April 1 has come and gone and another season aboard Bluenose II has begun. I always enjoy first day as the new crew are about to embark on the adventure that will hopefully change their lives. Returning deckhands are always chatty, talking about their winter adventures and their excitement to be back aboard and seeing old shipmates is like a bubbling brook in the spring thaw.
This year we again join under the cloud of the Covid pandemic. We live in such close quarters aboard that any illness brought across the gangway can affect our operational abilities. To this end, we asked Praxes Medical Group to come and provide some guidance and education to the crew. In these uncertain days, trying to keep the crew safe is certainly an added pressure. These days we have a good understanding of the cause and effect of a disease — I can’t imagine being aboard a schooner for the 1918 Spanish flu event, or a diphtheria or other outbreak.
April 1 was a day of cleaning and getting acquainted. I spent a fair bit of time talking about personal responsibilities, safe working practices, living in small spaces, etc. There is such a great deal for the new crew to learn beside the fact that the bathroom is the head, the kitchen the galley and the walls are the ceiling! A new language for them, new sounds and smells and often physical work that is different from their prior experiences.
I’m sure you can imagine lying in a small bunk feeling the ship roll easily at the dock. In the dim light you can hear murmured conversations of old ship mates catching up. The rattle of a water pump starting or the swing and bang of the cooler door as somebody gets a snack from the galley. Overhead you hear the bang of the gangway and the clip of footsteps as somebody returns from a trip ashore. All new and strange. You might fall asleep wondering what tomorrow brings and what it takes to get a schooner and crew ready for sea. If you would like to have a look around the ship, above and below decks, we have a virtual tour available online at https://bluenose.novascotia.ca/virtual-tour.
This week we will be largely in the rigging shed as it’s still too cold to be painting outside. Not to worry though, there is an unending list of work to be completed! The mates and bosun will work through it and teach the crew as they go along. Our full crew is not on board quite yet — they will trickle in over the next three weeks as school and winter work wind up. For now, though, the ship has life again; the laughter, excitement, and curiosity of our group of young Nova Scotians fill the quiet spaces and promise adventures ahead.