The end of tour

Well, as my mother always says, life is what happens when you are busy making plans.

Due to a medical situation, the remainder of the tour has been cancelled. C are I are still in Boston training and spending time with our loved ones, but we aren’t rehearsing for the show anymore. On Wednesday we will drive out to the boat on Cape Vincent, retrieve our things and give love to the people who are going to stay on for the next leg of the adventure. A handful of folks have already left to pursue other artistic endeavors, but I have very little doubt that I’ll run into them again in my life.

It feels a little like having the rug pulled out from under you, in spite of the fact that the rug had some serious issues and you kinda suspected it might happen.

But hey, I learned a lot these last several months.

I learned how to do navigation.
I learned the tricky details of steering a 90 foot boat.
I learned how to tie a bowline…and it actually stuck in my brain!
I learned how to tie an alpine butterfly and in what situations it is a useful knot.
I learned which rung on the starboard side ratlines is just a little bit higher than the other ones. I almost stopped tripping on it.
I gained some proficiency on rope & fabric.
I learned the best way to store my leatherman (multitool) in my bikini top while working.
I learned how to take down and put up a massive truss 30′ in the air.
I learned the value of power tools.
I learned what anodes are for and how to replace them.
I learned how to deal with the head.
I learned that the trick to really good pasta is to cook butter.
I learned that ice cream solves more problems than I thought.
I learned how to play many songs on ukulele (most recently Accidentally in Love, Skinny Love, and I’m working on Build Me Up Buttercup!)
I learned how to do handstands on a moving boat.
I learned how to gracefully explain to an enthusiastic family that a show deals with mature themes and that they are of course welcome to bring little ones, but should have a heads up that certain scenes and language may not be appropriate.
I learned that 21st century boat life is still filled with sexism.
I learned that one of the largest locks in the US/world is 40 feet.
I learned that many riverside towns are in post-industrial ruin.
I learned that goats don’t like citrus, but they love watermelon and banana peels.
I learned that if you meet someone who is really good friends with your friends, you will quickly discover that you love them too and you’ll have a wonderful new person in your life. (Shout out to C, who kept me sane and healthy for the last many months!)
I learned that I don’t know as much about stars and constellations as I want to know.
I learned that even though I’m kinda meh about hummus usually, I absolutely love it when it’s made with peanut butter instead of tahini.
I learned that C likes her coffee with just a little almond milk, our captain likes his tea with milk and a heaping spoonful of honey, S likes his tea carefully brewed in a pot and then milky and with honey, R just likes hot water but if he does have coffee he just wants a little and then it filled up with water (americano), N doesn’t like strong coffee, and R likes her coffee so strong it has its own personality. (This is perhaps not the most useful knowledge with which to walk away.)
I learned that half (153 miles) of the Hudson River (NYC-Albany) is tidal.
I learned that I really don’t like IPA’s.
I learned that when building things/taking them apart, hitting them might actually solve the problem.
I learned a little bit about the Amara Zee’s custom built engine (though not nearly as much as I wanted to know).
I learned that sometimes the ginger ale is hiding under the floor boards.

I learned so much more, but honestly, I reckon I won’t realize all of it until later.

Zebra mollusks are better than spiders

Samuel L. Jackson should do a sequel to Snakes on a Plane and call it Spiders on a Boat because there are too many motherflipping spiders on this motherflipping boat.

There’s nothing quite like scooting yourself out on the end of a scrim line (a pole sticking out from the truss that holds up the scrim for the show), picking up a coil of rope to feed through the pulley and finding a bleeping tarantula* snarling at you from inside.

And then it hides and you can’t see it anymore oh god it could be anywhere.

It doesn’t really help that J, who works with me up on the truss most often, is also scared of spiders. Ugh. They are just the worst. Fortunately, there is often someone else around to chase them away (R) or smash them into oblivion (everyone else).

