Monthly Archives: October 2008

63. Tarring the Rig


October 26, 2008
While we were in Cascais, Portugal, we did a three-day “yard period” of concentrated ships maintenance to catch up on tasks that were delayed by the cold, rainy summer.  These tasks included “rust busting” and painting parts of the ship’s steel hull, varnishing rails, rigging work, and tarring the rig.

The Picton Castle’s standing rigging—the rigging that holds up the masts—is made of galvanized iron cable.  This wire rope, like most rope, is made of a group of thin wires twisted together into strands, and then three strands twisted together to make a rope.  It makes a strong and flexibe cable, but one that is prone to deterioration from rust despite the galvanized coating on each wire. To preserve this rigging—as I have previously described—it is wormed with twine laid between the strands of the wire rope to give it a smoother surface, parceled with tightly wrapped strips of old sheets coated with tar, and served with tightly wound marlin twine wrapped around it to completely cover what lies beneath.  Then this whole assemblage is coated with a mixture of tar to seal and preserve it.  This tar coating must be renewed every few months, and that was the task in Cascais.                                                                                                         Marie and Tjetil pouring tar into cans.

The process begins by formulating the mixture to be used.  The Picton Castle uses a mix of 50% tar, 30% boiled linseed oil, and 20% kerosene to thin it.  The heavy liquids are poured from can to can to attain the correct proportions and mixed with a stick.  It is then poured into special buckets.  Each of these buckets is fitted with a handle called a bail, and covered with canvass held down by twine tightly tied around the top of the can.  The canvass cover has a slit cut in it, to accept a paintbrush, which is tied by a lanyard of twine to the can.  The can is hung by its bail from the safety harness of the person using it, following the general rule that anything taken up into the rig must be tied to the person taking it, since anything falling from any height is very          Nicki tarring a shroud.                          dangerous to those below.

Crew tarring in the rigging.

There is no neat and clean way to tar rigging.  You apply the tar with a paint brush, and spead it about with your bare hands.  You inevitably get tar all over yourself and your clothes.  Some tarring can be done standing in the rigging, but the backstays must be tarred by a person sitting in a bosun’s chair which is hung from a line called a gantline that is lowered a few feet at a time as the person tarring completes that section of the stays.  The ship’s rigging was soon festooned with people tarring.

I was happy to do other tasks and leave the tarring to others.  The look of those tarring when we stopped for lunch confirmed my decision not to volunteer         Nicki and Cory at the lunch break after tarring.
for tarring.


61. Lisbon

61 LISBON, Part One.
October 25, 2008
Lisbon is the capital and principal city of Portugal.  Like many cities, it is both a sprawling modern city and a repository for the artifacts of the country’s great history.

To explore that history, I headed for the Belem district of the city, on its western edge.  There I frist looked at the Monument to the Discoveries, which has sculptures of Henry the Navigator and his supporters and explorers.  Then I went  to the Maritime Museum.  Now I understand that great halls stuffed with arcane maritime artifacts isn’t what thrills most people, but it does excite me.  Here models illustrated the evolution of the Portuguese explorers vessels from simple open boats with a single square or lateen sail, to the later larger and decked-over caravels with multiple masts and sails—first lateen rigged and then with square sails, to the larger galleons which had more sails and were capable of carrying the riches of the empire home. A huge map showed the routes of the various Portuguese explorers as they ventured to the Azores, Canaries and Cape Verde Islands (all off the northwestern African coast), successively further down the African coast, to Brazil, Newfoundland, India, China, and Jaapn.  Other models showed different kinds of Portuguese small                 A model of a Portuguese galleon.
vessels designed to carry cargo on rivers or to and from ships anchored in the harbor, and all kinds of fishing vessels. Among the models of fishing vessels I was surprised and delighted to find one of the barkentine Gazella, which sailed from Portugal each year for many years to the Grand Banks off Newfoundland to fish.  The Gazella is now owned and based in Philadelphia and I have been aboard her a number of times.

