Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Safety on the High Seas...Greenpeace Days

During crew meetings aboard the Greenpeace flagship, the Rainbow Warrior, Captain Peter Willcox might suddenly say, "Patty, you're in the head and a fire breaks out in the mess. Where's the nearest fire extinguisher?" 

"Uh, uh, it's um..." I might answer.

"Too slow. You're dead," he might would definitely reply.

Turns out there was an extinguisher right outside the doorway to the head. Funny how I still remember that, though decades have passed since Peter announced my untimely demise.

His point was, there was no one to save us out there in the middle of the ocean, except ourselves. So he drilled us, and drilled us again. In addition to fire drills (the extinguisher-location trivia game and the unrolling and setting up the fire hoses) there were person-overboard drills, and abandon ship drills.

The person-overboard drills were especially chilling. We used a large fluorescent orange float, meant to represent a person's head, although it was at least three times bigger, and, well, fluorescent orange. One of the mates would throw the thing overboard, and if you were the first to see it go, you'd holler "Man overboard!" and then become a human compass.

Hey, it might be better keep both feet
on the deck, Patty.
Never taking your eye off the rapidly shrinking orange "head," you'd stand perpendicular/sideways to it, both arms outstretched: one forward, pointing at the now teeny tiny head and the other arm pointing back, helping to amplify the direction (imagine one arm pointing north and the other pointing south). The mate would take a reading, the captain would turn the ship, and you would think to yourself "Holy ****, I can't even see that enormous, fluorescent-orange head anymore."

Nothing like watching that thing disappear into the bountiful blue behind the ship to convince you to watch your step on deck. 

We had abandon ship drills as well, meeting on the upper deck where the lifeboats were stored. My strongest memory of those drills was Peter telling us not to decide for ourselves when to abandon the ship. We were to stay aboard until he judged the time to leave; wait for his order to launch the lifeboats. It was an interesting demand to make of a bunch of unruly, hard-headed, strong-willed Greenpeacers, who might anticipate making their own decisions when it came to a life or death matter. 

But Peter knew that ship better than we ever would. And I would've stayed aboard until the waves lapped at my knees, if Captain Peter Willcox told me to.

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


  1. Hmmm. I'm in love.

  2. Ha! Start working on that time machine! You'd have to dial back a few decades to find that sweet young thing.

  3. Gorgeous and exciting imagery, Patois. And the writing is not bad, either.

  4. Love that sultry, mysterious look.SO high-fashion!

    So you were NOT part of that 47% who waits for the government to rescue you? You are willing to depend on yourself, do your own work, earn your own way, and STILL vote Democrat? You should write to Mr. Romney.

    The Man Overboard drill sounds terrifying. Especially if I imagine it being done in rough weather. I would never go on deck without a flourescent orange hat and shirt!

  5. ah heady days. you look like a long, lean, suntanned French girl.

  6. Ahhhh-wuuhhhhh! Ahhh-wuuhhhhhh!

  7. Look at that leg. You go girl! I would have never fallen overboard since I am scared to death of drowning and sharks and cannot swim.

  8. Yeah, great post, and like everyone else, all I can focus on is how hawt you are.

  9. Yes, you do look decidedly French. Perhaps I should throw out my Lancomme and jump on a ship that's saving the world. You could bottle that and sell it...

  10. Y'know, the camera is not usually my friend, so I was surprised by this photo when a crewmember sent it not long ago. It's a happy accident of the light, I think; the other photos I have from the ship show me gangly & goofy. I'll share more of those one of these days... But until then, you just go ahead and think I looked hawt back then.

  11. Great post, Pat. And what a sexy photo! :-)