Sunday, October 16, 2005

I Am Certifiable

Here is my certificate that proves I crossed the Equator aboard Regina in Agugust 1978. That day the students were called on deck, where members of the crew, their bodies covered in oil and bits of rope, welcomed us with open arms to intiate us land lubbers into the solemn mysteries of the ancient order of the deep. We would from that day be known as shellbacks. I can't say that has frequently come up in conversation. A few weeks later I had my left ear pierced by Debbie, a deckhand at the time, in celebration of my crossing of the Equator aboard Regina. I wear an earring to this day. If you know Debbie, thank her for me.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Me and Chuck

This photo takes me back almost thirty years. Chuck was the 3rd mate on the first leg of my Regina Maris trip. I was sixteen years old and had just graduated high school. Chuck taught me the art and science of celestial navigation with a sextant. One day he drew a circle on a nautical chart around our current position and made me a bet that if my first reading came in wthin five miles of our position he would buy me a beer when we got to the Galapagos. I won that bet by the slimmest margin. After that Chuck would refer to me as "Chris Columbus." He also gave me a second nickname. He would call me "The Vanishing Venezuelan Squid." I had a tendency to make myself scarce when there was unpleasant work to be done, therefore the nickname.

If anyone knows Chuck or how o contact him, let me know. I'd like to give him a call and remember old times.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Learning the Ropes

The first order of business after getting some sleep was learning the ropes, figuratively and literally. A square rigger needs miles of ropes to operate. As students we were required to learn what every rope did. They had us go on deck and assigned us to stations. I was stationed by the wet lab on the starboard side of the fore mast. My introduction to the rigging was a bit embarrassing. The first mate told me to take a rope and to pull on it when he gave the word. I had the rope off the belaying pin and I was ready. When he gave the word I pulled as hard as I could, nothing happened. I kept pulling on the rope and the damn thing would not move. I literally hung from the rope and it refused to budge. A few seconds later the first mate comes by and looks at me like I am an idiot. I explain to him that the rope is stuck. He gives me a second withering look and tells me to move aside. He grabbed the rope with one hand and tugged on it and the rope just fed right trough for him. When we were done my hands were raw. Handling the manila rope used on Regina’s rigging was like rubbing sandpaper over your hands.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Sky, Moon & Studding Sails?

Christopher Golian (read the previous post), sent me this photo of the Regina Maris fore mast. When he was aboard the Regina she had two extra yards on the fore mast, a sky yard and a moon yard. I remember having to stow the royal sail during a gale and that was pretty damn high already. I recall that the shrouds didn't make it all the way to the yard and I had to grab a hold of the mast and shimmy the last couple of feet to the royal yard. That is not too bad in good weather, but it was blowing like mad and the mast was swinging quite a lot. I cannot begin to imagine what it woould have been like to get all the way to the top of a mast with two extra yardarms.

Another cool thing in this photo is the presence of a studding sail. I have seen a painting of the Regina in full sail including her studding sails but I never saw them in use.

If you have any photos of the Regina Maris, don't hesitate to email them to me. I'll be glad to post them on the blog.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Gross Tonnage Anyone?

Over the weekend Christopher Golian contacted me with a question. Chris is a former crewmate from 1971. He is applying for his Masters License and he needs to list the gross tonnage of the Regina Maris. I don't recall what the tonnage was even if I ever knew it. Perhaps someone out there recalls the gross tonnage of the Regina Maris. If you do, let me know and I'll pass the info along to Chris.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The Adventure Begins

The year was 1978, I was sixteen years old. I was a high school senior in Caracas, Venezuela. I was about to graduate in July. My father knew I wanted to study marine biology and one of his friends had been on a cruise aboard a sailboat. This friend told my father about the cruise and suggested I might be interested. My father figured that it was a good idea. I could find out if I liked marine biology before I started college. I was two years younger than most of my other classmates, I could afford to take a year off while I explored the possibilities.

The Regina Maris was in Panama getting ready for a cruise to the Galapagos Islands. The cruise was starting soon. I had very little time to prepare. I remember my father helping me pack. He suggested that I would not need a lot of warm clothes since I was going to be in the tropics near the equator (boy was he wrong!). The very day after my graduation from high school I took a flight to Panama.

