An audio and video podcast of my trip hitchhiking around the world by sea.
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Sea Legs

I worked for the Grand Canyon Railway for about 10 years, at least 4 of those years were actually on the train. When everyday you are carrying cokes up and down the aisle you develop what we call “train legs”. I’m not exactly sure how Webster puts it but I’m imagine it’s something like:

train legs. plural noun
1. the ability to walk naturally on a train that is in motion without falling, pouring or dropping something into the lap of an elderly lady trying to enjoy her ride.

Train legs. And if I can say so without sounding immodest I had a pretty good pair. However… while similar, train legs are NOT sea legs. Let’s be honest- 33 feet of fiberglass floating on 6 foot swells is not easy to walk on. And when comparing Dan’s ability to swiftly move up and down the deck to my ability to step, pause, wait for wave to drop, step… and so on, it’s easy to find the guy with OUT sea legs.

Occasionally, I’ll come crashing into something to which Dan simply replies, “Light feet, Derek, light feet.” Right, right-light feet, I know. Well one particular day, when the swells were particularly large, I had to get something from underneath. So in I go. Step-pause. Step-pause. You know the drill. Anyway, I get whatever it was I was getting and am heading back when I forget either to step or to pause. I’m not totally sure which, but the boat dips and ol’ twinkle-toes Derek comes smashing into a table. A table that Dan spent hours making out of a sentimental map of his hometown Seattle. Dan peeks in… Glance-pause. Glance-pause. Then finally musters out, “The important thing is that you didn’t get hurt…” AKA: “Why did I EVER invite you to come? Next time you fall make sure it’s off the boat…” “No, I’m ok… thanks.” I reply.

Well the table gets fixed, but a few days later on a cloudy-uncomfortable day, Dan comes out of the boat as I’m steering and says, “Let’s practice some man overboard drills.” Now I’m not saying it’s related, but when you see a ship mate pirouette body slam himself into a table, there maybe some concern for your own safety. Whatever the reason, I have to admit it’s not a bad idea.

Dan goes first. He throws a cushion into the sea. “Man OVERBOARD!!!” My heart starts pounding as if this cushion’s life was about to be lost. Dan releases the sails, turns into the wind, pulls in the genoa (sail), starts the engine and steers toward the “man” overboard. “That took longer than it should,” says Dan. “Your turn.” Nice.

Dan tosses the cushion and I, voice cracking like a prepubescent teen, yell “MAN OVERBOARD!”. Ok… let’s see. Release the sail. Turn into the wind… no INTO the wind. Pull in the genoa. Start the engine. Oh yeah find the guy who drowning and steer the boat next to him… miss him, circle around… repeat, miss, repeat… aaaaaand TIME CHECK! Wow. Dan and I both agree there is sufficient need to practice again. We do and after I finally get it down, Dan suggests that maybe we try it while I’m in the boat. Hmmm wonder where that came from?

The good news is, without breaking anything else I bravely scrambled to deck, pulled sail, found and saved the poor cushion. And hopefully, we all slept a little more sound that night. I know I had no trouble, mystery bruises and all. Now let’s just hope I never have actually use that skill.


1 chris { 01.01.08 at 10:36 pm }

D, I was thinking of Wilson (Tom Hank’s Wilson) when I read this post, I think it is great Dan is doing MOB drills, you never know when you need it. I hope you will never need to use that skill, at least on the boat, real life MOB skills are probably very useful however (ref to your book)


2 John Kimble { 01.04.08 at 10:03 am }

I’m quite sure the cushion coalition will be proud to have you as one of their newest members! Youda Man! Well, in addition to cuttin your teeth on the open sea, it sounds as though you are becoming a master chef, spicing up an amazing meatloaf of memories that you’ll be able to savor well into your gumming years:) Enjoy every bruise as medals of honor, knowing that you’re out there doing it rather than just dreaming or talking about it! Hey, have ya gone grizzly with the salty sailor look or are you still pimpin the Gillette? Either way, keep sportin the sunblock as you face those sunny days ahead, leaving the shadows behind you.

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