Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Petty Officer Sail

by Caitlín

Yesterday evening marked the first training sail for Petty Officers (the youth leaders are called Petty Officers, and they make up the Quarterdeck). From 6:00 - 8:00 p.m. members of the Quarterdeck got extra sailing experience so they will be better prepared to take leadership positions when more of the unit goes out.

The weather forecast told us to expect thunderstorms, but as it hadn't rained more than a couple drops all day, and the front was supposed to bring wind, we went anyway. Skipper Shay started up the motor and we putted out between the docks and underneath the train bridge.

Once past the channel markers we stopped and raised the sails. (Skipper Shay and Aaron raising the mainsail, left.) Just as we did, what little wind there had been died. Daniel was first up at the tiller, but there wasn't much point because we were going so slowly. Soon the wind picked up just enough to tease us into thinking we might actually sail. But we only went a tiny bit faster.

The boat hadn't moved much a while later when we realized it was a little after 7:00 and that after we furled the sails, it would be time to head back to the dock. So that's what we did.

Adam knew exactly what to do with the motor, and had a great time steering us back towards port while the rest of us took down the sails.

Then my mom and I remembered the chocolate cupcakes my sister had baked the day before and sent along with us. Aaron and Adam seemed to think they were pretty good, but that was before they knew what the secret ingredient was. We didn't reveal that until almost back at the dock. Can you guess what it might be? It was sauerkraut! Adam didn't seem to care, but Aaron told me I should never let my sister cook again, so it must have grossed him out.

Just as we got to the trestle bridge, we sighted another boat waiting to get through the gap. At first it was very hard to tell whether it was moving or not, and if it was coming towards us or going away. Eventually we agreed that it was staying still and waiting until we came through. It turns out it was a fireboat from Prince George's County, the Lawrence Woltz. We were all wondering what they were doing way over here.

To allow for ample passage between the two boats, we steered far to the right of the channel...and promptly ran aground. Which Daniel and Adam found pretty funny (left).
Mr. Finn steered the Breezy back into her berth, and we all pitched in to get her ready for the next person to sail her.

So that was basically our entire trip. If only there'd been wind!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Nygard Regatta

by Caitlín

Today two Scouts from Ship 7916 attended the annual Henry I. Nygard Regatta for the first time to see what it was like and report back to the rest of the Scouts so we can determine whether it is something we want to do next year.
Right photo: Hauling a up the Boatswain's Chairlift.

Skipper Shay, David, and I set our alarms for the dreadful hour of 4:45 a.m. and had to leave the commuter lot by 6:00 in order to arrive at Camp Brown by the time the event began. It was beautiful out, but driving for a little over two hours straight still wasn't fun--especially that early when we were all wishing we could be back in bed.

Once we had found the camp and stretched, we went into the mess hall to get oriented, find out which competitions were being held today, and use the head. We found out from Mr. David of Ship 1176 that no competitive events were scheduled until 1:00 p.m., so we had a lot of waiting to do. We should have looked at the boarding manual more carefully!
Below: A crew from Ship 1942 practices their rowing.

On the deck outside the mess hall we stood overlooking the Chesapeake and watching the boats go by. There were several sailboats out, as well as a lot of powerboats, and we were wishing we could be sailing. Ship 1942 (S.S.S. Dragonlady) has one of their boats only 30 minutes from Camp Brown, and a few members half-seriously said they should go jump aboard.

Various Skippers came up to say hello, and urged David and I to go mingle with the other youth, but neither of us felt up to it. Instead the two of us sat outside and talked about nothing of importance. Eventually my mom came over and made us get up and take pictures of things that were going on.

But since there wasn't anything besides a church service, the three of us ended up standing by the car and talking instead. I think my mom managed to thoroughly weird David out during that time. By 10:00 David had convinced us that we should go back into town and try and find a movie theater to watch either Indiana Jones or Prince Caspian just for something to do.
Right photo: Scouts practice their Scuttlebutt skills, raising a fifty-five gallon drum. Only the Coxswain is allowed to speak.

