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.

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