Yesterday we managed to to get down the doors, the scrims, the aerial pods, the fore and aft truss and the grates on the main truss which doesn’t sound like much but ohdeargod. OH! And the sixto! (A projection screen thing that is meant to be a monster. It is hands down the most obnoxious set piece to set up/break down.) Right, so we got it all broken down because we wanted to be ready to sail at 8pm tonight back to Oswego. Oh, wait, not 8pm, 5pm. We just got a phone call from P, he said leaving around noon or 1pm. Actually, we are going to try to leave at 9am. And then P and N (who had just returned from the border to get P’s visa renewed) came in last night and told us that nevermind, P will wake us up at some unspecified time and we’ll leave an hour after that. **

Currently 9:14 and the boat’s fast asleep. This is why I don’t bother planning ahead anymore.

Oh except that now I am planning! C and I are going to sail with Caravan to Oswego and then we’re gonna hop a bus and a train to get to Boston. We’ll be there for two weeks training: polishing our current acts, working on gaining back lost strength from weeks without training, and I’ll be putting together a lyra piece for Murietta’s torture scene. (Good family fun!) It’ll be good to have that time to condition and work in a studio. (No wind/weather! Mats! A wall against which one can do handstands!) Plus, I’ll get to see my Boston friends (many of whom I haven’t seen since I moved to VT four years ago) and some not-as-local friends who are coming out to visit, too!

We’ll join back up with Caravan in early Sept in Yonkers for our shows on the 4, 5, and 6th. It’s gonna be weird being in the real world again rather than the boat bubble, but I think it’ll be refreshing too.

Speaking of refreshing, last night I went for a quick dip. The St. Lawrence River is so unbelievably clear it’s incredible, thanks to zebra mollusks that were introduced a few years back and even at night you can see to the (not terribly deep) bottom.

*not actually a tarantula, obviously. Just some 8 legged evil beastie with demonic intentions.

**As it turns out, we are on standby for leaving likely tomorrow because of a health issue.

The night sail

When I was in college, my circus collective had a set of rules:

No jails, no hospitals, no uncontrolled plummeting.

As it turns out, C actually made that up for festivals and I have no idea how it filtered into my circus group. But there ya go!

Lately, we’re not doing so well on two of those three points. The jail thing is complicated and involves a hearing in early September in Sylvan Beach, the hospitals refers to one of our actresses who has a throat abscess had to go home to Canada to have that dealt with…only to find out she has mono.

Given the amount of drink/utensil/everything sharing that goes on, there’s a fear that it’s gonna race through the boat, but only time will tell. (I’ve had it twice, so theoretically I should be immune?)

But C and I are gonna watch ourselves: no uncontrolled plummeting!

We left Oswego at 9 pm on Sunday night and did our first night sail across Lake Ontario and entered the St. Lawrence River as the sun rose. I had the 12-4am watch, so went to sleep early and woke around 11:30pm. I popped my head up to check and see how well I should bundle up but then I looked up.

Stars.

Stars everywhere. So many. A blanket of stars, a constellation of bright freckles on night’s dark skin, crushed diamonds flung into the sky…my mind raced with cliches and comfortably settled on a quiet, “Oh.”

The moon wasn’t up yet and we were in the middle of the lake and it was beautiful. The Milky Way was positively dripping and there was not another ship in sight. The only other time I’ve seen so many stars was in Western Australia, where the night sky is so vast and consuming that I felt like I was going to fall into it.

It was just so incredibly beautiful. S, T, and R were lying on deck watching them and when S noticed me sitting there jaw open in awe, he nudged me to lie down and join them.

And then they started falling. (Maybe that’s our uncontrolled plummeting?) Everyone was happily chatting and then “oh!”maybe from one person, sometimes from several, often accompanied by pointing to the fading tail. A half hour flew by and suddenly R and I were on bow watch and I realized that I’d never gone to get more clothes, so I was sitting in the tank top and shorts I’d slept in. And even though it was properly chilly, I couldn’t help but be so happy with where I was.

Fortunately, S was the roamer and brought me his big warm wool jumper (leave it to the northern English to have really fantastic sweaters), N let me borrow his touk (lol Canada), and I got a big wool blanket to tuck in around my legs. All that plus a cup of warm tea left me glowing. I felt so wrapped up and cozy and safe and happy. R wasn’t in much of a talking mood and there’s pretty much no reason to radio the helm when there’s nothing to hit, so we just sat there quietly listening to the slapping of the waves on the hull, the purr of the motor, and watched the stars fall all around us with soft sighs of acknowledgment. It was the happiest I’ve been here.

