Billie Silvey
History of Ships
An eclectic website about Women, Christianity, History,
Culture  and the Arts--and anything else that comes to mind.
Poetry of Sailing
Parts of a Ship
August 2009
Under Sail
My husband Frank always loved ships.  When he was a child,
his family had sailed, first to Japan, and later to Italy, as military
dependents.  He was comfortable on the water.  He loved the
appearance of the early sailing vessels, and he made models of
ships as a child.

I, on the other hand, grew up landlocked and with a deep fear
of water.  But I, too, loved the look of those early caravels and
galleons, as well as the sleek clippers.

After we married, I gave Frank a few ships in various forms.  I
particularly remember embroidering a vessel under sail, with its
webbing of lines and its billows of canvas, in browns and beiges
atop waves of turquoise blue.

During the Vietnam War, Frank’s student deferment ran
out, and he enlisted in the Navy just ahead of the draft.  He was
assigned to a carrier, the
Ticonderoga, which was  more like a
miniature metal city on the water than the beautiful sailing ships
of his dreams.

At one point, we lived on
Coronado Island off San Diego.  It
was before the bridge was built, so we could only come and go
by ferry. How beautiful and peaceful  to go home at night with
the lights of the harbor reflected on the water, the pale moon
sailing above.

Coronado was small, and I walked around it often when we
lived there.  I would start on the side fronting the harbor of San
Diego—an oily, gritty, industrial view.  On around the island
was the Glorietta Bay Yacht Club, with its bobbing mass of
spars, crisp white sails and vivid aquamarine canvas.  On
further rose the
Hotel Del, a Victorian castle with red and white
gingerbread turrets.  Around from there, the waves of the
Pacific splashed onto a broad beach across from large homes.  
After that came the Naval Air Station where Frank worked and
where I usually turned back to retrace my steps around the
three water-fronting sides.

My best memory was the time the captain let all of us
dependents move from San Diego, where there was a dock
strike, to dry dock in Bremerton, Washington, on board the
ship!  We spent
three days at sea, eating on the mess decks,
families sleeping in officers’ quarters, women without
children in bunks three deep, having said good night to our
husbands at the hatch under the watchful gaze of an armed
Marine guard (somewhat reminiscent of a dorm mother!)

Cars and other belongings were safely stowed on the hangar
deck, which still left room for basketball games and talent
shows. It was a strange and exciting cross between a Navy
vessel and a cruise ship!

Later, when we returned to LA, Frank worked for a company
that owned two sailboats.  He enjoyed going out on them, and I
was pleasantly surprised at my ability to “steer� us
toward shore by pulling various lines and the tiller.  But I was
painfully aware of all that water beneath us and my
demonstrated ability to sink like a stone.

This month’s website features articles on the
history of
sailing, the structure of a sailing ship, and sailing as a metaphor
for poetry and life.

I’d love to hear about your experiences with ships and
sailing.  Just email me at