. My new bosun, Scott has a hard act to follow but has an appetite for learning and a work ethic that bodes well. If I can pass on half of what Si Bosun taught me then I hope I will have given Scott as good a start as anyone could have done. I ought also to add that I am learning lots from him. The nonchalant way in which he brings Swan along side compares very favourably with my efforts. It’s a very good example of one of Kurt Hahn’s contentions; that more effective learning happens when “staff” and “students” embrace the opportunity to learn from each other, rather than the oft seen practise that staff teach students. Scott and I have started work and are already learning from each other as we start to gain understanding of each other and the task ahead. At times it all seems rather daunting but little by little we are making progress.

I’m also experiencing the adage of all four seasons in a day.
 
 


It's hard to get a photograph of the wind but after doubling up the lines, Force 8 has rocked me gently to sleep!

On the work front we have been rigging the boat and working through the seemingly never ending job list. Not only are these preparing the Swan but they are also preparing me.

All boats are living things. My little boat Hope is simplicity as compared to Swan's complexity. On deck she is much like Hope. I understand gaff rigged boat and Swan is a scaled up version. Sailing Swan is relatively straight forward, understanding everything else is mind boggling complex. Her Boom is a telegraph pole and perhaps 5 times the diameter of Hope’s. Hope’s toping lift is a simple whip with a sheave through the mast.(The toping lift is one of the ropes -part of the running rigging.  It’s the one that lifts and supports the aft end of the boom (that’s the long spar (pole) at the foot of the mainsail.)  Even with a 4:1 tackle, raising Swan’s boom is the hardest lift aboard but, it is just a toping lift.  The same can be said of almost any other part of the rigging or sails.  On Hope the most complicated electrical circuitry is a torch.  Swan has a 9.5 KW generator and a complexity of electronics that leaves me feeling hopelessly inadequate.   It is not helped by the absence of a systems book that describes this complexity, not just the power generation and distribution, but the array of systems that then run from it.  And then there is the plumbing, fresh water, sea water, heads, showers, cooling systems, bilge pumps to empty water from the ship, firefighting systems to put water into the ship.  There are safety systems from gas alarms to automatically launching and inflating life rafts, and much, much more.  I still don’t yet understand how these all work, let alone how to get the best from them or even maintain them. Sailing Swan is the easy part.  Preparing to take command and run her safely is the hard part.  I am reminded of the truth of the adage that “failure to prepare is preparing to fail”.
I have now enjoyed a few short sails on Swan. I had to pinch myself repeatedly particularly during the first. As well as being fantastic, there was a sense of unreality and nervous apprehension. I started with an apology and I will finish with one. Next time we sail, I’ll get my camera out!!! And next time I post, I'll tell you about sailing!!

 

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