Navigation was similarly quiet; the normal light was off and a red one was on, to reduce the number of curious bugs. I spent my hour and a half looking at our slow progress across the lake, but without buoys to report or obstacles coming up, it was almost as quiet as bow. I spent a lot of time looking up through the hatch at the stars and on the half hours wrote sweet notes and drew pictures in the comments section of the readings we take (which include our lat & long, distance covered, tachs, oil pressure, temp, weather, battery, etc.).

When we arrived in Clayton, I poked around town quickly, but then we started setting up the truss since the next few days are meant to be rainy. We were bustling around on the ground and then suddenly this beautiful bird swoops by, soars around, and lands on our mast. An osprey! And another one! They hung out with us for probably close to half an hour, and I realized that at the end of the pier we’re on is a massive nest. So that’s really cool!

In which Victoria rambles on about locks

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(Written late last night, posted now that I have internet)

Once upon a time, there was a circus artist who got hired by a truly bizarre theatre company and meant to write about it but then would forget to write about the important things and only write about the things that don’t matter as much and then when she finally DID remember, she started writing down notes for herself to reference later for when she had internet access and then those notes got to be roundabout and confusing and so she just started writing and then simultaneously, all of her high school English teachers suddenly woke up in a terrified cold sweat, knowing that somewhere -somewhere- there was a run on sentence that just wouldn’t quit and definitely  wouldn’t be edited.

The horror!

Actually, it’s entirely probable that her cousin, who writes horror fiction, also woke up in a cold sweat in fear of a badly constructed story. Actually, no, I doubt he’s asleep. Wellll maybe. I think he’s more of a get up early type of person…

OHMYGOD see, I did it again! NONE OF THAT IS IMPORTANT TO THIS PRESENT ADVENTURE. I’m just taking advantage of a platform to yell loudly into the void about noooooooothing.

Mayhaps I need an editor.

You wanna know the most ridiculous thing? The reason I’m off on a completely irrelevant tangent is because I want to talk about locks. Not door locks, but water locks. There are, like, a million in the Erie Canal. OH! Speaking of which, we weren’t in the Erie Canal when I thought we were! Which is to say, we traveled up the Hudson River, and then after the lock in Waterford (which was our third lock? second lock?) then we were in the Mohawk River, and then after Lock #(I don’t remember) THEN we were in the Erie Canal. And it’s funny; the Erie Canal is kind of like a highway! Rivers have all jagged edges and slopes and curves and inconsistencies (because water is an imperfect -although persistent- architect), but the Erie Canal has stone edging and is a consistent width and is in most places just a straight line! It felt super strange after being on the river to being in this very manufactured canal.

Right! But locks! There were…uhmmm…28 locks I think? Is that right? Gosh, that seems like a lot. But I think that’s how many episodes there were…wait, Victoria, focus. Okay, so I don’t think it started with our first lock, but somewhere early on in the lock process, P started telling a story and each lock would be a new episode of it. All told, I heard pieces of one earlyish episode (the story of how the got his stallion, Rom?) and then I heard (although I was distracted by my own thoughts and wasn’t fully listening) the penultimate one. I think there was an ongoing thread about a girl with luminous eyes, although I couldn’t for the life of me tell you anything more specific than that. I know that the early stories weren’t necessarily part of the thread, they were stories with a grain of truth and a massive amount of creative padding. (I was about to say a massive amount of creative myelin sheath because apparently when I’m thinking about padding, the first thing I think of is neurons. Nerd.) Anywho. So that was a great idea, because locks provide 15-20 minutes where you have a captive (literally…we can’t go anywhere) audience who are holding lines.

Basically, we arrive at a lock, which looks like a huge blocked off area of the river next to a dam. Often, there will be a red light and it’s closed, but if the green light is on and the lock is open, then we go in. We slowly glide in to this enclosure, the massive doors of the lock creak closed behind us with a sound that would send shivers of delight up the spine of my aforementioned cousin (see? hah! tangent becomes relevant!) …well, wait, actually, as we glide in, P and N are on the walkie talkies (P at the helm, N up at the bow checking our distance to the wall). Once we are close enough to the wall, we use these hooks to grab ropes which are attached at the top of the lock and hang down into the water. Those ropes get pulled through and we put a bite (loop it around the big metal cleat once) on it. This prevents the boat from bopping around as the water level changes, which is especially important if there are other boats in the lock at the same time. If we are going up (which was most of our journey with the exception of the last two locks), you have to constantly take up tension and keep a very tight hold on the line (line = rope) so it doesn’t go slack.