Thinking back about my trip I am surprised how unprepared I was. To begin with, I was not sure where Regina was. I had some rough directions. I knew she was in Balboa and that she had some connections to the Smithsonian’s Tropical Research Institute. When I landed in Panama, I took a half hour taxi ride to STRI. Once there, they told me that Regina had gone somewhere else, I forget the specific place. I got directions and got back into the same taxi. This time I got lucky and Regina was right where she was supposed to be. She was at anchor and there was no boat at the dock to take me aboard. I asked around and nobody knew how to contact anyone aboard Regina. I took my bag and sat at the end of the dock. I waved my hands to try to attract attention but everyone was too busy to look my way. I gave up and sat down on the dock. Sometime later someone got into the Zodiac and came towards the dock. They had no idea I was coming, someone needed to go ashore and I got lucky. I finally made it aboard. I was shown below to my bunk. Being the last one aboard there was only one bunk left, the one right next to the galley.

The crew from the Regina was used to groceries from the US so they had brought the crates aboard without a second thought. Unfortunately there were some hidden passengers hitching a ride within the crates. The boat had been infested by roaches on their arrival to Panama. These passengers liked to hang out by the galley where the food was. The top bunk next to the galley was their favorite through way. I didn’t know this yet, I would find out later that night as I lay on my back. Instead of counting sheep, I counted the small roaches as they made their way back and forth along the top of my bunk. I suppose I should have protested but I was a shy boy at sixteen and in a very new environment. Frankly I didn’t know whether I could complain. Besides the roaches seemed to stay on their side of the bunk, at least while I was awake.

I had made it aboard somehow. I was the youngest student aboard. I was the only non-native English speaker and I had no idea what I was in for. The adventure had just begun.

To be continued…

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

An Old Ship and the Sea

There is a good article about Regina in the community history section of The article by George DeWan talks about Harvey Oxenhorn's experiences aboard the Regina Maris. Harvey wrote a book entitled "Tuning the Rig" after a couple of expeditions aboard Regina. Tuning the rig is what sailors call the process of adjusting the tension of the rigging of a sailboat in order to achieve good performance.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Immortalized by Carl Sagan?

Maybe you remember the famous mini-series Cosmos by the noted astronomer Carl Sagan? Regina appeared in a couple of episodes of Cosmos. Carl Sagan and a film crew came aboard for a couple of days to use Regina as a background for some segments of the mini-series. Carl was accompanied by his wife, Ann Druyan, and they took a cabin across from my bunk.

For one of the episodes they filmed members of our crew climbing aloft and working the rigging. The second segment they filmed appeared in episode 11 "The Persistence of Memory". The segment was about whale communication. On one of the takes Carl Sagan is on the starboard side walking forward towards the camera. Behind him, in the background and out of focus I was coiling some rope, wearing a red hat and yellow rubber boots. By the next day Carl, his wife and the film crew were gone.

Over a year later, I finally got to see Cosmos on TV. I saw Regina again and watched for my blurry cameo. It didn't last very long and if you didn't look out for it, you missed it. Regina and I were immortalized. At least Regina was in focus.

Friday, April 08, 2005

A Brief History of the Regina Maris

This article by David Berson, which was published in the May/June 2002 issue of Ocean Navigator, gives a short history of the Regina Maris. Sadly she was scuttled to save her from a hurricane and was never repaired. The sad story of Regina's demise was posted by S. Berliner, III on the Naval and Maritime Matters section of his web site. Having grown to love her in the six months I spent aboard the Regina, it is hard to see her come to such an end.

The Regina Maris

The Regina Maris was a 144 foot long, three masted barkentine owned and operated by the Ocean Research and Education Society (ORES). The Regina Maris was used to teach marine science to university students. I came aboard straight out of high school in July 1978 for a two month cruise to the Galapagos islands. I embarked at Balboa, the Pacific ocean entrance to the Panama Canal. At the end of the trip I decided to stay aboard as a deckhand. I remained aboard until late December 1978. We were anchored at La Paz, Baja California. Regina was on her way to Alaska to study Humpback whales.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Share Your Stories!

The mission of this blog is to bring together people who sailed aboard the Regina Maris. If you have stories or photos to share, contact me. I hope to make this blog a place where former Regina Maris crew-mates can come reminisce about our favorite square rigged ship.