Automatic Updates from New Blog

Hey, everyone! I’ve got some great news–I’ve finally figured out a way to give you guys access automatically to all of the posts showing up on the new Bythepathlesstraveled blog!

I know that it’s a pain to head on over there for new posts. But now, fear not! This is how it works:

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So click on the cog and you’ll see the five most recent posts from the new bythepathlesstraveled blog. Woohoo! In the cog there’s also the option to subscribe, and you can also view the archives if you don’t feel like scrolling all the way down. The magnifying glass is a search bar too, so feel free to search for a post if you are looking for something specific. 

I’m trying to make things a lot easier for you guys if I can, so if you have any suggestions, PLEASE let me know.

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So basically, I’m going to attempt to shortlink to some of my major post categories. Once you’re at the first post, you can use the navigation arrows on the vertical red bar to the left of the page to keep reading through chronologically. (Don’t worry, the arrows will be there!) 😀

To check out my China Series, click here:

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To check out my Europe/Hungary Series, click here:

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To check out my Flagship Niagara Series, click here:

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To check out my Things You Thought You Knew Series, click here:

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To check out my Japan Series, click here:

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The Flagship Niagara Diaries Part 13: Bloopers and Extras

Wondering what didn’t make it into the original Flagship Niagara Diaries series? Oh, you have no idea. I never mentioned the…

…witch-doctorish pirate wannabe with skull walking stick who was creeping after me.

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…the random guitars that the Germans piled into their ship.

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…my castle in the sky. And no, I was not hallucinating about the clouds this time.

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…Pip electrocuting his nipple with an electric bug zapper.

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…and then trying it again on different parts of his body.

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…deck showers with lake water from the fire hose.

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…Neil’s repeated attempts to look cool.

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…the SPIDER that ambushed me in the gunport.

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…showering in the Cleveland Browns’ shower.

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…the creeper blimp.

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…sunburn blistering all over my body (trust me, it got a lot bigger after this!)

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…cats…

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…who can sleep anywhere.

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…and “this guy,” scaring women in red shirts since 2010. 😉

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Thanks for reading the Flagship Niagara Diaries! Although this series has ended, stick around bythepathlesstraveled as I prepare to head off to Japan next week!

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The Flagship Niagara Diaries Part 12: The Zombie Apocalypse

We gather in a tight, worried circle, all hands on deck waiting for Captain Wes to break the news. He sighs.

“This is the largest sickness to ever strike Niagara.”

I look around, still unsettled by the gaps where Neil, Jesse, and Paul should be standing. We haven’t heard back from the hospital.

“I know it’s not exactly what you want to be talking about,” Wes continues, “but you’ve got to be honest.” He looks at each of us. “Has anyone been having diarrhea? Anything unusual?”

Megan huffs. “Captain, girls don’t poop!” We all chuckle, and it’s reassuring to see even Captain’s face break into a smile once again.

*****

The sun’s hot. The deck isn’t as cool as I’d like it to be as I lay flat on the grainy wood. Sweat trickles behind my ears and down my neck, carving paths in the dirt and dust that none of us has had time or strength to wash off. I watch the rigid lines of the mast and yards contort and crackle like the static on a dead television.

We’re dropping like flies out here.

Another weary crewmember wobbles toward a gunport in time to vomit into one of the buckets, but the bucket to sick crewmember ratio is, shall we say, a little inadequate. Sailors lie draped over all manner of deck equipment like rags, like a bomb went off. I sigh and close my eyes, losing myself to hot, damp darkness for the next 16 hours.

*****

When I wake, I see the hammock population below deck has nearly tripled as more than half of the crew succumbs to whatever invisible foe is attacking us. There aren’t enough sailors left to man the ship.

We’ve run aground in the water.

I don’t know what time or day it is, and I haven’t had anything to eat or drink for close to a day. Slinking out of my hammock and ducking out of the way of a sick and wobbly fellow, I head up onto the deck to take a few sips of water, then a few sips of Gatorade. I’m not as bad as most of the others, but I need to sit down again.