Then, once we’re all snug up against the wall, THEN the lock doors close behind us and for the next 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of the lock (OH! lock 40 is one of the biggest in the world! It was 40something feet! And it’s in Little Falls, NY. Generally they’re 18-25 feet) the water level rises. We all go up, occasionally chatting to the lock master, which was usually some variation on the same conversation every time.

“You guys just missed Pirates Weekend!”

“Yeahhh, we know.”

“Where you going?”

“Oswego, for a performance!”

“Oh, you going there for Harborfest?”

“No, we’re going to miss it by a few days.”

“Oh. Huh. You guys are missing everything.”

“…..Yup. Guess so.”

And once the water level has completely risen, the monstrous doors in front of us groan open, we let go of our lines, and start forward to continue our journey several feet higher than we started. It’s basically like an elevator for boats. I took a video and sped it up because sure, it’s fun at first, but no one actually wants to sit through 15 minutes of watching water very very very slowly rise. Or maybe you do. Oh well!

https://vimeo.com/135172561

So that’s what going through locks is like!

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Now we’re on Lake Ontario in Oswego, NY, where we have shows July 5, 6, and 7th (Wed, Thurs, Friday!). Our set up this time around was actually not too bad! Also, Lake Ontario has the PRETTIEST skies. The sunsets last forever and are consistently stunning (see figure A). Also, last night there was heat lightning that took over the whole sky, lighting it up as a silent spectacle. And then the moon was massive and the clouds were this ghost-like veil floating over it. So gorgeous.

Figure A
Figure A

Lately the big challenge has been training. I mean, now the truss is up, but for the past week I’ve been waking up at 6:30am, rolling out of bed, throwing on sneakers and going for a run before my body wakes up enough to say, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING? WE HATE THIS, STOPPPPPPP”. Usually by then I’m already 5 minutes in and c’mon, it’s only another 15 minutes. I meant, it’s basically only another 10 minutes because the last 5 minutes are always really easy anyway. And look, by the time you finish running up this hill -I know, I know, hear me out though- by the time you finish running up this hill, you’ll only have like, 3 minutes until you’re halfway and coming back is always easier, you know that. See? See look, that was 4 minutes! Now 1 minute is just silly, you can’t turn around after one minute because you haven’t even finished this block. Get to the end of the road and THEN we’ll turn around. Oh shoot, it’s taking longer than you thought. Well, better run faster!

Anyway. So I go on my 20-30 minute run, get back, stretch, and do abs. Sometimes I find a place to do pull ups too! By then, it’s time for wake up and breakfast and morning meeting and then getting started on work!

Which means that ’round about 6pm I am tiiiiireeeed. But it’s not like I’m going to work all day and then work out for 2 more hours at the end of the day. After dinner, I am doooone. I am so not a night person. And lunch is barely enough time and it’s usually too hot. Soooo that puts us at waking up too darn early and going for a run. Which puts me in a perpetually vaguely grumpy/hazy mood which doesn’t really seem sustainable. Merg. I’ll figure out a better system at some point, right? In the meantime…

Next time, I will try to remember to write about tugging the tugboat that (may or may not have) shot down a Nazi plane during D-Day! (Spoiler alert: it took credit for it. History buffs cast a dubious although indulging eye at giving this boat credit for it.) (Wait, actually, that’s pretty  much the whole story. We had to move it forward 20 feet or so, so a bunch of us helped pull it. The end!)

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These are dolos! They are 16 ton concrete things shaped like anchors. They get dropped down in a mess and create a break wall.

 

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The work is confusing, the hours can be long, but you can’t beat that view.

We’re in Phoenix and it sure is hot enough.

I consistently don’t know where I am or what day it is. Each day can seem a week long and it is really disorienting.

