By Domino K. Hawks
We made for the acoustically favorable underside of the Aurora (old Highway 99) Bridge to enhance the already earth-shaking report of the ship’s cannons and swivel guns. Any lingering standoffishness I may have felt towards Lady Washington was banished by both hearing and feeling the blast in my solar plexus, followed by the rolling booms echoing from the underside of the bridge, and smelling the black powder smoke. People lining the shore screamed. I imagine that the residents of the surrounding neighborhood of Fremont would be cleaning up after their startled indoor pets – probably after removing them from the ceiling.
As we traveled back to our starting place in the darkness, I became conscious of the sounds of the ship – the flap of the canvas sails and the booming sound they make as they fill, the buzz of rope traveling through wooden blocks, and the creaking of the yards. The skyline of Seattle drew closer and became harder to ignore.
I simply did not want to go back to the dock. When we arrived and tied off, I did not want to disembark. When I did, dragging my feet the whole way, I was so wired and exhilarated that I could not go home, could not go to sleep. I began to have my own ambitions that some might question – to be a “splat” … to wear silly pants (the required historic garb), to earn some calluses … to become a square rig sailor.
Okay, maybe not the silly pants so much.
And trust me on this … if you confess this secret ambition to friends or family members, be prepared to be looked at as if you had just divulged your desire to become an Elvis impersonator. “Ah, yes…” they say, while edging towards the door. But if they don’t do that, they will surely try to make you talk like a pirate.
Since that time, I have sailed on the brig six times, the last three as a sail trainee. The first time, I simply belayed (the act of literally herding line — on a square rigger, an endless pursuit). On each subsequent sail, I learned additional duties such as taking slack off a line while setting sail, and hauling and trimming spanker sails. Although by themselves minute, in the world of the Lady Washington, each task is a crucial part of the bigger picture. You truly feel a part of this primitive and thrilling machine.
Excerpted with permission from The Fyddeye Guide to America’s Maritime History, published by Fyddeye Media.