Models and paintings showed later developments of Portuguese sailing warships and, in particular a crucial naval battle in an 1833 civil war.  Maria II became queen as a young teenager when her father moved to Brazil to rule as emperor there.  Since she was too young to rule, she was married off to her uncle, who then tried to usurp all her power for himself.  When she grew old enough, she tried to force her uncle/husband out, resulting in a civil war.  With the help of her father in Brazil and other supporters she raised an army and a navy.  Her navy was led by a British admiral, who defeated her uncle’s navy,          A Portuguese royal barge.                   and sent the uncle fleeing into exile.
Still more models showed Portuguese navy ships as they became steam powered and developed into modern warships.  A huge separate hall contained a collection of royal barges and yachts.
The maritime museum is housed in one wing of the huge Mostiero of Jeronimo, or Monastery of St, Jerome.  This lavish complex was built at the start of the 16th century by Manuel I, Henry’s successor, who financed it with a tax on the lucrative spice trade established by Vasco Da Gama.  The tomb of that worthy lies in the vast chapel.  I toured this monastery and was
The Mostiero dos Jeronimos, Lisbon.

impressed with its beauty and opulence, how light and airy these stone buildings can appear without the used of reinforced concrete or steel, and how beautifully designed and decorated they can be.  And of course I had to visit the tomb of the explorer Vasco Di Gama.

61 LISBON, Part two.

Not far from the maritime museum in the Belem district of Lisbon is the Tower of Belem.  This small fortress was also built by Manuel I, Henry the Navigator’s successor as king, in the early 16th century.  It was originally built on rocks in the middle of the Tagus River to defend the approaches to the city, but over the years the edge of the river has been filled in to create more land, so the fortress now lies just off the river bank.

The fortress is notable for its Moorish-inspired architecture and its beautiful and intricate exterior decoration.  I climbed down into the grim interior of the fort to see its guns in vaulted rooms, and climbed the tower via narrow circular staircases that rose through the more airy rooms that had once been the quarters of the commandant.  From the top there are great views up and down the Tagus and I think I could just make out a white dot in the extreme distance that was my ship.

Having seen parts of historical Lisbon, I now wanted to see a part of the city where people live.  So I took the train deep into the city and a subway to reach the Bairro Alta section of the city.  This is the second oldest of the city’s districts, and it is not a district of government buildings or a tourist area.  Here I found narrow streets that climb steep hills.  I laughed when I saw a Subway sandwich shop next to a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream shop, showing that American corporate business has penetrated here.  I started on a busy main street lined by fancy clothing stores and other upscale businesses, but as I climbed the hill and wandered through the narrow side streets it became more residential with a scattering of small restaurants, grocery stores, and a number of book stores that sold interesting-looking old books and antique art prints.

At the top of the hill I found a small park with a view east over the city.  Here I bought a beer and a snack and admired the sunset views of an even older section of the city, originally laid out by the Moors, and the            A street in the Bairro Alta section.
ancient Castle of St George on the next hill.  As night began to fall I began to wend my way back through more narrow streets and little parks.  Next to a ruined church I found a walkway that took me to a Victorian era cast iron tower maybe six stories high that had a café on top with great views across the city to the river, and an elevator that dropped me down off the steep hill to lower streets below.

On the crowded train back to Cascais I was looking for a seat when I heard someone call my name.  It was my shipmate Allison, so we rode together.  Back in Cascais I had to stop at the laundry in the supermarket to get my clothes, and there we met Deb and Tjetil, more shipmates, welcome company after a solitary day.  The four of us stopped at a restaurant for dinner. I had a combination of local seafood that was excellent.

62. Sintra

Part one, The Palace and town.

October 24, 2008

Sintra from above.

My second excursion in Portugal was to the little mountain town of Sintra, an hour’s bus ride north of Cascais.  Sintra ranks on my short list of the most beautiful places I have been.  It is draped over steep hills, giving it steep streets and constantly changing vistas.  Even the 10 minute walk from the bus station to the center of the old town was lined with sculptures, modern designs carved in stone.

Rising above the central square in Sintra is the Palacio National de Sintra, whose
construction was started in the late 14th century on the site once occupied byPortugal’s Moorish rulers.  Additions were made in the early 16th century by the wealthy king Manuel I (whose wealth came form the spice trade and who also built the monastery of Jeronimos in Belem, which I wrote about previously) and others have led to an interesting combination of architectural styles.  The altitude of Sintra makes it relatively cool in the summer, and the palace served as the summer palace of the Portuguese royal family until the 1880s.