When I return to the berth deck, I notice that some still-surviving crewmember has dumped out a stash of granola bars on a storage box near the galley. I snag one and flip back into my hammock, sweaty and drained. It takes another 20 minutes of doing nothing before I actually crack the package open.

This is THE BEST granola bar I have ever tasted. Sunbelt chocolate chip granola bars — who knew?

I doze, letting my mind wander and my ears take in the wonderful sound of creaking ropes as my hammock rocks back and forth. Wait, what? My hammock’s rocking.

We’re moving?

Just as I roll over, I see Lara come down into the berth deck.

“What’s happening?”

She ninjas her way through the maze of hammocks over to me. “There’s enough crew left to get us back to Erie. We’re in quarantine, so we’re not helping. Captain disbanded alpha, bravo, and charlie watches. Now we’ve got Healthy Watch and Zombie Watch, which is us.”

“What about everyone at the hospital?” I ask.

Lara shakes her head. “They took Jamie and Jesse to Hamot.”

“Jamie too?”

“Yeah, unfortunately.” As she makes her way over to her hammock, I roll over again and stare up at the ceiling a few inches away, hoping that everyone will be all right.

*****

It’s dark and cold the next time I emerge on deck. Why on earth would Captain call all-hands right now? I look around.

We’re at another port. A port with a rounded stone pier. There’s a lighthouse nearby. Dobbins’ Landing? Wait….

I’m home.

This is the pier where I first boarded Niagara.

Wes sends us off in quarantine groups after a few wonderful (and obviously tired) cooks emerge from a nearby building and give us a little food. It must be 2 in the morning, and they’ve been cooking for us!

*****

The hugs are long and strong when my parents meet up with me after all this time. The ship, now revived, once again bustles with hale crewmembers, and Cusson helps me to unload the last of my belongings from sea bag #42. Neil, Jesse, Paul, and Jamie are as fit as ever, and I scan over the ship one last time. I turn back to my mother, tucking my right arm behind me to hide the injuries that I don’t want her to see, and I shake Captain Wes’ hand with a confident smile that’s so much the opposite of the shy stare that I gave him all those weeks ago.

What have I gotten myself into? That’s what I asked when I first stepped aboard Niagara. What am I doing? I watch Wes turn away and return to his ship, and I catch Billy waving at me from up on the bridge deck. I smile.

I got myself into something great.

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way, where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

— John Masefield

*****

Quotes from these days’ ship logs:

“Half of our entire crew is down.”

“Wes is handling the situation very well — this is the largest sickness to ever strike Niagara.”

“Spent the entire day in quarantine in the berth deck. Only a handful of crew are left.”

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This marks the end of the official Flagship Niagara Diaries series. However, stay tuned for next week, when I’ll do a great collage of all the things that didn’t make it into the series! Lots of pictures, and TONS of hilarity! Don’t miss it. When I return to the ships in September 2013, expect another post about the historic Battle of Lake Erie! Thanks for reading!

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The Flagship Niagara Diaries Part 11: It Begins

Seriously, having days off is awesome.

I meander through the sea of Clevelanders, pausing only to quickly ask a passing man for the time. I don’t want to be late. Captain is waiting for me.

Captain Deckelmann, that is.

I’m hard pressed to think of a kinder man than Captain Wes, but on a day like today, I’ve just got to get out and expand my horizons, even if it’s only for a little while. So, I’m off to a new ship for a new crewing experience. Don’t worry, Niagara, I’ll be back.

I hear the familiar sloshing of dock water as I approach the pier, though I see her from a mile away, her blood-red sails tearing into the sky like phoenix wings. Smaller than Niagara but possibly more intimidating, she’s a schooner with an attitude.

She’s the Roseway.

I hop aboard and cast a quick glance up the sail as it unfurls and we head out into the harbor.

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The rolling of the waves and the gentle swaying of the deck calms me, and I chat with an older lady next to me who’s so engrossed with being on a ship that her eyes are about as big as saucers. When the captain shouts orders, I obey even though I’m not permanently part of the crew. It’s no fun otherwise!

