Name: K.C. Crowell
Hometown: Healdsburg, Calif.
Vessel: Hawaiian Chieftain
Job: Purser, also filling in as cook
What brought you to tall ships?
I first got on the boats as a Battle Sail passenger when they were in the Bay Area. I had a little bit of sailing experience, but I didn’t have any concept of tall ships as working things. I started talking to the captain, and I was like “How do you do this?” And he said, “It’s really easy, you just come and do this.” So that was two years ago now, and I’m still here.
So you did the Two Weeks Before the Mast program, and then what happened?
Then I just really, really liked it. I was working a job [at home] I wasn’t totally in love with, and wasn’t really in a great place in my life and so I needed a change. It was a really good change.
Do you see maritime in your future?
Definitely. Definitely. I’m already planning on doing my captain’s licensing sometime next year. Going through that whole process. This is basically my third career. This is what’s making me really happy right now. Getting the chance to turn what is a cool volunteer opportunity into a career is really exciting.
What would be your dream job on a boat?
That’s really hard! I really like working with kids. I’ve been doing that pretty much exclusively in my maritime career, so maybe doing something else or working with older groups of kids. It’s less about what kind of job I want, and more what kind of experiences I want to have. I want to work on international sail training boats. I’d love to do longer voyages and ocean crossing type stuff. That’s kind of where my career focus is, that is, what will let me have those kinds of opportunities.
What is your favorite part of working on Hawaiian Chieftain?
Oh man, favorite part of working on Hawaiian Chieftain… It’s hard because there are so many different things I love about working on this boat, and on Lady Washington too. The big one for me is getting to share my knowledge, and getting to help facilitate those “Ah ha!” moments, whether it’s with a trainee, a new volunteer, or the students that come on for education programs. Seeing things click, and seeing things that I teach click and make sense. Then the second part of that; watching people share that knowledge to the next group—new trainees, new volunteers, or whoever. That flow of knowledge is really rewarding.
What is your favorite chore?
I really like deck wash. There’s something really satisfying about spraying down a deck with water and hosing everything off and starting fresh. I also don’t mind galley duty. That said, I’m not super missing galley duty now that I’m cooking.
What’s your favorite meal that you’ve had on the boat?
There was a former sea cook aboard who did this really amazing Mediterranean spread. He would make homemade pita bread, falafel, and cucumber salad. It was the whole nine yards. It was so good. I’ve tried to recreate that a couple times since I’ve been cooking. It’s never been quite as good. Goals to work toward.
I made biscuits from scratch for the first time today, and didn’t totally mess it up. I have a baking and pastry background but I haven’t done that in a couple years. Being able to whip up biscuits from scratch and have them turn out good was great.
What is your favorite line (rope) on Hawaiian Chieftain?
I really like the clew brail on the main. You have to be really aware while you’re using it, and it also gives you a really good view of the sail being set. It’s a good place to see how the sail actually works. I feel like sometimes if you’re just hauling on the outhaul, or easing the peak brails or one of the other brails, it’s hard to get the bigger picture of how the sail actually works and what the lines are actually doing. But the clew brail, you’re right there on the galley house, and you’re having to pay attention to that clew block you’re on the other end of so it doesn’t smash anyone in the head. It’s a nice little observation post. So I’m kind of a hog when it comes to that line. “All hands to set the main,” and I just immediately run there. Not the coolest thing, but whatever.
Sometimes you’ve just got to take the stuff you want?
Yeah, no problem!
K.C. Crowell was interviewed by Caitlin Stanton.