The fairly plain Gothic exterior is marked by a pair of unique conical chimneys that serve the palace’s kitchen.  The interior holds formal halls, a chapel, an immense kitchen, and numerous bedrooms for the royal family.  The interior decoration is ornate and opulent.
The domed ceiling of the Sala dos Brassoes is particularly so, with stags holding the coats or arms of 72 different Portuguese noble families.  The bedrooms are large but less ornate, with heavy carved furniture.  The royal family clearly lived well.

After I toured the palace I wandered throught the streets of Sintra.  They reminded me of the villages on the islands of Greece with very narrow and steep streets and I enjoyed an hour of exploring and brousing.  Sintra is an unabashed tourist town, but a nice one.  It has great little restaurants and all sorts of interesting little shops.

Many of them featured local handcrafts, some of them made in little workshops on the premises. Portugal has a unique style of pottery, earthenware glazed with brightly colored designs.  It also had an extremely strong tradition of hand painted tiles with designs or scenes on them.  And there is a great deal of embroidery made locally and for sale: table cloths, napkins , towels, etc.

I had lunch in a tiny back-street restaurant of Portuguese cod cakes, fresh bread, and salad, with a local beer, most satisfying.  Then I was off to catch a bus to see more of the Sintra area.

Part two, the Pena Palace.

On a peak high above Sintra is a second, more recent royal palace, the Pena Palace.  A bus and a hike up a steep road through he wooded grounds brought me to this magnificent edifice.  The Pena Palace was built in the 19th century by queen Maria II, or perhaps more accurately, by her husband, a German prince named Ferdinand Saxe-Coburg-Gotha                 The Pena Palace.
who oversaw the design and construction while she oversaw the affairs of state.
The palace was built over the ruins of a 15th century monastery, designed by a German architect.  This large, elaborate, and colorful building was built as Maria’s summer palace, replacing the palace in the village below.  Both were built to take advantage of the cooler heights of the mountains. It occurred to me that if they had had air conditioning in those days, neither palace would have been built.

The palace is a very imposing presence looming over you as you climb the steep hill up to it.  While it was built as a residence, it still shows vestiges of the old castles, with an entrance gate, high walls, battlements, and watchtowers that would make it easy to defend.  I walked around the battlements, which almost encircle the castle, admiring the views off the mountain.  To the west, you can easily see all the way to the Atlantic.

The central section of the exterior is decorated with Portuguese tile, rarely used on the outside of buildings.  Different tiles were used on several other sections of the exterior.
The view west to the Atlantic.

Inside, the palace is richly decorated in a variety of styles, with much furniture and many decorative and personal objects that created the then fashionable “Victorian clutter.”  I talked with one of the docents who told me that when the monarchy was terminated in 1910 in favor of a republic, the royal family moved to England taking all of the palace’s furnishings with them.  But the woman who owned them decided that they should belong
to the Portugues people and gave them      Exterior tiles, Pena Palace.            back, so the castle was refurnished and became a museum.

Unfortunately, taking photographs was strictly prohibited inside the palace, so I can’t show you what it looks like inside.  But I did see one scene that made me look carefully over each shoulder before I violated this rule by squeezing off one quick shot.  I hope you can make out the royal throne in this picture.

Part Three, The Moorish Castle.

High on a mountain above Sintra—on a peak adjacent to the one holding the Pena Palace—is the third place I visited in Sintra, the Castelo dos Mouros, or the Moorish Castle.  Archeological digs have discovered that this commanding peak—with clear views of the coast, Sintra, and the lands for miles in every direction—was used by man from the 10th to the 7th centuries, BC.  After the Moors conquered Portugal in the 8th century AD, they began to build a fortress on the site in the 9th and 10th centuries.  Alfonso VI, the first king of Portugal, captured Sintra and the castle from the Moors in 1093, but the Moors retook it and it was not until the middle of the 12th century that castle finally came firmly into Portuguese hands.  In the 15th century the castle—apparently having lost its military value—was used to house Jews segregated from the rest of the Catholic population.  In 1839 king Fernando II undertook a complete restoration.

In the town of Sintra the castle is a looming presence, with high stone ramparts tracing the outline of the mountaintop high above the city.  It is reached by a steep climb from the city, or—in my case—by a bus that circles from the town to the mountaintop

and then a quarter-mile hike through the forest that climbs further until it reaches a ruined chapel, and shortly afterwards, the main gate.

