Category: Adventure

Maritime Talks w/Captain Laurel Seaborn

How sailing changes lives

I met Captain Laurel Seaborn, founder of SEAMHAP earlier this week when she was speaking at an engagement hosted at the Moffat-Ladd House and Garden in Portsmouth, NH. Captain Laurel attended East Caroline University and Mastered in Maritime History and Marine Archeology and received her PhD in Maritime History from the University of New Hampshire. Captain Laurel gave a presentation about her life on the sea, starting as a child living aboard her family’s sailboat, her life aboard tall ships, and the general benefits of attending and teaching sailing programs to all groups of people.

Laurel has crewed on several tall sailing ships of various types; Brigs, Barqantines, and Schooners. She describes the coordinated tasks aboard that need to be completed and be in a perfect state of readiness in order for things to happen smoothly just when you need them to, such as the proper way to coil lines so they pay out smoothly, or how to belay lines to a pin rail so you know exactly which line you are grabbing when it’s too dark or foggy to see where the other end leads. Helming (steering) the ship is her favorite part, it feels the most empowering because it is the one thing that you do that has immediate affect on the whole ship and what the crew needs to do. I agree, it’s a real thrill to be steering a sailing ship that is moving along at a good clip and in perfect balance with the wind and the sea. You can feel the boat become an extension of yourself.

Laurel also shared how learning to crew a ship is beneficial to a person’s personal growth. According to Laurel, crewing on a ship and learning all the tasks to make it go builds a person in three major areas:

Building Self Confidence – When you first approach sailing, you have no idea what you need to do or even how much needs to be done and done right to make a sailing ship go. First you learn smaller individual tasks like tying knots, and how to properly coil a rope, and then build upon those to develop more complex sets of skills that are used in conjunction with one another to complete varying complex jobs that need to be done. When you have learned how to do all these individual tasks, and combine and use them to accomplish more complex goals such as rigging and hoisting the sails, or charting how to get from here to there, you feel accomplished at getting something really significant done. Using those combining smaller skills to accomplish even greater and more complex goals, such as actually getting the ship underway and reaching your destination is a huge confidence builder and builds that sense that your contribution has real meaning.

 

Team Work – Team work really starts right at the beginning, because no one new knows what to do. So you are shown how to perform tasks and you shadow and you are asked to help. Not to mention some tasks require a coordinated effort between more than 2 or 3 people. Tasks such as hauling a spar. Not only will it take a few people to haul it up, it takes a few other people to coax the spar into place as it’s being lifted. Lauren said, the first time crew learns how to do this, it can take several hours to get it into place. Thank goodness, you can tie off lines when you need a break. It’s all part of being aboard a small ship and even a small boat. You quickly develop friendships when you work together and get a task that is both monumental as well as complex like that completed. You all feel you deserve a good pat on the back and kick-back for a few minutes together with a soda. You feel you are ready to take on what comes next, and it instills a real sense of community and belonging.

Sense of Belonging – From the moment you leave port for the first time, you begin to realize that you are part of this boat and part of this crew. It quickly become’s “your home” for the time you are aboard, and the people become your friends and family. Indeed lifetime friendships are developed while learning to be crew mates and accomplishing great things together. It’s an amazing experience from which everyone benefits. There is nothing like become friends as part of a team that explores the coast and experiences sites and activities that others just dream about.

 

I am very glad I met Laurel, and I hope we run into one another again. Maybe our programs might end up collaborating with one another. Who knows. We wish her the best.

 

Five Reasons Your Kids Should Sail

 

1. Self-Confidence. There is simply nothing like being able to pilot your own craft at the age of 9 years old. Riding a bike is one thing. Skillfully steering and docking a sailboat is quite another. All of my athletic endeavors helped to shape my sense of self as a kid, but sailing was without a doubt the most instrumental. I have not only noticed this in myself; during my ten years as a sailing instructor, I have seen it again and again in my students.

2. Spatial awareness. When kids learn how to navigate a boat through narrow spaces and tight turns – how to avoid collisions, coast to a dock with finesse, or squeeze into a packed starting line at a regatta – they develop a spatial awareness that will bring them prowess all activities that involve coordination. Like driving, for instance.

3. Sense of direction. When I was 10 years old, I would sail all week with my class, and then go out on weekends by myself. I would pack a lunch and take my Optimist out for a couple of hours to explore. I believe that it was on those trips that I began to develop a good sense of direction. Noticing which direction I had come from, picking out landmarks, and knowing how to get back became a regular part of my stream of consciousness. That awareness is crucial to having a sense of direction.

4. Weather knowledge. Do you know from which direction thunder storms normally come? Do you know what the water temperature normally is on Long Island Sound in May? If your child is a sailor, he or she will know. Weather knowledge will come in handy both on-the-water and on land.

