Archive for the 'Gazela' Category

A Day Sail on the Gazela

September 14th, 2013 | Category: Gazela,Travel,Uncategorized

On the east coast for business, once again I made sure to roll through Philly to visit with family. For me, “family” includes the Gazela, a ship on which I have been crew for nearly 20 years. I usually don’t get to sail any more, living so far away, but today was special. We conducted a practice sail between the Ben Franklin and Walt Whitman bridges.  It was a delightful afternoon, with a fine breeze perfect for sailing, not too much river traffic, and lots of sun.

We motored out into the enormous Delaware, but soon raised some jibs.  That’s the battleship “New Jersey” in the background.

Next we raised the lower and upper main square sails.

In the next image it looks like we’re standing on the yard (large wooden horizontal mast-like wood) at bottom, but that is an illusion.  In actuality, crew stands on the footrope – the unoccupied lower main topsail yard’s footrope, a heavy black line, can be seen at the bottom of this picture.

In unison, we lean forward – throwing our feet back as our bellies form a pivot point on top of the yard – and grab a “flake” (fold) of sail. We haul it up, lean backwards – and, holding on to the sail, which is what prevents us from falling – stand upright, then fold the flake on to the top of the yard. Leaning on the folded flake with our bellies, this operation is performed multiple times until the entire sail has been hauled up and folded, accordion-style, on top of the yard, at which point it’s tied with short ropes named “gaskets.”

Here is a rare image with me actually in it.  We’re furling the jibs – sails attached to the boom, or mast that points from the bow (front) end of the ship. It’s one of my favorite places, because you can watch water part around the bow while the ship moves through the water, and at sea, sometimes there are dolphins or pilot whales (which are like big black dolphins) playing in the bow wave.

The Philadelphia skyline seen from mid-river.  If you enlarge this image you can see a tall ship named “Moshulu” which used to haul grain around the horn.  In fact, it was the last wind-powered ship to commercially travel between Europe and Australia, as well as the orient and the US, and several books were written about it.  Now it doesn’t sail; its rigging is nice-looking but for show only, and it is a fancy restaurant that never moves.  But I love that Philadelphia has this amazing ship.  To its right, which a white hull and saffron superstructure, is the Olympia, the original gunboat of the phrase “gunboat diplomacy.” It is the ship from which Admiral Dewey said the famous line “You may fire when you are ready, Gridley,” which launched the crucial naval battle of the Spanish-American war.  Harder to see in this picture in the Becuna, a decorated WWII submarine.  Across the river in Camden, NJ, and shown in another picture in this post, is the WWII battleship New Jersey.

Since there are so many other historic vessels I should mention that the Gazela may be the oldest wooden sailing vessel afloat in the US, and one of the oldest in the world.  Built in Portugal in1883 (although extensively refitted in 1901), she is still sailed up and down the east coast, not as a pleasure vessel, but as a living school to preserve the skills of the era of sail.

I’ve included a variety of images in the gallery below; click to enlarge.

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