Actually, I visited the castle twice, once on the day I spent in Sintra, and again a few days later with my friend Gary who wanted to see it.  The first day was one of bright sunshine, but the second was a rainy day that put the mountaintop in the clouds and changed the look and mood of the place dramatically, making trees and ruins mysterious and even ominous in the fog.  Gone were the breathtaking views of the city below and the distant coast, replaced by the blank white backdrop of fog.  The further a tree or tower was, the more faint and mysterious, until they faded out and disappeared completely in the fog.  Climbing around on the walls I kept expecting to see Banquo’s ghost, but all we saw were the outlines of trees in the moody forest, the undulating rampart walls, an occasional tower, a very few tourists, and out of the fog at one point came two of our shipmates, who also had come to see the castle.  I was fascinated by the moods, shapes, textures, and mystery of the place.

60. Portugal


October 23, 2008

After a slow finish to our passage from Spain, we anchored just outside the yacht harbor of the small city of Cascais (pronounced cash-kye-eese) at the mouth of the Tagus River, about 15 miles below the capital city of Lisbon.  The first and second mates spent a month here last fall when they were sailing together on the schooner Amistad, a recreation of the vessel whose slave cargo revolted and took control, leading to a then very controversial court case that received much attention and decided that slaves were, indeed, human beings with some rights.  We are here both so see some of Portugal and to do some work on the ship.  Cascais is a summer tourist town with the tourists gone home—fortunately for us, and a suburb of Lisbon.

`    I like Portugal.  I had never been before, and I have found it engaging and exciting.  Surrounded on three sides by Spain and the fourth by the Atlantic, Portugal has inevitably been influenced by its larger neighbor, but it has its own culture, language, intriguing history, and spirit.  Like Spain, its early history was marked by invasions of successive tribes like the Visigoths; it was conquered and ruled by Moslems for hundreds of years; it had a golden era of exploration, conquest, empire and riches—an era that then faded; and it has had a modern dictator; but Portugal has always done things its own way with its own flavor.  The people are industrious and prosperous, but also friendly and laid back.  The language they speak sounds a bit like Spanish with Russian consonants, but—fortunately for me—most of them also speak English.

I am most fascinated with Portugal’s age of exploration, since it involved some very daring sea voyages.  In the span of a little over 100 years starting at the end of the 15th century,     Monument to the Discoveries, Lisbon.           Portugal went from a small and fairly impoverished country newly freed from the Moslem yoke, to a leader in world exploration and a world power with a great empire and fabulous wealth.  It all came as the result of the vision and support of Henry the Navigator, a king who supported the building of ships, the study of navigation, and the exploration of the world.  Portuguese sailors began to venture forth, discovering the Azores, Madeira, and the Cape Verde islands to the southwest.  They gradually explored further and further down the east African coast, and discovered Brazil in the process.  Then the most famous, Vasco de Gama—building on the discoveries of his countrymen—rounded the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa and pushed on to India, establishing a trade in spices from the east that Portugal controlled and which brought the country great wealth, wealth that was turned into monasteries and palaces.  Other Portuguese explores sailed on to find sea routes to China and Japan, bringing further wealth, and one sailed west to Newfoundland.  Portugal was such a world power and such a rival of Spain that the Pope divided the globe between the Spanish and the Portuguese.

Today, Portugal’s empire is long gone, but its history and traditions remain, like its close ties to its former colony, Brazil, the Moorish influence seen here and there in its architecture, and the keen sailors from a local sailing school that race around our anchored ship every afternoon.  The kids in their 8’ Optimist prams, the teenagers in their fast 15’ 420s, and the adults in their Dragon keelboats are the modern embodiment of the Portuguese sailors and explorers.  The wealth of empire is seen in the great palaces and monasteries that it built—which remain as monuments to past glory

One of the striking things that sets Portugal visually apart is the very common use of tile and mosaics of small cobbles of colored stone seen in squares, walks and even streets.  Art is seen all over, from statues—old and avante guarde—seen in public spaces and paintings and other works in art galleries.  And there seems to be a certain air of romance here.  I’m glad we came.