5. Shipshape habits. Sailing students learn how to properly rig and unrig a boat. Kids learn to put things away in the right place, and keep them tidy while on the water. That’s a skill no mom or dad can argue with. Longshore Sailing School even has a shipshape award for every class to encourage the behavior.

So if your kids haven’t tried sailing, have them give it a try. Teaching a kid to sail is to give them a gift for life. They might not stick with it, but after they age out of all the other youth sports, the sailing skills are still there. I’ve seen many people return to sailing after an extended absence.

How American Seafarers Can Help Your Child

The advantages of a summer program are numerous, and far more than those you might just think of. Learn more in this article.

Unlike the perceptible advantages that children gain from our summer expedition sailing program, the intangible advantages are harder to pin down. In conjunction with home and school, and maybe even a summer job, our program works with the many building blocks that create an adult. And while few children realize how much they’ve been influenced by their summer experiences as exploring sailors, as adults they will see how their lives were enriched and layers were added to their development.

A summer program offers communal living

Beyond facilities and activity schedules, the people whom your children encounter — shipmates, offers, and the people they meet at each destination— play an influential role. Kids living in shipboard situations soon find out that when they don’t treat one another well, there are consequences. As they learn and work together, they build a sense of community. If one person chooses not to cooperate, the whole group is affected. When they work well together, the whole teams feels the benefits of a done well done. It happens, and it’s a part of life that even as adults we witness and experience, and of course the experience of the staff is a key factor in guiding the individual and the group away from conflict and rather towards while allowing the kids to be key to a successful resolution. It is almost inevitable that the kids will face social challenges with the new people with whom they are living closely, however; in the end, they will grow through the experience of becoming an important part of the sailing crew, and share a singular unrivaled commraderie with the rest of their crew

Gaining new perspective

Chris Yager takes small groups of teens off the beaten path in Asia with his student summer program Where There Be Dragons. Teens, who are in the throes of questioning their social, political, and economic environment see themselves in another light as a result of being in such a foreign setting, notes Yager. He contends that when teens are far from their normal circumstances, they react in new ways. Kids who have never been leaders take charge. The popular outgoing teen becomes the quiet observer. It is a wonderful experience for a child or teen to come to a place where he or she is an unknown entity and freed from his or her usual context.

Trying new things

Trying out new things is another significant intangible benefit of a summer youth program. At home and in school, children can and often do dodge new experiences. At sea, they can’t. Of course, the primary goal of any well-run program is fun. Independence from parents also exerts a strong influence. The child who is away from home encounters new experiences independently. With the safety net of insightful staff children can risk finding out what works and what doesn’t in interpersonal relationships, tryout new shipboard skills, all while discovering new strengths and new facets of themselves.

Choosing a summer program

Though summer programs and camps can have a deep impact on a child’s development, not all summer programs have what it takes — a well-thought out philosophy, a mature and alert staff, and counselors who provide excellent role models and give kids a fun time. By looking at the intangibles, you can choose a program wisely.

American Seafarers allows your kids to explore their world in an entirely new way, and they develop a completely new set of skills that of course include sailing, but also those other intangible skills that help kids become adults that have a much better sense of how to interact with their peers, and their self worth and character.

Summer Camps by Jeffrey Carter

Jeffrey Carter is the Director of Rockbrook Summer Camp for Girls, a traditional girls summer camp located in Brevard, NC. He publishes the summer camp blog “The Heart of a Wooded Mountain.”
I wanted to share one of Jeffrey’s articles about Summer Camp with you, and draw some comparison with seafaring as a backdrop for some of these experiences. Some of the topics he discusses directly point to the benefits that a team working and mutual benefit program like American Seafarers brings to our youth, while other points he makes have analogs that translate well, but aren’t immediately apparent in the article because the image of summer camp is often thought of a place with cabins in the woods and doing endless activities during the day. American Seafarers is much more than a summer camp, because we are bringing the camp with us on a grand adventure that allows the kids to realize their real value and potential by being the team that makes it happen for all of us. Not only do we teach your kids how to sail, our program experiencially teaches them to be responsible and accountable to themselves and to others, and also that the effort put in gives you the time later when it ok to just let loose and enjoy life and enjoy the fruits of the effort you put in to it.

Parents send their children to summer camps to have fun, to experience new activities, and maybe to see a different part of the country, but there are also some incredibly important, and lasting, benefits that campers enjoy. What can parents expect their children to gain from their summer camp experience beyond the razzle-dazzle entertainment? What will stick with your kids after camp and when they’re back at home? Here are a few of the areas of self-development a summer camp experience can enhance.

