Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Alex's Blog

I’ve often wondered… what does a Bosun do…?

Wherever you sail you may find the term Bosun or Boatswain batted around and wondered what it actually means.  Having looked at various and somewhat dubious online dictionary definitions, I think we all agree that roughly, a Bosun looks after the running of deck operations, sail setting, supervising crew members, dealing with anchors and warps and driving the ships tender.
So how is it, do I find myself in the middle of the river Blackwater, holding a live, edible (and rather unimpressed) crab, bigger than my own head surrounded by a franticly cheering group of young people?  Oh, yes, I remember, I’m the Bosun on the Pioneer! 
I joined the Pioneer Sailing Trust at the beginning of 2014, having sailed as relief staff with numerous Sail Training organisations; this was to be my first full season on my own boat (metaphorically speaking, of course, I don’t actually own Pioneer)
I have to say, between then and now we’ve had the most amazing adventures.  We’ve covered around 1000 nautical miles, with groups of people from all walks of life, young and old.  We’ve dredged, rowed, been swimming, flown kites, danced, played cards, celebrated birthdays… oh, and sailed (a lot).

 We’ve had the best weather this season you could possibly ask for which means we’ve been able to make to most of every day.  I can only think of one occasion this year when we’ve motor sailed and that was only for a couple of hours.  We’ve played with topsails, jib topsails, reefs in, reefs out, big jibs, storm jibs, you name it, we’ve had all manner of curtains up!
I guess the point I’m trying to make here (and there is one there somewhere…) is that life on the Pioneer is neither all about sailing, nor about larking about on boats.  It’s a package.  We get to take groups of people on a once in a lifetime opportunity, where they will experience their own personal journeys with highs and lows, overcome challenges, make new friends and discover the wobbly and watery world that is life at sea.
So, back to my original point- What does a Bosun do?
Who’d have thought that I would have to bring my (very rusty) sign language skills back into play for our groups of hearing impaired young people, or learn the difference between native and Pacific oysters to ensure my watch (portside pirates) won the dredging competitions?  I’ve acted as a bow thruster in our 4hp dinghy to make sure Pioneer got into the lock at St Kathrine’s, London, safely and stood waste deep in water at the Hard in Brightlingsea scrubbing barnacles off our fine vessel’s bottom!  I’ve learnt new card games, found an adult seal sitting in our dinghy while we were anchored.  I’ve also had the challenge of learning how to sail a boat of which there is only one in the world, and though some might say all gaff rigs are the same, it’s not until you sail the old girl that you realise how unique she is.
What does a Bosun do?
Frankly, I still have no idea but it’s good fun trying to find out…

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