So we drove quite a ways down Route 5 before realizing that Scotland and the surrounding towns were too small to have any theaters. Instead of going to the movies, we stopped at a local grocery store and bought some snacks and a couple soft drinks to go with our lunch. More time to kill back at camp, and then lunch. David and I sat at a picnic table and watched the boats sail by just out of reach.

The competitions finally began at 1:00, so I took pictures of the knot-tying contest (which David, being David, was sure he could win easily) and the boatswain's chairlift. No one was participating in the scuttlebutt at that time, but I'd gotten a couple shots of one team practicing earlier in the day. After that we were all ready to go home, so we left.
Left: A team of knot-tiers leap into action. This activity is judged on speed and accuracy.

I think that the Regatta might be something fun to go to next year if our Ship is good enough to compete in at least a couple things, but I don't know if I would want to spend the entire weekend there. I'm sure the event would be a lot more fun if me and the other Scouts actually socialized with people, but David and I were both feeling shy this time.
At right: Ship 548 (S.S.S. Sea Eagle) had its own Advanced Life Support vehicle decorated with team spirit!

Monday, May 5, 2008

First Weekend Cruise!

by Caitlín

Early Saturday morning five Scouts, the Skipper and a Mate, met at our usual commuter lot to carpool up to Baltimore for our first full weekend cruise aboard der PeLiKan!
Although the morning promised a beautiful day before we left, it got more and more cloudy during the ride into Maryland. In the approximate 1 1/2 hours it takes to get to der PeLiKan's home berth at Henderson's Wharf, the weather had become gray, chill, and foggy.
Upon arrival we stowed our gear, put the food in the icebox, and Captain Steve Nichols held a briefing on our plans for the weekend, the boat, and how to use the head (toilet, if you don't know).

We put on our PFDs (Personal Flotation Devices), cast off, and were on our way! As we motored through the channel and out to the open bay, the historic schooner replica Pride of Baltimore II was heading in the same direction as us, so we got a good look at her. We also passed Fort McHenry, the USNS Comfort, the SS John W. Brown, and lots of cargo ships.

The Scouts were divided into two-person crews on alternating two-hour watches while, as second-in-command, Aaron took the position of Boatswain. Tim had the first turn at the wheel, while Daniel was posted as lookout. Since we were off-duty, Gus, Aaron, and I hung out at the stern and talked.

When we were finally passed the Key Bridge, it was time to raise the sails. First the main (Mr. Schmoker and Gus raising the mainsail, right), then the Genoa jib. Unlike the weekend training trip in October with Ship 1176, the jib worked perfectly, so we didn't need to send anybody up in the Bo'sun's chair. It was also nice because this time we actually got some real sailing in, instead of half-sailing with the motor running, too.

Aaron, Gus, and I made lunch for everyone around noon. The menu gave the options of either Goober Grape or cold cut sandwiches. Or both, if you were brave; Aaron made and ate his new invention, christened "The Aaron," the ingredients of which included a chocolate-chip bagel with a chocolate-chip cookie, pretzels, roast beef, and cheddar cheese.

The boys' main source of entertainment was climbing in and out (and in...and out...) of the hatches and handing food up through them. I didn't see the attraction, but hey, if they wanted to hand cookies up to me while I was on watch, I wasn't going to complain.
Left: My reaction when Aaron showed me The Aaron. I'm not sure whether I was laughing or gagging right then.

As you can see from the above picture, the weather cleared just after lunch, but the wind was still brisk. I think most of us were actually glad for the PFDs just for the extra warmth, though I don't think we'll be too happy having to wear them during our long cruise in August.

I think the winds were about fifteen knots most of the day, which made for good sailing. Everyone got a turn at the helm, and we even did some knot-tying drills. Captain Nichols said we did very well, especially since none of us actually have a "rank." Apparently there have been Eagle Scouts aboard der PeLiKan who didn't know their knots as well as the Scouts from 7916.

In late afternoon we arrived at the West River, our anchorage for the night. We dropped anchor in Galesville, Maryland, just around the bend from Hartge Yacht Yard and a little upriver from Pirate's Cove.
Unlike in the movies, where anchors go crashing into the water until they stop, the anchor line is measured with a certain length for each foot of water, so in our case, 50' of line. It took two tries before Captain Nichols was satisfied with our distance from the boats moored nearby.

