Friday, March 27, 2009

Sailing on the Tall Ship - Spirit of South Carolina

Sailing on the inaugural voyage of the open enrollment program for adult education, the Spirit of South Carolina departed from the Maritime Center and set sail around Charleston Harbor under overcast skies. With winds 15 knots or less and temperatures in the middle 60's it proved to be a fine evening for a sailing trip - minus the normally excellent sunset usually witnessed from the ship's deck. The Spirit of South Carolina mainly works with youth, which is why no adult programs have been offered until now. The Carolina Youth Development Center is one partner that helps to provide "at risk" students the opportunity to take part in Sprit of South Carolina's hands-on programs. Most of these opportunities come from Fall and Spring "Day Sails" which are part of their "Sea Spray Scouts" Program, where duties might include putting out a plankton tow net, or sampling saltwater for the purpose of water quality tests. Onboard educator Beth Spencer told me that the Spirit of South Carolina is 140-feet in length with 90-feet of deck and a 23-foot beam (or width). The adults onboard were tasked with hauling up the mains'l (mainsail) once away from the dock. Bare hands grabbed thick ropes and followed commands like "haul away," "hold," and "2 - 6 - heave" in order to use the "throat halyard" to hoist up the "jaw" and "mast hoops" before the "peak halyard" pulls up the tip of the sail, making it taught. When I walked to the stern Captain Kevin Wells was willing to let me steer the ship for a bit, and we looked at a chart of the Charleston Harbor as he shared that the boat has a 10.5-foot draft. Standing by a hatch that leads to the Aft cabin (which serves as Captain's quarters and navigation station) he told me that the 80-foot mast was made of laminated Douglas Fir, while the ship's frame was constructed of Live oak and the hull was shaped with Longleaf Pine. Snacks and drinks were provided in the ship's galley and main salon, and history lessons were shared on deck. There is perhaps no better station for a Southern history lesson than on the deck of a Tall Ship sailing through Charleston Harbor, with the sounds of maritime bird life serving as a reminder that some things don't change.

My photos show the mast hoops that hold the mainsail, three gentleman under instruction to "Haul Away!" and the juxtaposition of tall ship rigging versus modern suspension rigging. Beth Spencer's photo shows at the helm with Captain Kevin Wells.

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