The day passes speedily like this, and before I know it I’m back on Niagara with only flashes of a good day in my mind — something about a wonderful elderly lady named Anne and giving a little girl my french fries. As I take one step onto the bridge toward the deck, I see a cluster of my fellow crewmembers, Bravo watch I think, walking toward me.

“What’s up, guys?” I ask, obviously disrupting whatever important conversation they were having.

“Paulie’s in the hospital,” Emily mumbles. “So are Jesse and Neil.”

I tense. “What happened while I was gone?”

Emily shakes her head. “We don’t know. They just collapsed.”

*****

Quotes from this day’s ship log:

“When I returned to Niagara at 18:15, I discovered that Paul, Neil, and Jesse had all been taken to the hospital…I don’t know how the three of them are doing.”

The Flagship Niagara Diaries Part 10: Goddesses

“Take Barbara with you.”

I gaze up into the web of rigging toward that white bundle of sail still wrapped tightly all the way at the top of the mast.

“Unfurl the main topgallant sail,” I repeat to Billy in the traditional sailing order. “Take Barbara.”

Billy nods and heads back toward the bridge deck as I snag a harness and wrangle my way into it. Beside me, Barbara is already fastened and ready. The main topgallant, I muse. I’ve never been that high.

The ship rolls a little more than normal, the waves peaking at about 3.5 feet instead of their normal 1.3. I clamber up onto the deck box and swing myself onto the ratlines to climb the mast, Barbara following a respectful distance behind. The starboard side dips, and I let gravity pull me away from the ratlines a little so that I can sync my body’s movements with the churning of the waves. If I fight the motions the whole time, I’ll get tired too fast.

Pulling myself onto the fighting top at the mainsail, I look down to the starboard deck. It strikes me suddenly that this is no spectacle, people climbing to the top of the mast. No one is watching. I am not the uninitiated.

I am crew. And that’s cool.

I hover on the starboard side of the fighting top as Barbara finishes the climb, then I grab the next set of ratlines and head even higher to the topsail. Starboard.

Why do I always climb on the starboard side? I don’t think I’ve ever climbed on port. Well, I’m right-handed, so maybe….

The climb to the topsail is shorter, so Barbara and I don’t pause and we head straight up to the highest sail on the ship, the topgallant. Although the royal sails would be higher even than the topgallants, we don’t have royals on right now. The ratlines tremble slightly as the uneven shakes from both Barbara and I make the lines pulse in our hands and under our feet. I take deep swoops with my shoulders to compensate for the lines dipping away from me.

Hoisting myself up onto the topgallant fighting top, I realize that there’s not enough room for both of us.

“Laying on!” No one is there to hear it, but I say it anyway.

The blustery wind is so much colder up here, and I can fit the ship into the palm of my hand. I make my way on the tightrope outboard on the sail, bracing myself when Barbara joins me.

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So where exactly is the main topgallant sail compared to the rest of the ship? Well, it’s right here!

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Booyah.

Barbara and I make quick work with the gasket coils on the sail and, soon enough, the thick, rough canvas is slipping away from us and breathing in the wind.

“ON DECK!” Barbara shouts. The crew, now only a colorful colony of ants to me, masses toward the aft pinrails on each side, clewing the sail [bringing the bottom corners down and out] and making it fast to catch the breeze. I smile, but Barbara lays off the yard and motions for me to follow, so I don’t have too much time to savor the satisfaction of actually doing something profoundly helpful.

“ALOFT CARRIE! BARBARA!” I hear boatswain Rob shout.

“ALOFT!” we reply.

“Brace the topgallant yard to port!” he shouts.

Barbara and I back up as far as we can on the topgallant fighting top, watching as the yard creaks and slowly turns to port only inches from us. It takes some acrobatics, but we work our way around the yard that’s now blocking our most obvious route down the ratlines and, after a speedy descent, find our feet back on the familiarly comfortable not-steady deck.

Our work continues in much the same manner for the rest of the day, and at around 1600, Charlie watch gets leave for dinner. As we congregate around the food basins near the forecastle, Third Mate Cusson leans back and sighs.

“We need a new name.”

Kiki giggles. “Aren’t we already Charlie’s Angels?”

