Monday, 11 June 2012

Ghost Ship Inventory

In 1872, three crew members of the Canadian freighter Dei Gratia boarded a vessel they encountered drifting 400 miles off the coast of Portugal.  Not a soul was found on board, and yet the ship showed no signs of damage or a hurried departure.  The crew had simply vanished, and the ghost ship Mary Celeste entered into maritime legend.* 
* For fans of maritime history (and chemistry !), I highly recommend the excellent book GhostShip by Brian Hicks … all will be revealed. 

1st layer of stuff in the cockpit locker.
You may think me a drama queen, but I was strangely reminded of this story the first time we boarded Spray as owners and began the inventory of the equipment left behind.  The standard equipment that was listed in the “for sale” announcement was all there.  But there were also sacks of lines, nets, tarps, bungee cords, gas cans, buckets, fishing equipment, hoses, flashlights, cleaning products, paint cans, putty and gelcoat supplies, rolls of wire and spare cables, wheel and motor parts, kitchen utensils, glasses and dishes, coffee, pillows, and three rolls of toilet paper.  Even if the crew had simply vanished, the boat still carried more supplies than many coastal cruisers we know, and we were reminded that the boat had most recently been outfitted for a trans-Atlantic crossing.   

A small sampling of paints and putties.
Since our list of hull repair tasks was growing by the day, I started the inventory with the mysterious crate of cans and tubes found in the cockpit lockers: 7 kinds of grease, numerous bottles of acetone, turpentine, and motor oil, and 18 varieties of putty, hardeners, catalyzers, and gelcoat paint and polish.  I carefully wrote down the name of each product and read the instructions to try to figure out what each was for.  I thought about labelling things, but was stopped by a fit of giggles when I remembered the scene in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude where the citizens of Macondo lose their memories and start labelling things: “This is a cow.  It gives milk.”  I imagined my first label: “This is polyester for the rudder.  It needs a hardener” but quickly realized that such labels would be more fun than functional. 

After we finished the inventory, we checked with Antoine and Caroline to make sure they had intended to leave all this stuff (in fact, they wanted the kitchen utensils back).  Our next mission is to decide what to remove from the boat.  We are not planning a trans-Atlantic hop anytime soon and don’t need to haul around such a vast supply of emergency repair products.  All those chemicals in the lockers remind me of my first year in college when I decided to double-major in chemistry and marine transportation !