October 19, 2008
A ‘Marlinspike’ is one of the periodic parties that the Captain will call, especially at sea, with coolaid spiked with rum and popcorn.  De rigueur dress is—for reasons I don’t understand—as colorful and outlandish as possible, a goal often achieved.

Matt and Nate

Matt and Nate

Deb and Jackie

Deb and Jackie



Marie and Paul

Marie and Paul



October 18, 2008
Whether she is in port or at sea, the ship has a routine and a rhythm that varies only slightly from day to day.  While in port, the day starts for the watch on duty with a 7:15 wakeup call, breakfast at 7:30, and muster at 8:00.  At that gathering duties are assigned, and after a routine of scrubbing the deck and cleaning below, the work of painting, rigging work, and other projects starts and continues—with an hour off at noon for lunch—until 4:30 or 5:00.  Then—if it is warm enough and we are at anchor—there might be a swim call for those inclined, or a little leisure time before dinner at 6:00, with the evenings free.  Each person on watch has a night watch—typically an hour-and-a-half long sometime between 8:00 PM and 8:00 AM, during which they watch over the ship, slacking the running rigging if it rains (manila rope shrinks when it is wet and can get stretched too tight), making sure the anchor doesn’t drag, or anyone unauthorized comes aboard, monitoring and recording the weather, and doing a thorough “ship check” tour of the ship once an hour to check for fire, leaks, or anything else amiss.  And in the morning the routine starts all over again.

Swinging and jumping off a rope hung from the foreyard.

Swinging and jumping off a rope hung from the foreyard.

At sea there is a different but similarly set routine.  Instead of one watch (one-third of the crew) being on duty for 24 hours, the watch changes every four hours with a different group coming on duty.  Each 4-hour watch starts with a muster where jobs are assigned, and each hour different people rotate through steering at the helm, being on lookout at the helm, and doing whatever cleaning and maintenance jobs are appropriate to the hour, with the galley cleaned at night, the deck washed at dawn, living quarters cleaned in the morning, and painting and other work done during the day.

The day we left Ares, Spain, started in routine fashion, with an on-watch muster, with the rest of us free to go ashore

On-watch morning muster, Ares, Spain.

On-watch morning muster, Ares, Spain.

for the morning, since we were not leaving until after lunch.  I went ashore to the library to do some last emails, returning at noon.  Shortly after 1:00 we began the laborious process of hauling up the anchor, and we were soon underway, motoring out into the open sea.  At first we set only fore-and-aft sail as we emerged from the bay, but when we were clear of the land and turned south the wind came on the beam and we set the square sails as well, with the yards braced around sharp so they could catch the wind.

By the time I came on watch at midnight, the wind had clocked around to the north and was coming from astern.  It had strengthened considerably, and since we were still carrying a lot of sail, we were moving fast and steering was a real challenge.  Paul—the mate of our watch—ordered some of the sails to be taken in, which improved the ship’s balance and made steering much easier.  Nevertheless, the wind continued to rise and by the end of our watch the ship was sailing at 8 and 9 knots, fast for the Picton Castle and a thrilling ride.

By our next watch, at noon today, the wind had gone light, and we were struggling to make 3 or 4 knots.  It was, however, fairly mild and pleasant weather/

October 20, 2008
We have now had three days of moderately light and variable winds.  For the last two days the wind has slowly clocked around us during the day.  This means frequent sail handling to brace the yards around so the sails catch the wind as it comes from a new direction, and taking in and setting different sails depending on which direction the wind is coming from.  When we are running before the wind with the wind straight astern we need to take in some sails to make the ship balance, and other sails need to be taken in because they are in the lee—or wind shadow—of others and will only flop around.  Under these conditions we generally carry only 10 sails.  But if the wind is on the beam, coming from the side of the ship, we can set more sails and in light air may carry as many as our maximum of 19 sails.  If the wind shifts so it is coming from the other side of the ship, we must ware the ship or gybe, which involves taking in some sails to be reset later on the new tack, bracing the yards around, shifting the headsails by trimming them in on the other side, and resetting the sails taken in.  All this sail handling makes the watch active and interesting, and I am learning more of the intricate and complicated processes of sail handling and getting good practice, which I like.

