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Updated 11:00am - Nov 26, 2014

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A day at sea on a tall ship

In preperation for the 'Grand Arrival,' Chief Mate John Morrison (left) scans the horizon for possible hazards as Captain Ryan Meyer examines a detailed map of Crescent City's harbor. (The Daily Triplicate/Bryant Anderson).
In preperation for the 'Grand Arrival,' Chief Mate John Morrison (left) scans the horizon for possible hazards as Captain Ryan Meyer examines a detailed map of Crescent City's harbor. (The Daily Triplicate/Bryant Anderson).

By Thea Skinner

Triplicate staff writer

Is a tall ship's life for you? Before the Lady Washington tall brig ship arrived on Tuesday, the crew and their leaders prepared behind the scenes. All hands on deck adhere to securing ship, shipmate, and self – in that order.

Captain Ryan Meyer and his First Mate John Morrison lead a low-number crew with several trainees. One member has a broken arm, and another a common cold.

"It does not matter who you are or where you come from, life can get hard on you out here real quick," Meyer said.

"We get the same politics. It feels much larger (than in an office), because life is more intense on board."

Meyer joined the ship at age 19 and became captain at age 22. Meyer, now 27, and Morrison have been sailing together since 2000 off and on for a total of about three years. Both are licensed to be captains.

While crew members begin to eat dinner in the gally Sunday, Morrison is receiving weather information from Hal, a computer generated voice response system that tells him where to navigate based on weather patterns.

He shares the printed weather report with Meyer, otherwise known as Captain Evil, at the dinner meeting, called muster, held twice daily to discuss successes and identify areas for improvement. The report calls for rain, which is a good sign for a kind voyage.

"It is best to leave for transit on Monday between noon and 3 p.m.," Captain Meyer said.

Monitoring the weather and radio is key to life on a tall ship.

"We have an 18th century vessel with a 21st century schedule," Morrison said

Captain Meyer asks the crew how the sailing went for the day.

"For the skill level, I thought it went well. Really good interaction with the public," Morrison, known as John Boy, said.

The crew discussed the day's situation with a boat that became dismasted earlier in the day. The boat hit a bouie, snagged the point of the spreader and broke, trapping a man and woman.

"One of my personal things is that if someone is in trouble we do not leave until it is safe," Captain Meyer said. "We called a mede, meaning immediate danger of life and ability, in to the coast guard."

After a day of handling ropes and climbing on the ship's rope course, hands become callous. Fortunately, callous hands are ideal for playing the guitar.

In the evening, Morrison and several other crew members hold a jam session on acoustic guitars and sing sea shanties while Captain Meyer retires to sleep.

The following day's muster breakfast topic centers on ship legalities.

Captain Meyer describes how he is held to chapter 46 of the Code of Federal Regulations. On most ships, only a slide blade is allowed, but the Lady requires the use of actual knifes, he said.

The ship is inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security periodically.

"It becomes a game of what I missed. I give them (the Coast Guard) a list of known problems, and they also give me a list," Captain Meyer said. "We are inspected once a year in the water and every 2 years outside the water."

A captain is also responsible for the paperwork. Captain Meyer sits in the After Cabin, also his quarters, reviewing the excel spreadsheet of receipts logged into the laptop by Purser Derryl Hall.

The Captain also compares the Gray's Harbor, Wash. office list with his own list of what is on board, including people and items. If there are incident reports by the crew, he reviews and signs them.

The crew was given a wireless Internet card for the laptop last year, which helps maintain quicker communication. The office e-mails last minute reservations.

Plotting points on maps to create a navigation path also occurs in the After Cabin. He finds the two points that intersect from the radio's latitude and longitude GPS navigation screen. The plots are done every hour. He determines that the course through day and night will be between 340 degrees northwest and 350 degrees northeast on the compass. The person maneuvering the tiller will make sure the compass stays between these degrees.

Morrison prepares other maps and lays them out for Captain Meyer.

Morrison assigns numbers through 12 to each hand on deck along with tasks.

"Thanks for letting me work you on the helm," Captain Meyer said to officer Preston Nirattisa, who has a cold.

Captain Meyer and Morrison use a chart to move out of the Eureka harbor and onto the ocean, as Morrison plays fitting DVD music.

Captain Meyer describes Morrison as being "in time with people. He just knows the right kind of music to put in."

As the ship moves out of the harbor, Captain Meyer logs this in the captain's log. He logs every action taken during transit.

Evening brings night watch for about four people in four-hour rotations.

"In older times, we rang the bell to signal a change of watch," Education Officer Holly Couling said.

She explains that her father once told her that her position on the ship "allows people to remember their dreams."

Captain Meyer goes to sleep at 8 p.m. in order to lead the night watch between midnight and 4 p.m. During night watch, the lead officer will delegate ship checks involving three different sections of the ship.

On his watch, several points of contact – other boats – were watched, and soon those lights were behind the ships.

Tuesday morning, the ship and crew waited outside the Crescent City harbor for approximately an hour before shooting off guns. Captain Meyer explains that the shooting can be used for flash and bang cartography, the time from light being first observed until the sound echo is heard.

The dynamic leading duo place much trust in each other.

"I am going to pass the boat over to JB (Morrison) this summer. JB is a great sailor – the best guy we have here," Captain Meyer said.

Morrison added, "Captain Meyer is one of the best masters of the Lady, with his ability to sail this boat to it's full potential."

Reach Thea Skinner at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

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