Friday, July 10, 2009

Charleston Winding Down

I completed the coast safety coarse required for crew on international vessels. The first ticket of many and a boost up towards finding my first professional crew job. Learning more and more how to network with people. In this business connections are everything. I’m getting much more comfortable sticking my neck out there to find job opportunities. The training itself was basic, but my biggest challenge came on Thursday. I suffered some heat exhaustion after standing around in full fire fighting gear, helmet, gloves, mask, and air tank in the 98 degree day. I was spinning before I even entered the smoke house to complete the exercise. The fire fighters at the training center cooled and calmed me down and I completed the exercise and passed the test. The weight of the gear, the sun, and dehydration made me nauseous, dizzy, and light headed. It gave me an incredible respect for the men and women who work or volunteer to keep us safe. The gear and inferno lasted mere minuets for me, and I could barley coup. It’s a training and experience I won’t forget. The first aid section made me realize how much blood makes me squirm. I feel like I need to enroll in a more advanced first aid class as insurance for myself as I go off shore and spend more times on boats. The class was a product of bureaucracy that allows mediocrity. It was meant to receive this crucial piece of paper, but I didn’t learn much beyond common sense. I’m not surprised.

Now I’m back to work for a few more weeks. Trying to make the best of my last weeks in Charleston. This evening I took a long stroll around the historical areas of down town. I tried to get off the main track away from the gobs of tourists. I found some pretty amazing ally ways. The buildings are immaculately maintained and the attention to details and gardens make the streets feel unreal. At times it feels like you are walking through a movie set. Most of the buildings are uninhabited. They are the prize trophy homes of wealthy North Easterners who flock down for the weekend once a year to enjoy fine dining and an art scene. The city thrives on tourism. Walking down the streets there is a mix of classes, regions with in America, and international tourists. I pop in and out of these areas people watching, and slowly discovering more secret corners and alleyways. Like all cities I get to know intimately I imagine them during different points in time. I try to recreate the street and people - how did they look, feel, and what was the day to day like? t. In its own way Charleston catches you. It turns couples into romantics as the smell of lavender and the hum of crickets float in the air. Well-dressed and perfumed friends travel in a pack over the cobblestones on their way to low country meals. Young couples in sear sucker look at a lighted menu on the brick wall of an empty restaurant. Sweating black and brown faces are on the line. From the window you see the fry cooks sling their frialated arts onto white rounds in the window. White faces sip tall glasses of tea waiting to be served. I am an outsider in this place as I slowly discover the people, and lines of beauty, race, class, and history.

I’ll be flying back to Louisville for a week on August 2nd. Still working out plans for after that. I’m free, mobile, and ready to plunge. We’ll see where the wind takes me. I love you all. Thank you for your messages, calls, and notes.

Amanda Ma r
Charleston, SC

Thursday, July 2, 2009


Thirteen tall ships came to Charleston Harbor last weekend for the South Carolina Maritime Foundations annual festival. I volunteered on Friday morning, but regretfully was given the task of ticket taker at one of the inflatable bouncy castles with a pirate theme. I plotted down in the shade and became listlessly apathetic to my take. My attention quickly turned towards people watching. A group of pirate and revolutionary war era reinactors made camp on the out skirts of the festival. Pirates, winches, and admirals in full costume casually passed me by. Parents chased dehydrated children with painted faces as they dared to enter the inferno of a bouncy castle. Military recruiters mingled with wooden boat artisans. Vendors and educators yelled messages and taunted the crowed with their wares, food, and information.

I was finally released for the children’s village at 1. I decided to take one ship tour before I escaped the crowds and hundred degree June heat. I boarded and met the captain of the Schooner Virginia. The replica schooner is only two years old. The hull and rigging are replicas of the ships name sake, but down bellow the equipment and accommodations are modern and comfortable. The ship acts as a sail-training program for children and adults. It is operated by the state of Virginia. A season aboard schooner Virginia would bring a tremendous amount of experience. I gave the captain a resume and hope to apply for the next season… that is if I haven’t fallen in love with some other adventure by then.

On the second day of the festival I toured the Romanian and U.S. Coast guard ships. These ships are much larger and their crews are more military oriented rather then sail training ships. These vessels teach seamanship to navy and coast guard cadets. The shot of the Romanian control room in the attached video show the soviet era technology accompanying the 7 year old replica ship. The cadet who gave us the tour was friendly and excited to be completing his training at the Romanian navy academy. Through slightly broken English eh brought us through the ship. Life aboard the ship kept moving around us as half naked cadets slipped in and out of metal doors headed towards showers, quarters, heads, and the galley.

On Monday afternoon Ben came into town and we sat on a bench in water front park to watch all the ships parade out of the Charleston Harbor under sail. Down the same tack the boats spread across the horizon and out the channel. All bound North to continue training and teaching the next set of curious tourists. The tall ship tours provided a window into history. These ships are replicas of past masters of the open sea. But the tour also gave a window into the alternative world aboard these sailing histories in a very modern world.

Amanda Ring-Rissler
Charleston, SC