Tuning the Rig: A Journey to the Arctic

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9780060163518: Tuning the Rig: A Journey to the Arctic

An Excerpt: 25 July. 69 N/52 W. Off Jakobshavn.

I'm on the wheel at 0600 hours, steering toward the eastern shore of Disko Bay. Having circled the sky at a height of six degrees off the horizon all night long, the sun now oozes upward like a squashed fruit, spreading its pulpy light across a wreckage of ice and stone. The Jakobshavn Glacier, so-called Mother of Icebergs, sprawls dead ahead, grinding seaward at the rate of sixty feet per day, dropping aircraft carrier-sized icebergs into the blue-black sea.

Seven miles offshore we meet our first ice. Closer in it is everywhere; there is often one floe ten yards to starboard and another just as close to port. These chunks are not pack ice formed from the frozen sea. They are splinters, dumptruck-sized, of larger icebergs. It's impossible to guess just how much farther they extend beneath the surface.

Under normal conditions the person on helm may let the compass wander up to five degrees, holding course over time by balancing the swings to either side. But when maneuvering here, straying even one degree could cause real trouble. Square-riggers don't respond like sports cars; steering is hard work, you have to know what you're doing, and at such times in the past it's been routine for a deckhand to take over. So I am surprised, to put it mildly, when George does not replace me at the helm.

My arms are tired, and my back is tense. I keep my eyes glued to the compass and my fingers tight around the wheel. George stands on the roof of the after deckhouse, above and behind me. Amidships, everyone maintains silence so that the helmsman can hear and repeat the captain's orders.

- What's your bearing, Harvey?

- One seven eight.

- Come to one seven nine.

- One seven nine. (Twenty seconds pass.) One seven nine, on.

- Steady. (A half minute passes.) What's your bearing?

- One seven nine.

- Come two stokes to port.

- Two strokes to port.

- Come four strokes to port.

- Four strokes to port, aye.

- What is your bearing?

- One seven eight.

- Steady on

There are all kinds of intimacy in the world. This one proceeds, uninterrupted and unadorned, until I lose track of time. I almost lose myself in the hypnotic counterpoint of order and

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly:

The Regina Maris is a white oak barkentine built in 1908, now converted to a training ship for oceanographic research. When he signed on as apprentice, Oxenhorn had romantic expectations about a voyage from Boston to Greenland by way of Newfoundland and Labrador. The object was to study humpback whales. Once under way, however, Oxenhorn became indignant and frustrated by sheer hard work, lack of free time and cramped quarters. Yet when the Regina returned to port 66 days later, he had a totally different perspective on his 29 shipmates and himself. His journal reflects the changes in his attitude and his awareness of his role in society and the environment. There are fine descriptive passages that evoke the desolation of northern seas and poverty in Greenland. Oxenhorn, whose poetry has appeared in the Atlantic and Southern Review , has written a captivating travel-adventure story.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal:

This is a rather poetic account (indeed in the later chapters we discover the author is a poet) of a voyage via barkentine north from Boston with Greenland its ultimate destination. Aside from a few professionals on board (captain, engineer, and scientists), the crew is amateur. Engagingly written, this features descriptions of sail handling, whales and their habits, much on icebergs, and the areas visited. In essence, it's good reading, and the reader learns a great deal about hitherto unfamiliar subjects. Maps should add to one's comprehension. Recommended in particular for libraries with readers interested in sealore, sailing, and geography.
- Robert E. Greenfield, formerly with Baltimore Cty. P.L.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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