Of course there is leisure time as well, both when we are off-watch and occasionally during lulls in the action during watch.  Our musicians aboard have been active on guitars, Dave on his mandolin, and Gary on his fiddle.

Dave, the sailmaker on his mandolin

Dave, the sailmaker on his mandolin

Although we are removed from the outside world, and news comes to us only delayed and intermittently—when we are in port—we are well aware of the world financial crisis and the political situation in the United States with the election coming. There is great concern over these situations, at least among those of the crew old and wise enough to understand the implications, and endless discussion and debate on these subjects.

On a much more insignificant level, I am perturbed by the loss of my favorite fleece sweater.  I wore it frequently, and when it got too hot one day I took it off and left it on the hatch, a common place for those on watch to temporarily leave things.  When I returned, someone had cleared everything off the hatch and it was gone.  I searched for it for days, and put up a notice that it was missing and I would give a reward for its return, but so far I have not gotten it back.  It is a personal aggravation, but I also see it as one manifestation that we seen to have reached a point in the voyage when the strains of 30+ people living together in a small space are beginning to surface.  Others have been upset by noise in the salon, which serves as both living room of the ship and bedroom for 16 people, some of whom are always trying to sleep while we are at sea.  Tension has risen and tempers have gotten high.  I also observe strains in different relationships and a chill in one friendship where one of the parties seemed to hope for romance and the other was not interested.  I ‘m afraid I can’t always turn off the psychologist in me.

I’m not sure how much I am upset abut these petty things and how much they are just a distraction from the greater and more serious issues of the world economic and political situations, how they will effect the world and myself, and my usual concern over Barbara’s welfare. I try not to think about too much since I can do nothing about them, having voted while I was home.

Spenser and Sarah practicing serving.

Spenser and Sarah practicing serving.

The learning of the arts of the sailor continues, always, both formally and informally.  Today we had a class in serving: covering a wire or hemp rope to protect it. First it is wormed—with pieces of twine laid between the three strands of the rope to make a more smooth surface, then parceled—wrapped with strips of old sheet, then tarred, served—wrapped tightly with marlin twine, then tarred again.  This class is in preparation for some serious work on the rig planned for Lisbon.

That is, if we ever get to Lisbon.  The winds have gotten lighter and lighter and our speed slower and slower, so our approach to Lisbon seems asymptotic and it feels like we will never get there.  We’ll see.


57 SPAIN, part one.

October 16, 2008
We were supposed to go to La Coruna, in Spain.  We entered the harbor of this fairly large port city, past the oldest functioning lighthouse in the world, built by the Romans.  The sails were neatly furled, the yards braced around, and every line was neatly coiled. Once behind the breakwater the anchor was freed of its restraints ready to be set.  Then the order came to prepare to come alongside the quay, and big mooring hawsers were laboriously passed from one crewman to another down off of the top of the galley house or up from the chain locker beneath the forepeak.  They were coiled on top of the hatch, then just as laboriously shifted to their proper places along the starboard side, and tires were deployed—each with a line on it—to be put over the side as fenders against the stone or concrete quay.  The ship maneuvered around the harbor, and then turned and headed out of the harbor and away from it.

The captain called a muster to inform us that the port authorities had said there was no room alongside the quay for us—though we could see places that looked to us as if we would fit—and had then denied his request to anchor, anywhere in the harbor, despite the fact that the ship had anchored there on a previous visit.  It seemed La Coruna didn’t want us.  Instead we motored ten miles to a small harbor at the little town of Ares, the closest place that we were told that we could anchor.  There we anchored outside the breakwater.

I didn’t go ashore the first evening, since I have been nursing a cold, trying to avoid it going into my chest and becoming pneumonia, something I have become prone to in recent years.  Since my return to the ship I have been catching up on a lot of things that I missed while I was away.  The ship’s cold was one thing I wish I could have skipped, and my strategy to deal with it was to sleep as much as possible.

