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Licking the Wounds - Episode I Print E-mail
Written by Sandra Chance   
Thursday, 01 November 2007 00:00

The most important lesson that I have learned from sailing is humility; therefore, I will be the first to admit that I am quite possibly the daftest sailor to be found on the high seas. My complete inability that hinders me to progress in the sailing aspect of the charter industry stems from the fact that I was raised in the high deserts of the Rocky Mountains, where water is a rare and valued commodity, but also from psychological scarring by my first captain.

Enter Bligh, my protagonist, and subsequently my reason for seeking psychiatric help. The first battle I had with Yacht Alcatraz was not necessarily with the misogynistic commander himself but rather with the process of learning and utilizing the sailing lexicon.

While I shoveled snow off the walkways in the popular ski resort where I worked back home, I quixotically dreamed of life in the Caribbean and how I longed to become skilled at the art of sailing. I had never even stepped foot on a boat at the time but intrepidly packed two bags and fled the cold weather forever. Needless to say, when the first work day began on Yacht Alcatraz, I had a lot to learn. I soon discovered that Bligh not only made learning difficult and not fun at times—but almost impossible.

Since Alcatraz, I have worked on other boats and know there is no way like the "Alcatraz Way" so I am not exaggerating when I say that I worked a season of slave labor. First Mate Dean rushed to show me around the boat that first day and quickly told me the names and purposes of the parts of the boat. He was also being beckoned by Bligh to reorganize a tool box, clean the hull, fuel the tenders, color-coordinate the utility tape, and alphabetically label the personal folders of the crew that had quit—so Dean didn't have much time to spare. He rattled off a bigazillion terms, and I, the new stewardess—so filled with hope and desire—assumed that I would obviously have time to be patiently-taught by my captain (who willingly hired a neophyte) during the months to follow. Such was not the case when one was forced to abide the rules of the Alcatraz way.

All right, so everything, I mean everything, on Bligh's boat has a special name and a certain "Bligh way" of operating it and I was not only trying to learn the sailing vernacular but also the function. My brain was overloaded daily by all the entirely new information that I was failing to process. The days of the spinnaker were classic (but I don't want to get ahead of myself here because spinny and I had a very tumultuous relationship which will be disclosed later this season).

The Yacht Alcatraz Way is that the spinnaker is doused after sailing downwind, the fenders are put out, and the tenders must be brought in and tied to the cleats. (Don't even get me started about learning to tie the sailor knots—Dean actually resorted to telling me some "rabbit around the tree" bit but replaced the characters with Captain Hook and Peter Pan.) In the process, the wetsuits and props have to be rinsed off—and don't forget about those M & M treats for the guests—and all of this must be done literally in a matter of minutes.

Anyway, this day, as my mind was racing and my heart was palpitating, Captain Bligh yelled, "Sandra, forward!" What the? Was I supposed to fill in the blanks? Sandra, forward ho? Forward is the opposite of reverse? Forward my future as a sailor is on a downward spiral?

I came to find out later that the commands are intentionally laconic and that the abruptness serves a purpose—but only because Bligh thinks he is captain of the HMS Roosevelt. But when my brain is on fire and the captain screams, "Sandra, tender port aft!" it takes me a good, oh, three precious minutes to constructively utilize my time. Tender, I'll think to myself, is the smaller scale boat that we use to cart our guests around in that is currently in tow. One minute. Starboard is the right side of the boat and it's different from port because port has something to do with port being like red wine and has four letters so it isn't green. Two minutes. Aft. That is the rear of the boat where I serve the guests their sundowner cocktails and hors d'oeuvres.

This three minute escapade obviously doesn't register as quickly as when I worked years behind the bar and someone ordered a Cape Cod. Vodka and cranberry juice. Easy. Done. Shizam. But never mind that charter guests are all about blender-made Bushwhacker libations that can take hours of preparation.

My task is to pull the tender in on port side before anchoring—and most of the time, before I have carefully and methodically figured out my task, someone has already done it for me.

Thus begins A Season Dedicated to Bligh where I hope that the reader will not only take pity on me and snicker in the process but hope that these personal therapeutic writings will serve as a source of healing my stigmatic wounds inflicted on Yacht Alcatraz by Captain Bligh.

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Sandra Chance 

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