Report 2 – First steps at sea
First steps at sea
The first few days at sea were training days for young people. First, each one of us was sent up the 55-meter high masts to wave to his home for a last bye-bye. All of us enjoyed this. Despite the light breeze, a weak scent rose up between the shrouds, similar to ‚puking into ones pants’.
Then we got started on deck, to get familiar with 20 km ropes and wires. There were all sorts of accessories such as pins with strange names like belaying pin rails and blocks or bream and everywhere there were stays, backstays shrouds to hold the masts and sails. To handle the sails we used our hands and winches. All commands for sail handling had to be memorized and when ordered to pull and belay on the pins. Usually several men pulled. The first in row yelled „Let Go“ and determined the rhythm by chanting:
the sail must go up,
it is as short as a skirt,
and even a lazy bum works,
the sail is in its place.“
Then the rope was belayed on so called pins. Per sail about 8, per mast, around 50 and on the entire ship almost 180 belaying pins, 20 % were made of iron for the sheets, the other 80% out of wood, for the clew lines, so they could easily be located at night. Everyone who could count to five had no problems: Royal yard – one of iron, three wooden; upper topgallant – one of iron, three made of wood, etc., lower topgallant, upper topsail, lower topsail and finally the lowest yard, the foresail -, main- or jigger yards depending on the name of each mast.
For the learning process it was very helpful, that while sailing at night in the Straits of Dover we were very close to the 100 meter high white cliffs. The white cliffs were shining very bright in the moonlight. You could easily see the difference between iron and wooden pins with your own eyes. In addition, there were many tourists on top of the cliffs: They waved at the numerous passing ships with torches and lamps. We returned this gesture saying a cordial thank you with our flashing navigation lights.
Everyone was so busy that particularly the beginners got all excited, as the Pamir in the steady breeze reached the exit of the English Channel and thus the last mail buoy. Quickly some of us purchased a postcard or stationary from the steward or radio operator, with a small fee for the postage stamp handing it over with a few hastily written words to the III. Officer, who would throw the bundle of mail into the big funnel of the mail buoy with skilled pep. Everyone who watched reported that his throw was of great success. Only no one knew whether it would be the next weekly emptying by the French or the English. No matter what, as long as the folks back home knew that you had made it to the North Atlantic. The postmark would indicate whether the letter came from France or England.