We look around, seeing the measly 3 men in the crowd of 9 women that make up our watch. Kiki grins.

“Well obviously,” she chuckles, running her fingers through her hair flamboyantly. “We’re the goddess watch!”

And thus the tale has been recounted of how I achieved divinity.

*****

Quotes from this day’s ship log:

“I also climbed up with Barbara to unfurl the main topgallant sail.”

“We came up with Charlie watch’s new title — Goddess watch.”

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The Flagship Niagara Diaries Part 9: Man Overboard!

I watch the skyscrapers fade into the grey morning mist as we put Toronto to our stern and head out toward the Welland Canal and the dreaded seven-lock string of horrors that I don’t even want to think about. With the upcoming hard day’s work, the port in Cleveland seems so far away.

The sails of our fellow tall ships fly up around us like clouds in a gathering storm, the canvas thick and bulbous with the strong winds. We brace the yards to port and sail for hours, conquering the Welland in much the same brutal, sweaty way that we did on our first pass through. Back in our home waters, it doesn’t take more than a few hours for Cleveland to come into sight in the familiar grey haze of still-far-off city.

I breathe a small sigh of relief when I catch sight of the city. We’re almost there. A shower. Rest. Food. 

I just rock backward into a pinrail to recline when I see Billy zoom by with a serious whoosh, chattering speedily with the captain via his beloved walkie-talkie. He clambers up to the bridge deck and has a few quick words with the captain face-to-face before I see the mass of crewmembers around him begin to disperse.

Something’s wrong.

I start to make a move toward him when a crewmember, the older man whom I always identify with his baseball cap, heads toward the prow (and toward me), stopping me.

“Lookout.”

It’s terse, but it’s a command, so I climb up the coil of ropes and take my place on lookout over the prow. Taking a few moments to scan the waters for any danger and finding none, I look back toward the crew and listen.

“Since last night….”

“Pretty young….”

“It might not get cold enough at night….”

I freeze. We’re looking for a person.

Or a body.

I whip my eyes back to the water, scanning deeper and more carefully than I’ve ever bored my eyes into anything in my life. Almost instantly I recognize that danger — the deep blue water in this early morning hue make every trough in the waves look…dark. Like someone’s back if they were wearing a water-soaked shirt.

I’m letting the situation get to me, I reason. Relax. Look hard. Focus.

As I stand up on watch, slowly but surely the important information is relayed to me. Local 14 year old boy. Search-and-rescue attempt underway. Last seen the previous night.

Slowly, a deep, greyish feeling fizzles around in my stomach and settles into an uncomfortable stone. This is a big deal.

Someone’s life might depend on how well I do my job.

I run through the MoB (Man Overboard) procedures I’ve been taught in drills, since MoB does not just apply to someone who has fallen from the ship. Okay. When I see him, I shout “Man overboard!” two times. Or is it three? Err…but I point with my whole hand and arm outstretched, not just my finger. Don’t look down to see if people heard me. Keep my eye on him and my hand pointed. Throw the flotation ring. No, DON’T throw it. Someone else has that job on the WQSB [Watch, Quarter, and Station Bill]. Don’t take your eyes off him. 

Find him, and keep him.

I now have a much firmer respect for firefighters, police, soldiers, and all human beings who are in any way placed in any type of authority that even remotely resembles being in charge of someone’s life or well-being. My mind rolls like the choppy waves, flicking from one thought to the next in impatient leaps.

Why am I on lookout? Why is this MY responsibility? Why can’t I just be one of the people hauling lines? Then if we don’t find him alive, I can say that I did my best to steer the ship as fast as it would go. But if we don’t…it’s my fault.

Thankfully, my intense searching is quickly interrupted by another older gentleman who’s come to replace me. He crawls up onto the coil in my stead, his face drawn tight into an almost agonized frown.

It seems like this is harder for him that it was for me.

I join in the masses hauling lines and making them secure to speed the ship as we practically clubhaul back the way we came to look for the boy. Amid the sweaty, terrifying work, I finally yank the truth out of some of my fellows — the man on watch is a formerly active-duty Navy veteran.