Relating to others: Summer camps are highly social environments where everyone is a member of a close-knit community. At the same time, they are often quite diverse. Children will meet others from different families, from different parts of the country, even from abroad. They will also interact daily with children of different ages. These different backgrounds, values, habits and ways of living can be disconcerting at first, but with encouragement and guidance can really help a young person learn to get along with people. Another way to say this, is that by encountering kids who are “different” a child learns to see past those differences and become friends. Learning to relate like this makes it much easier to make friends later in life.

Developing Creativity: Most summer camps provide numerous opportunities to make things, to practice different crafts, and to explore the arts. From woodworking, to fiber arts, to ceramics, to knitting, to blacksmithing, and so on, there are fantastic ways to be creative. Plus, kids are encouraged to try new things, to not worry about how “good” they are, and to be excited about the process of participating. Everyone realizes that we can create some pretty cool stuff if we give it a try.

Self-Confidence: Summer camps are supportive places, communities where everyone will look out for each other, and usually encourage each other. This kind of positive peer relationship is the perfect recipe for trying new things and being proud of your accomplishments. Kids might think they won’t be able to do something (like climb a ropes course, for example), but when they try and succeed, it’s strong evidence that they can do it. Doubt is transformed into bravery, fear into confidence, and the result is an enhanced sense of self-worth.

Independence: It’s almost inevitable when a child goes to camp and sleeps away from home, away from the watchful eye of his or her parents- she will gain greater independence. Kids at camp make a lot of their own decisions, make choices about what to do, how to behave, and how to spend their free time. Of course, they also get to see the consequences of their choices too, and when it’s their choice and not their parents, those consequences are all the more meaningful.

Being suddenly responsible for their own choices, is a very formative experience in a growing habit of independence.

Social Etiquette: Being around so many people and interacting with them so closely day after day, summer camps also require kids to develop certain social skills. Sharing, recognizing others’ interests, dealing with arguments, showing empathy, being kind, offering to help, making honest suggestions- all of these are key ingredients. Every quality summer camp will create an environment where all of this is fostered and taught.

Of course most of these areas can develop at home and at school during the year, but summer camp provides an opportunity to practice these qualities, develop these aspects of a child’s personality, and further develop the mature skill that make them effective. It’s really remarkable how powerful the summer camp experience is in this regard. Sure it’s fun, but it can also be so crucially formative too.

At American Seafarers, kids gain confidence because of their successes in their accomplishments as a team, by working together to develop a plan and charting the next leg of our course, and thinking creatively about the best way to approach new challenges they haven’t experienced yet. I think Jeffrey would agree there is nothing more powerful than your kids’ successes contributing to the success of the whole team and its ability to get something real accomplished from start to finish and enjoying the end results, whether that seeing a new beach, or visiting an amazing landmark. This isn’t running the ropes course, but being part of how the entire group gets to visit one amazing location after another, and being relied upon and enjoying the sense of accomplishment by being a member of the crew that made the summer such a grand adventure, there can be no other real sense of being independent by virtue of trusting in yourself and you ability to be responsible when needed.

The Second Leg to Kittery, ME

Boy it sure takes a while to get back into the swing of things after the holiday season. I and we have been so busy cooking and spending time with family, spending time with our own kids, and me working from my sailboat in Kittery, ME it has been near impossible to find time for my own personal projects. For instance, it took me several days to upgrade the electricity on the Fernweh, but that’s another story for another time. Right now, I am forcing myself to sit down and regale you with the challenges and adventures that occurred after docking in Plymouth, and sailing away again the following weekend.

 

As I mentioned, we pulled into Plymouth. When we pulled in, there were a few people working in the yard shrink wrapping vessels on the hard. I spoke to one of them about having pulled into the service dock, and what was going on and what the symptoms were with the engine runs fine for a while, but then loses RPMs and finally shuts down. I told him about changing/inspecting the fuel filters and going through the other troubleshooting steps described in my previous post. He said he’s one of the mechanics anyway, and to just call Monday to have a work order made up, and that he’d be able to service it before next Friday. I called first thing on Monday and had the work order created with the need to be able to ship back out on Friday. They said they’d get right on it and let me know as soon as they knew what was going on.

 

To shorten a long story that could probably be a post all on its own, they didn’t look at the boat right away, but when they did I was asked if I put gasoline in the tank. I said, I haven’t put any fuel of any sort in the tank. It was topped off by the previous owner before he sold her to me. The guys asked me if I am sure I didn’t put gasoline in the tank, and I assured him that if I didn’t put any fuel in the tank, then it didn’t matter what kind he was asking about. Anyway it turns out the tank has gasoline in it. Now one, this posed a serious problem on the water, the engine could have been seriously damaged by running gasoline. I am pretty sure it was just a top-off of gasoline in there, but it was enough to cause problems. So this is what was happening. Diesel engines run at a different compression rate, and have a different ignition cycle than gasoline engines do. Gasoline will ignite a lower temperatures than diesel will, which means when it’s in the fuel mixture, the fuel can ignite too early in piston cycle. So, that’s why the engine would run perfectly and like a top when it was cold, but when the engine reached top operating temerature, the gasoline started to ignite too early which caused a slight loss of power which translates to losing RPMs, and when the engine was warm enough it would finally just cut out completely and couldn’t be restarted for another 2 hours, it needed time to cool so that the gasoline diesel mix wouldn’t pre-ignite.