HOWEVER! We just got to Phoenix, NY after leaving Sylvan Beach on Oneida Lake at 6am. It was such a cool place! It’s this sweet little beach town so we spent a lot of time on the beach and bopping around the Cape Cod-style main drag. We also picked up a good frisbee and a volleyball. When I saw everyone hitting the ball around (we didn’t have a net) I got all excited and jumped in and T said, “Of course Victoria wants to play; she’s a jock!”

…I did marching band and musicals in high school. And admittedly, I was also a really intense dancer, but this is definitely the first time anyone has ever lumped me into the jock category. I just started laughing at him because it’s so weird!

A few days ago, we spent the night at Lock 20 in the Erie Canal (no idea where it is) and there was a big beautiful crane. Our video guy has been wanting to get some shots of me a C hanging off of something other than the truss, like a bridge or tree (which I’m not in favor of thankyouverymuch). R agreed to set up a lyra for me and we got some really beautiful footage of me doing some improv. It was so nice to be in the air for the first time in two weeks and I got beat up in the most wonderful way. Got a few photos, too!

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R was really excited about filming as the sun set…right at the end he caught the gorgeous pink/purple light behind me as we wrapped up some slow motion and tight frame footage.

Photos on the way to Oswego

We’ve got a nice long sail coming up that will bring us to our next show in Oswego. In the meantime, we’re sailing, spending each night in a new town, and doing some upkeep on the Amara Zee!

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Historic fur-trapping boat in Waterford
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Waterford mule
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Map! We’re going to Oswego

 

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Early morning in Waterford

 

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Road signs on the river!
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At the helm, captain is messing with the tachs slightly out of the shot

 

In which our hero can’t think of a good title because she can smell breakfast and is hungry

Fairly soon (in a few hours?), we leave Coxsackie!

I realize that my last post was full of sadness, which was absolutely accurate, but lately there are also things that are lovely!

At our show on the 4th, one guy got all pissed off and started yelling and getting aggressive at our sound operator (who, it’s worth knowing, is an incredibly intense Italian and a force to be reckoned with). Cops ended up dragging him off, though clearly he didn’t represent the majority of the town since we got a lot of apologies from everyone. One lady (the police chief’s wife, I believe? She is also a classically trained actress and trained with Martha Graham [yay!]) circled us all up after the show and had this whole little speech for us that boiled down to her saying that we’re great. She felt (as does our director) that if we’re chasing people away with the message of the show, then it needs to be said.

The kind words were definitely appreciated. And some other old hippie guy informed us, “You guys are just like Pink Floyd!” I admit I’m not 100% sure what he meant by that, but he was really enthusiastic and I like Pink Floyd, so it must be a good thing!

These last few days have been a mellow breakdown. We took down all of the truss, which was a much easier task the second time. I think part of it might be that the turnbuckles weren’t as stuck and a huge part of it is a decreased fear of dangling in space. ALSO, as it turns out, “when in doubt, give it a clout” is actually kind of useful advice. Sometimes you do need to just bang on a thing to make it cooperate. WHO KNEW?

You know how when you’re mopping you have to plan out your route so you don’t mop yourself into a corner? You always have to mop yourself into the doorway, otherwise you walk over your newly cleaned floors and that’s annoying. Taking down the truss is the exact same, except that instead of walking across newly mopped floors, the outcome is there is nothing at all underneath you. J and I spent quite a bit of time mapping out which cables to undo, followed by which grates to take off so that the final things we undid wouldn’t send us plummeting into nothingness. And we did this successfully! HOORAY!

Yesterday we took down the mast which takes a long time but actually isn’t a lot of work. Mostly we just stood around actively ready to help out as L lowered the whole mess on the winch. The main mast and the spree end up closing up on deck kind of like a fan. I don’t know how the mizzen came down; they did that when J and I were dealing with the truss.

And hey, re: interpersonal relationships, things are going well! Yay! Evidently, the big processing actually helped. Hooray! Photo celebration!

Old Opera House, Coxsackie NY
Old Opera House, Coxsackie NY
Squished boat
Squished boat
Inside the bottom of the opera house
Inside the bottom of the opera house
Early morning we're-leaving-soon photoshoot in the gazebo
Early morning we’re-leaving-soon photoshoot in the gazebo