His job was to look for dead bodies.

My heart sinks; how cruel, yet how necessary that he’s standing up there. Can we ask him, after all the death he’s seen, to look for the body of a young, innocent boy? Can we ask him not to, and have his experience wasted and in so doing risk the boy’s life further?

I don’t like this.

The hours tick by as we sweep the bay, and it feels like I’ve got an angry pack of dogs in my stomach, all trying to eat each other. Maybe it’s been long enough that he’s been found.

Or maybe he’s already dead.

Maybe we’ll never find him.

Or maybe someone already has and hasn’t told us yet.

Or maybe he’s not even in the water any more.

Maybe he’s okay and just got out of the water and went somewhere but hasn’t been found yet.

I loop a rope around its pin, a little outside of myself amid my thoughts, when the whole crew freezes and looks back at Billy, who’s standing on the bridge deck stark still and clutching his walkie-talkie in a white-knuckled grip.

I see him sigh and stare straight into the captain’s eyes for a few moments before he turns to us.

“They found him.”

I shiver. Dead?

“He’s okay.”

*****

Quotes from this day’s ship log:

“We did double back away from Cleveland for a while to help in a search-and-rescue attempt for a 14 year old boy in the water overnight. When we finally arrived in Cleveland, we were greeted by a barrage of cannon fire.”

The Flagship Niagara Diaries Part 8: Toronto Vlog Edition

I take a long, deep breath, enjoying the warm, fresh air drifting down to me through the hatch. I haven’t been here too awful long, but a day off sure sounds nice.

Guess I’d better get started if I want to make the most of it!

I hop off of the ship and sit down on a bench, waiting for two others who also have the day off. One of them is Emily, though I don’t know her very well yet. The other, Megan, is the one I more fondly recall as “pink-shirt girl” from my first day on the ship. It has taken me a few days of pondering her face, but I finally remember — she and I went to Australia and New Zealand together about six years ago.

As we head off toward the rest of the ships, I giant yellow, err, thing catches my eye. Megan and Emily continue talking, but I stray off a bit to see what exactly this yellow, lemon-shaped thing is. I stand and stare at it. It is a lemon. An 8-foot-tall lemon.

I’ve been awake for 30 minutes and I’m already seeing giant lemons. Maybe I should just go back to bed.

Just as I’m getting ready to turn away and catch up with Megan and Emily, a small crack appears in the lemon, and it opens to reveal a skinny teenage boy.

What the heck….

Thankfully, soon enough the word lemonade appears inside and I feel like I’m not so insane after all. I’ve just never seen a lemonade stand that opens and closes with a person in it!

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Luckily for us, being crewmembers on the ship earns us a free lemonade before we strike out into the heart of Toronto. It’s not long before we run across one of those human statues, and she is one of the best I’ve seen as far as being able to be completely still.

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Around her are fish-shaped imprints in the pavement, which I find to be…interesting.

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Eaton Center consumes a lot of our time, and I can’t say I’ve ever been in a mall this large!

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Most of our day is spent walking around and visiting little shops and trade fairs near the ships, and after all of that we go to visit the ships themselves. I become acquainted with a few more captains and fellow sailors before I decide to return to the ship and spend the rest of my day reclining on deck. It’s back to work tomorrow.

As I lean back on a black and red deck box, listening to the now-familiar slurping and chugging of the water between the ship and the dock, I feel like I rather enjoy the boat more than the city. In the mall, while Emily and Megan tried on clothes, I stood rocking back and forth (with curious stares from others!), unable to find my “land legs” again. I can’t say that I belong in a life at sea or anything like that, but it’s nice to be back to the smells, sights, and sounds of Niagara.

Fellow crewmember Fern slides onto a deck box across from me and pulls a violin from its case. From across the deck, I can see a few crewmembers starting to congregate toward her. Music onboard — the perfect way to end the day.

[Click on the pictures to hear Fern play her violin!]

First comes Miss MacPherson’s Favorite:

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Then, Fern settles on a slower sea-ditty:

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*****

Quotes from this day’s ship log:

“When we came back, Fern started playing her violin and accordion.”

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