Wednesday, July 31, 2013

El Galeon The Sailing Ships of Spain

I recently attended a celebration of the 450th anniversary of the founding of St Augustine Florida with my photography group. There were no bands or fireworks but the big attraction was a working replica on the 16th Century sailing ship El Galeon. These were the ships the Spanish used to bring in provisions and haul off gold and other materials from the new world. The ships were fast and carried big guns to defend themselves from pirates or other countries that might try to take their treasures. As usual, click each photo for a better view. 

The El Galeon was representative of the sailing ships of the era. The Galeon was a scaled down version of the Carrack ships which were primarily fighting ships. The smaller size of the Galeon  allowed it to serve a dual purpose of transport and fighting ship.

Despite the history of the ship type, what really fascinated me were the various knots required to work the sails and swiftly move the ship from port to port. Sailor's knots were an essential for any crewman worth his wages. Knowing the knots allowed the ship to effectively use the wind at a time when there were no machines and understanding how to manipulate the elements was a major achievement. There were 40 basic knots that every sailor needed to learn. You might sign on as a cabin boy and begin your training that way, or learn the skill to pass the time during long voyages as a form of entertainment. Sailors learned to use knots to make almost anything that could be held together by the knots. 

Ropes were the glue that held the sails in place, allowed sailors to climb the mast, secured the cannons, in addition to allowing men to move heavy treasure with the use of various pulleys. Ropes did it all and knowing how to tie the knots to make it happen gave a sailor a trade.

The Galeon was a narrow ship, so close quarters were the rule of the day. The Captain and Senior Officers  were part of a cast system that allowed them small creature comforts that were better than the rest of the crew. But, after so many days at sea, you have to wonder if it really mattered. They too were subject to knowledge about knots. Their very lives might depend upon it.

This map show the areas of exploration and dates. circling the State was a major undertaking and it becomes apparent the Spanish were actively involved, through various expositions, in the exploration of Florida from 1513 until 1565. Their skill at sailing the fast ships gave them an early foothold in the new world.

You truly had to admire the bravery of these men because the work was hard, conditions were quite rough, and if you made a mistake in the knot making skills needed to move the ship, the chances were good that you would not return to friends and family. It seems amazing now that something as simple as learning to tie a knot was a major factor in  creating what we now know as St. Augustine and the United States.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The little Church Down The Lane

Moving to the South I have always been drawn to churches that seem to be everywhere (the call it the Bible Belt for a reason). During a film project I passed a street I've gone down a number of times, and this time allowed myself to look around; and there hidden in plain sight was this little church oasis right in the middle of a busy area. As usual, click each photo for a better view. 

The church is very near the San Marco area which is a great hang out section of town, but sits back off the street so it is easy to miss as you hurry some place else. I wondered what was the history of the church because it is a quite old Craftman style structure that deserved to be preserved.

What I discovered it is that it was one of the early Episcopal churches in the area and the Rotary Club resisted the forces that wanted to tear it down. They paid to have the church transported by barge over to the current location along with the pastor's house that sits next to it.

The two sit next to each other as symbols of a bygone era of dignified simplicity. The feel you get from the location almost reminds you of New England and Sleep Hollow. Can Ichabod Crane be far behind?

The church from different views, takes you back in time. I say back in time because churches today almost appear to be in an arms race with each attempting to become bigger than the next. Here is this modest little structure that seems to have so much grace. 

Even the bell atop the structure reminds you of  an English village or an old West town. I thought the tiny bit of moss added the perfect little touch of  time long ago.

Either way, the church and it's surrounding grounds offer an island of solitude from the world rushing by just outside it's gates. You can stop and ponder what might have happened within it's walls in addition to the people who graced it's doors years ago. 

I have written before about creating relaxation islands where you can take a moment to leave the worries of the day behind. This is a perfect example of such a site and being so close to a highly traveled area makes it a great place to take your lunch and float back in time.