IAMA: A dude who got paid for being a pirate (Watch Officer) on a 90-year old traditional sailing vessel, hoisting sails, navigating rocks and slinging from mast to the other with a rope. While telling other salty sea dogs what to do. 'Twas awesom...
I tried this last year and managed to pull this text together only after my AMA was over. Now, with lessons learnt, I shall try again. If you want to try something like this, you may ask me and I can see how could I direct you further.
I had to go to bed for now. When morning time EST comes again, I shall answer to your questions like there is no tomorrow.
Pictures of the ship and some crew, check them out: http://imgur.com/a/HzJtx
Here I took part in another thread, telling why people can't go back in time to Roman age and start sailing into other continents: http://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/15cd6w/if_you_were_dropped_naked_into_rome_2000_years/c7liawu
Check out also a sailing purists who does not think much of our crew, you can downvote me there: http://www.reddit.com/r/sailing/comments/15ybqk/not_sure_how_to_share_it_but_a_current_ama_from_a/
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
My story begins when I accidentally stumbled upon an old traditional sailing vessel, the T/S Hawila. I ended up as a deck man, headed towards Poland on a wooden beauty. Eventually, after abandoning my real life, I became a watch officer, in charge of people and many functions. All this happened by accident. I had no experience from the start, I had no idea. It was all just a coincidence. Which means YOU can do it too. Go find a tall ship and ask if they need traveling souls.
Our captain was a born seaman. He had some side ventures as a farmer of organic sheep. When that did not go well, he became a Physician Rescue Chopper Pilot. After a really bad weather, he destroyed his chopper when crashing into the woods with some other misfortune. His wife told him to get back to sailing, so he moved to sail ships again and has been on that road since that. He is now old, but he still loves the ship and the sea from the bottom of his heart. It is heartwarming to see such love towards the nature and that wooden vessel. He has a plaque on his quarters door: "If God would have wanted that ships would not be made of wood, forests would be full of fiberglass."
So I share some stories of my time as a Watch Officer on a beautiful sailing ship. I was also the Fire Safety Officer, due to my experience as a firefighter. The ship sailed around the baltic sea and sometimes ventured further south in the Atlantic. Most visited Harbor was Stockholm, Sweden and Karlskrona, Sweden. Both old navy harbors, too. We had different kinds of people on board. Sailing students, adventuring christian confirmation camps, atheist "free-thinkers youth camps", or prometheus camps. Business customers, charter customers, adventure clubs or re-enactors. Anything, anytime, you give the money, we give the crew. Sometimes we only had officers and other similar crews on board, if the client wanted to provide deck slaves, as an adventure or something. We would then teach these people the basic duties around the ship. Basic crewman for the ship can be trained in under 6 hours, provided they have good officers and some experienced crew members with them.
Sometimes we did maintenace and simply moved the ship from harbor to harbor in search of winter stay or cheap repairs. Then we usually had skeleton crews and simply recruited passers-by volunteers from the Harbor with shouts of "Hey wanna go to Denmark real quick? We offer lousy food, tight beds and loss of sleep!" Then we would drop them on the way back. Sometimes they flew back home from the destination, took trains or buses.
Everything takes a lot of work. Simply turning the ship 45 degrees to the port side might take 10 or more people. You do not simply turn the helm, you also adjust sails, you might need to move the booms to the other side, change sail setup etc, depending on the angle of the wind. So, when the First Officer calls for a turn, the navigator and helmsman plan it, then sail angle is decided and me, or one of the other watch officers, yell "WATCH ON DUTY, MAN YOUR POSTS, PREPARE FOR TURN OF 20 DEGREES, STARBOARD!" Then, pairs or triples take different sails, and I might give out order to "SKÅT FOKKAN", which is then repated by everyone to verify that the message went through. To "skåt" is to adjust the sail angle to the wind, no idea of its translation. Fokka is one of the sails in the front. Or to leave the harbor and hoisting the sails. You can do that with a skeleton crew of 5 people, but it will be hard work and it might take about 30 minutes, if not more. With 15 people, it takes a lot of yelling, coordination, repeated shouts, pulls and sweat, but it will be done in about 5 minutes. It is a chilling feeling to see the crew execute your orders, to see the pier moving away as the sails are climbing higher and higher while repeated shouts strike through the air. That gives me the chills.
My duties consisted of being Watch Officer C12-4, under the First Officer and I usually had around 10 people under my command. Of these, two or three would be assigned for navigational tasks while the rest would on sail, anchor, cleaning and supplemental duties. On our ship, we had three watches, A, B and C. Or, in other words, A4-8, B8-12 and C12-4. These mean that no matter AM or PM, the A WATCH is manning the ship when the clock shows 4 to 8 and etc. After this, when B watch takes over, the A watch is in "Deep Rest", meaning they can not be disturbed. When C takes charge and B goes into "Deep Rest", the A has moved into "Shallow Rest", when they can be called for demaning tasks, such as hoisting all the sails etc.
Then there are also non-watch crews, and the Boatswain is in charge of them. These are the mechanic, the cooks, the possible teachers, etc that "work" usually when they so need to, aka "office hours". These posts do not have to be manned non-stop, thus they do not belong to any watch. A Captain, First Officer and the Second Officer are in charge of the watches with a rotating schedule. Each watch also has a Watch Officer who then leads the people under him that are tasked with keeping the ship afloat and sailing to the right direction, while performing other related or non-related duties.
Approximate amount of lower crewmember 20 to 30. At any one time, there is an officer in charge of the ship, like the captain or First Officer. Then there is a helmsman who steers the ship and there is also a navigator. Preferably also radar and communications guy who hangs below deck, in his office. Then there is a set amount of crewmembers helping with sails and other tasks who are led by the Watch Officer of that particular Watch. More often than not, the First Officer, the Watch Officer, Helmsman, The navigator and the spotter hang in the rear deck while other people conduct other tasks. When the Watch ends and before people head to bed, the next Watch gets a report and mans all these posts.
The ship had extensive below-deck space. On the top floor, there was a small dining table, the kitchen, walk-in fridge, cooking tables and food storage. The lower floor had the officer quarters in to front of the ship, with tables and chairs, officers bunks for 5 officers , some computers and a chalkboard. Middle of the bottom floor had the crew hall, with two big dining tables, couple of hammocks, some computers, lifejacket storage, fireplace and chalkboards. Bunk beds for 32 people ran on the walls. Each "unit" had two beds and a storage locker. Under every pillow was a lifejacket, rescue suit and flares.
Rear compartment had boatswain and mechanic room, very small. Also, a small radar room for the radio, radar and sonar operator. Some computers too. Extreme rear had captains quarters where was a table, captains computer, his bed and etc. His private room and a double bed for him. And the only available booze on the vessel. There was also two extra beds, so when crowded, the first and the second officer slept there too.
The vessel had 3G internet coming to it and it shared it through internal wifi. Usually we only let crews on it, customers had to provide their own unless they paid for it. Everything on the ship is, I kid you not, always rated by the crew with a "Yarr-value." Something can be very Yarr or not Yarr at all. 3G on the sea is YARRRRRRRRRRRRR, however, cleaning duty is not Yarrr.