The second day in Ares I was on watch, and on galley duty.  My heart sank when I saw Donald, the cook, preparing to go ashore.  That meant that the two of us on galley duty would not only have to do all of the set up and cleanup for meals, but cook as well.  My compatriot, Sarah, wasn’t feeling very well either, but she did most of the cooking and I did most of the cleaning.  The person who is in charge of such things had forgotten to send out the ships laundry in St. Nazaire, so we were out of clean dish towels.  After I finished the breakfast dishes, I put 15 of the dirty towels in the sink, filled it with warm water and soap, and let them soak, agitating them by hand every few minutes.  After half an hour I wrung each towel out individually by hand, and filled the sink with new water.  I repeated this process five times with wash water, and three more with rinse water, until my hand had a set of ruptured blisters from twisting wet towels.  The towels still looked filthy from the black soot from the bottom of the pans, but I knew they were clean, and hung them to dry.  After I had done the lunch setup and dishes I should have helped with painting, but having worked five hours strait, I snuck away for a couple hours nap.  By the time the dinner cleanup was done, it had been along day, but Sarah and I had worked together well and pulled it off, preparing and cleaning up from the meals.

On the third day I finally set foot on shore in Spain, but not wanting to do anything strenuous, I went to the town’s very ice community center and library to use their wifi to connect with the internet and catch up on email, then walked around town a little and had a beer with some shipmates before returning to the ship early.  Gary, the medical officer, listened to my chest with his stethoscope and said that I have a touch of bronchitis, but my lungs were clear, which much relieved me.

At last on the fourth day I felt well enough to venture out and see a little of Spain beyond Ares.  I took the skiff to the dock, walked across Ares, and—along with some shipmates—took a bus to the nearby town of Ferrol, and a second bus to a city that others said was very interesting.  I found that my very rusty high school Spanish served to ask simple questions for directions, but that I understood little of the answers.  Following my famous Bellows’ theory of concentric circles—developed when I traveled in Europe as a student—I would listen politely to the directions I was given, given in Spanish much too rapid and complex for me to follow, thank the person politely.  I would then head in the direction their arms had flapped while giving directions, in the belief that doing so would bring me one concentric circle closer to my goal, and by repeating this process I would—with each new set of directions—get closer to my goal until the person who I asked said, in perfect English, something like, ‘You fool, you’re standing right in front of it.’  This approach found the bus station in Ferrol and other places I was seeking.

Sam, Sarah, Matt, myself, Dave, and Jackie.

Sam, Sarah, Matt, myself, Dave, and Jackie.

Once in the city, my companions and I stopped for lunch in a nice restaurant.  Seeking a local dish, I had Gallician style hake—this being the Spanish province of Gallicia—which was excellent, and nicely set off by a couple of bottles of the province’s red wine that we shared.  Most of my companions had an excellent lamb dish.

After this great repast we walked through the streets of this city, much of which was built in the 11th and 12 centuries.  The streets were very narrow—perhaps 10to 12 feet wide—reminding me of when the town was built, but they were lined with shops selling such modern things as electronics and lingerie.  Here and there a church broke the line of buildings.  After a half-hour of wandering through this labyrinth, we reached a square where we could see our goal, the cathedral.

The city of Santiago de Campostella is the terminus of a centuries-old pilgrimage from southeastern France across northern Spain.  I knew about this pilgrimage because a few years ago my Friends Natalie and Fritz Kempner did it.  The would walk each day with other pilgrims along the route, stopping each night at special inns and hostels set up for the pilgrims.  The pilgrimage took weeks, but seemed to fulfill Natalie’s desire to do something special for her 80th birthday.  I cannot say that I understand the pilgrims motivation, or wha they get out of the pilgrimage, but I saw many of them in the city— sun-tanned and walking with rucksacks and walking sticks—and I had to admire their dedication.

The exterior of the cathedral is an impressive and ornate collection of towers and statues.  I walked around the ccatherdal through the various squares that abut it, studying the facades and using the only 20 minutes of sun of the day to take a few photographs.

The interior of the cathedral in Santiago de Campostella is magnificent, with high vaulted ceilings and an altar area loaded with ornate and beautiful gilded carvings.

The pipes of a huge organ hang over the central nave. The pews held those in prayer, while those—like me—admiring the architecture circulated around them. Along the edges of the interior—laid out in the usual cross shape—are small chapels, each grand in its own way, that show a variety of artistic styles competing with each other in grandeur. I went through the museum, in an old cloister filled with religious art and tapestry, that gave a great view from a high balcony of the city.

Despite the fact that I do not share the religious beliefs of those who built it, I found Santiago de Campostella a very spiritual place.