Monday, December 26, 2011

Greenpeace Days--aboard the Rainbow Warrior

My friends Barb and Roxie cornered me at a recent holiday party and asked why I haven't posted any stories about my days in Greenpeace. I dunno...I just never thought about it. So here, for Barb and Roxie, is a small shipboard story that comes to mind:

When the waves came hard against the sides of the Rainbow Warrior, you had to be careful opening the little fridge in the mess. As the ship tilted to starboard, all contents shifted toward the back of the fridge. This was the time to open the door and assess the contents--then close the door quickly before the ship tilted toward port. When you rolled back again, you could open the door and grab whatever you'd come for. Under no circumstance should you open the fridge door when the ship was tilted toward port.

It was much more fun when we were heading into the waves rather than against them. Dan'l had been to sea before, and he showed me a neat trick when the ship was plunging into oncoming waves. Standing on the deck, we bent our knees and timed a leap into the air so that it coincided with the ship's highest point on a wave. The astonishing result was that, as the Rainbow Warrior dropped into the trough, Dan'l and I were suspended 15+ feet above the deck, arms windmilling, looking down at the impossibly long drop beneath us. There was time to gaze out at the blue of the ocean, blue and blue and blue all the way to the far-off horizons. As the ship rose up to meet us, we'd land, with the impact somewhat more than if we'd made a typical jump into the air--and then we'd ready ourselves for the next impossible leap.

But Peter Willcox, captain of the Rainbow Warrior, did not suffer fools lightly. He leaned out from the bridge to drawl, "We're two hundred miles from land. If either of you idiots breaks a leg, I'm not turning this ship around. You'll just have to wait till we get to our next port."

"Aye aye, Captain!" we hollered (Peter hated when we called him "captain"), and leaped again for joy.
The good ship Rainbow Warrior, in a calm sea
with no fools a-leaping


(Want to read more about Greenpeace days? Click on the "Search this Blog" box to the right and enter the word Greenpeace.) 

18 comments:

  1. Leap for joy indeed!  What FUN!   Tell us more!  Did you sleep in a hammock?

    I'm thinking. with things rattling around in the fridge like that, did you use powdered eggs?

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  2. No sleeping hammocks, except for one we slung on the deck when out in the middle of nowhere (couldn't have it up/out during an action, where it might get in the way). We slept in bunks that had sides on them, to prevent you from rolling out in a bad sea. The Rainbow Warrior had been a North Sea trawler before Greenpeace bought her. I scored the small cabin with a brass plate above the door reading "Cook & Boy," down in what we called the dungeon <--because there were no portholes--the crew's cabins were located below water line.

    The fridge in the mess was just a little one; we had a large walk-in fridge in which all items had to be secured. Still, we'd get real eggs when in port. I remember sitting on the deck somewhere in Central America, coating an enormous number of eggs with Vaseline so air wouldn't penetrate the shells and they would keep longer at sea. (That's how I knew to have Tracker do that in "Kidnapping the Lorax," when he was caching the eggs.)

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  3. pat, who shaped you into the wonderful human that you are? did you have a free thinking mother, life affirming, and supporting?  loving kind anchor of a father? how did you become  this incredible life force?

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  4. There's a book here. Just in your personal memories. Not the political action stuff that might be "classified," but in everyday shipboard details.

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  5. 2 fools a-leaping and a dove on the green bow...

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  6. Ha! 
    Hello, my old shipmate, thanks for dropping by. Help me remember this, please--as I recall, the  upper half of the bridge windows slid down (or at least a couple of them did). In my memory, Peter leaned out from the window--could that be accurate? And if so, is there a nautical term for bridge window? Is it still a porthole if it's not round?

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  7. Hey J! Jeez, what a kind Christmas present! :o) 
    I was fortunate to win the birth-lottery--parents who loved me and my sister unconditionally. They loved each other too; still do. I didn't realize that my Ozzie-and-Harriet childhood was not the norm until I grew up, left home and started hearing others' childhood stories. I was given a solid foundation. I wish every child received this.

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  8. Delightful story, Pat. I think it'd take about three tries for me to open the fridge before finding what I needed rolling around in there.  The jumping makes me think of  flying.  What a tremendous memory.  Thanks for sharing it.

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  9. Somehow I can imagine leaping into the air and discovering the boat was no longer underneath. I can imagine this so vividly that I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have done it. Especially since I would have been busy throwing up at stern. You're my hero.

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  10. I envy you having had such adventures.  But how I enjoy reading about them!  Keep remembering and keep writing.

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  11. two great parents is a blessing, one good one is better than none!

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  12. You were brave!  Or foolhearty ;>)....nice story, good work you've done.

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  13. For anyone who might be wondering about the answer to this question--Pat confirmed that the windows slid down (oh, I'm so happy that a few of my memory cells still manage to work!) and that he called them "wheelhouse windows."

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  14. I think only one , on the starboard middle.  When we were docking port side to, Greta Cowan would shout instructions out of the window as I stood off to port.
    Fortunately, crews today are smarter, and know to listen to the captain.  Smile....
    Any idea where Burgie is?  I have lost tract of him. 
    R'dub was 146', not 130. 
    More later....  All the best, 

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  15. Hey, Peter! Thanks for stopping by. 

    Glad to hear your crews are smarter these days :o) The ship is too, huh? Dang, R Dub 3 is impressive. Hope I get to set foot aboard some day. Bring her around to Portland, willya?

    I'll email you Dan'l's  info.

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