She’s not the type of Lady one forgets. I first discovered the Lady Washington in the spring of 2013. I spent 3 months aboard as a deckhand, sailing from the San Francisco bay to Astoria, OR. Thence, up the Columbia River to Pasco, WA and back down. Since that trip, hardly a day has gone by that I don’t think of that ship.
I remember the ubiquitous black tar that imbued everything with the smell of burnt pine.
I still feel my palms burning from a thousand of handfuls of salted rope.
I recall the rhythmic white noise of bow watch, punctuating the anxiety of my responsibility for other lives.
I remember the luster of the bell rail, polished smooth and oiled by hundreds of rough palms.
I remember the spilling of coils and the recoiling of a dozen lines that every minor adjustment to course demanded.
I still feel the wind as I ascend into the rig, praying my grip will hold against the ocean’s violent efforts to claim another life.
I recall the patina of every weather-soaked, sun-bleached scrap of unpainted wood.
I remember the craft and care invested into every thread and splinter. I remember precision I could only aspire to.
Most of all, I remember the shipmates from whom I learned so much. Together, we kept the Lady afloat and made her sail over hundreds of nautical miles. These fellow sailors taught me that I must be willing to fail in order to grow, and showed me that the most rewarding progress is often preceded by harsh difficulty. From them I learned the value of singing in the face of gale-force winds, and the merit of cheerfully accepting unexpected hardship. Time after time, we overcame the wind and weather to find ourselves back on solid soil, leagues from where we started. We loved every second of it.