Sail Training Vessel Playfair, 1988

I made a decision that I was going to go sailing on a tall ship and wrote away to a government official, who pointed me in the direction of Toronto Brigantine, a sail training company based in Toronto. I ordered their brochure, picked a cruise, sent in my money and started getting excited. I didn't write in my diary when I was on board, so this account is a bit sketchy, as I filled in the days after I got home again. Plus the fact that I was only 15 at the time and my handwriting was atrocious makes this a bit of a challenge to recreate. :)

Wed Aug 24

My Dad drove me and my sister, Sue, to Owen Sound from Borden so that I could board the ship. We explored the town a bit then had McDonald's for supper, since we'd arrived before the designated time. I spotted the Training Ship Pathfinder and the Sail Training Vessel Playfair moored at the docks and joined the group of kids hearing the introduction speeches. I ended up on the Pathfinder first, but one of the officers from Playfair came over and got me. I stood an Anchor Watch that night.

Thu Aug 25

We weighed anchor and sailed out of Owen Sound. Line squalls began hitting us on and off, you could see the wall of rain advancing across the lake towards the ships and had time to brace before you were engulfed in water. I was a bit sea sick, since they didn't allow us to take gravol due to the need to stay alert on board.

Fri Aug 26

I was very sick this day as my body adjusted to the roll and pitch of the ship. We tacked around the point in rough seas. I first noticed that some of the more senior officers were picking on the Petty Officers at every opportunity. A group of teenagers given power over younger kids can be an unpleasant situation for the kids in question, though as crew, we were insulated a bit from it all. Read: not important enough to torment.

Sat Aug 27

We sailed into Tobermory at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula and had a scavenger hunt, and two shore leaves. One of the items on the list was the largest moving vehicle, and everyone tried to claim the Manitoulin Island Ferry. I gladly handed over $2 to take a shower in the marina facilities, being guided to them by a returning crewmate, Laura. I made a quick call home to reassure my parents that I was still alive.

Sun Aug 28

All I wrote in my diary was calm seas. We were sailing in the main part of Lake Huron now.

Mon Aug 29

Ditto. We cleaned the ship every morning, hauling up buckets of water and scrubbing down the decks, and using Brasso on the metal to keep it shiny. When we were on watch we'd be taught knots and terms and sailing techniques and be quizzed on what we learned. When we were off watch, we could sit around on deck or sleep down below. We also occasionally did emergency drills, with someone going by the board and the crew having to tack around to pick them up.

Tue Aug 30

We held a burial at sea of the milmac cups, bowls and plates that had been shattered over the course of the summer.

We sailed all through the night since Bayfield harbour was silt filled. I did an hour at the helm on the graveyard watch, sailing full and by. That means I kept the sails full, running before the wind, and I seem to also recall keeping a chosen star in the same position with respect to the yard arm.

Wed Aug 31

We berthed at Goderich at around 7:30am. I was off during the noon to 4pm watch, and Laura and I went into Goderich, and met up with Erin and Rebecca. We stuffed ourselves on junk food that we'd been missing while on the lake. I phoned home but there was no answer. We played rigging tag for a while, chasing each other around the ratlines and the yard arms, sliding down the stays to the railings on occasion to escape whoever was It. We moved Playfair to another dock. We held the big ship's concert with the crew from Pathfinder, skits and singing, and a lot of fun. I earned my Able Seaman First Grade certificate. Rob and I stood a one hour anchor watch, making sure no one boarded while everyone else slept and that there was someone alert in case of emergencies.

Thu Sept 1

I was up at 6:30 and helped prepare breakfast. I was the first to get my gear out of the lockers, and it was a luxury to not have to touch a scrub brush. I ran around gathering addresses and promising to write everyone. I turned in my harness, the contraption that we had to wear whenever we were in the rigging (so we could attach ourselves to the ship and leave both hands free) and for snapping to the life lines when the seas were rough and we had to be on deck. We were dismissed at 10:30am, and I had time to share an ice cream with a few people before they got on the bus back to Toronto. Mum arrived just after the bus left, and I crashed out in the back of the truck, trying to sleep off the bit of land sickness that was hitting me, and to catch up on all the missed sleep of the last week.

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