For a while the Scouts goofed around below while the adults talked up on deck, then Skipper Shay came down and made our dinner, which was taco salad. After dinner we got pretty crazy. I think it was because of all the cookies we'd eaten over the day (probably one and a half packages) and because we had all bonded enough to feel comfortable with one another. From left to right: Me (Caitlín), Tim, Gus, Daniel, and Aaron. No, we're not weird at allllll. ;-) Being the only girl among four 14- and 15-year-old boys for an entire day made me feel extremely mature. It was fun, but I'm not sure if I could make it through the long cruise like that. I'm really hoping at least one of the other female Scouts can come along then.

My mom and I slept in the V-berth, which is the farthest forward. The boys got the four middle bunks, and the two adult males slept in the aft berth. Aaron and Tim started out sleeping above deck, but they got rained on and came down. Although I didn't become nauseous like I did in October, the V-berth got very stuffy by about 4:00 a.m. and a stuffy boat smells like the ball pit at McDonald's. That did make me sick, so I went up on deck to get some air. I was very disoriented at first because the wind had shifted over night and the boat was turned 360° from how was when we went to sleep. But the cool air, the softly flapping shadows of the halyards dancing across the deck, and the sounds of the birds on shore singing the sun up helped me feel much better. After awhile my mom came up and we had a whispered conversation until six when we woke everyone else up.

We breakfasted on bagels, cream cheese, orange juice, milk, and fruit, and then it was time to head over to Hartge to fuel-up and exchange crew. I was at the helm and got to dock the boat--with Captain Nichols' instruction, of course. (Left: der PeLiKan taken from the dock.) And by the way, my mom has never had the chance to dock anything larger than a Flying Scot, so I docked a 46' boat before she did!

Aaron and Tim had other plans for Sunday, so we dropped them off at the yacht yard at 8:00 a.m. and picked up Adam and his dad.
We fueled up headed out, but the wind was still coming directly from the direction we needed to go to get back to Baltimore. So there was lots and lots and lots of motoring on Sunday and absolutely no sailing. :-( It was so monotonous that the wakes of passing speedboats were the most exciting thing; depending on how the swells hit us, der PeLiKan would ride up a wave and then crash down through the next, and that was actually fun. But then there were stretches where there weren't any other boats in sight and nothing to see but water and the faint blur of the shore off in the distance. There was a lot of sleeping going on during that trip.
Unfortunately, Adam and his dad never got a chance to be on board while we were under sail power, but they both got turns at the wheel and on bow-watch (above right photo), and had a good time.

We arrived at the marine gas station around 4:00 p.m., and while we were fueling and pumping out the holding tank for the head (eew!), we saw the the Pride of Baltimore again, contrasting with a very ugly and fake-looking "historic pirate ship" tour boat (left). Seeing the two of them together was like watching Beauty and the Beast on sea. Compare this ship to the picture at the top. Which one is prettier?

Mr. Schmoker steered der PeLiKan over from the fueling station back into Henderson's Wharf, we tied her up to the pier and loaded all our stuff into the cars, then set about cleaning her up so she'd be ready for the the next Sea Scout unit. The cushions below needed to be vacuumed off (Gus volunteered), the sails needed to be re-furled (when we'd done it the day before we went for as fast as possible, not neatness), and the deck needed swabbing, which Adam and I worked on. There she is back in her berth, all shipshape and seaworthy, colors flying proudly in the breeze.

Everyone had a great time, but I think when we left we were all tired, sunburned, and ready to go home.
Time slows aboard boats, and it seemed like we'd been out for a week, but when we finally finished cleaning and it was time to leave, it was hard to believe it was over. The Scouts had shared boredom and jokes, work and laughter, food and poking fun at each other. Even though it sounds corny, I think it really solidified the connections between everyone aboard. And it was a really good experience to see if we'll all be able to survive spending that much time together for an entire week!

The entire crew before departure from Hartge Yacht Yard.
More photos can be found in the Ship's album.