 

So, on Thursday I call to make sure the boat was going to be ready, and the answer was it was going to take longer to polish the tank (the gasoline made all the diesel algae fall off the sides), and it wouldn’t be ready which of course wasn’t acceptable. I had them give me and hook up an auxiliary fuel tank and I would deal with the fixing the fuel system when I got to Maine. THe hooked it all up, called me and said it was ready and running like a top. The captain I hired for this leg of the trip and I arrived Friday morning, and we go to start the engine and it wouldn’t start. Ok…So although it Saturday, the marina manager happened to be in the catch up on some paperwork, and since I just paid a lot of money to get the engine running, I asked him if he could do something about it. He called the mechanic and asked him to come in, and he got it running. Since the auxiliary tank is below the engine, gravity pulled the fuel out of the fuel lines, so the system needed to be bled again. Sigh…

So, the engine is running, we have everything ready to go, we start breaking the ice behind the boat, back up 2 feet, break some more ice, and so on until we have worked out way our of the marina and into the open water where the ice hadn’t formed. Off we go…

 

The trip itself was relatively uneventful, but because of the delay in getting underway, we spent the last several hours piloting the boat in darkness. Crossing the Boston harbor we saywsome giant car carriers, and boy they move really fast for such a huge ship. We were dodging lobster pots all night long until we reached Pascataqua River, the river which runs between New Hampshire and Maine and is also known as the Portsmouth Harbor home of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, and Badger Island where we will be docking and where I will be staying for the rest of the winter.

When we arrive the current is running upriver about 4 knots. The memorial bridge is only about 200 feet down current from the face dock of the marine where you have to dock when there is a current and move your boat to your permanent slip when the tide slackens. So we motor up close to the bridge, and turn the boat toward the dock and into the current, and we drift sideways across the river toward the dock. Everything looks really smooth until we actually dock…When we hit the dock and my captain hops off to begin securing the lines, a neighbor comes out to help, and starts tying down lines, but something we hadn’t noticed is that the current runs out from under the dock…I.e. it’s pushing the boat away from the dock and it’s doing it very swiftly. We get the boat tied up, but the bow was pulled a good 8 feet away from the dock with the current trying to push it out farther. The current is running under the boat almost broadside, and its way to strong to the pull the boat in. The propeller and rudder are too far away from each other to gain an steering benefit while the stern lines are secured, so after struggling for about 30 minutes, I decide we’re going to release the springs, and lastly the bow line while the stern line is payed out just enough for the boat to dock on the other side. We release the bow and the boat swings out away from the dock until it’s against the dock after turning 180 degrees. We tied up, check everything is secured, and end our frustrating end to our journey. We finally get to bed about 0200, and let Elyse know we arrive safely and we’ll see her in the morning and we go to bed.

 

The next Tuesday after work the tide is just slack and I move it to my permanent slip and there she stays. In the last few weeks I have been working on projects to upgrade her a little at a time in the afternoons after work, but otherwise the Fernweh has been a great place to stay so close to work that I can walk to work in the morning. Not too shabby. Maybe I’ll lose a few pounds walking to work and back.

 

Sailing to Kittery Maine

So my latest adventure included joining a contract in Kittery at the Navy Shipyard. The drive is about 2 1/2 hours each way from where I live in Waterford CT. Although I am accustomed to lengthy commutes, that my friends is just a little bit too far. Elyse and I looked into apartments to rent, and the minimum available rentals were for no less than $750 a month, and that did not include any of the utilities. So went on a quest for a budget sailboat large enough and sound enough to sail to and live aboard for my stay in Maine this winter. We got on Craigslist, and started calling people with sailboats they wanted to part with. We looked at 3 or 4 and there were a few others that were great steals from all appearances but the conditions to get to them were a little too much effort and had to happen too fast to make it worth the effort. One of the boats we looked at stood out as a solid boat, still in the water and being sailed by its owner and in pretty good condition from an appearances point of view. It is a Standfast 33, which is a 32 ft blue water sailboat designed by Frans Maas, and built-in the Netherlands by Standfast Yachts in 1979. With a little negotiation, and asking for an item or two to be remedied by the seller, we bought the bought, and I started making trips to Defender Marine to get the boat outfitted for a winter (well, in reality late fall) North Atlantic voyage.

 

After another few thousand dollars and time spent ripping out old equipment and replacing it with new equipment, gear and supplies (stove, heaters, foul weather gear, food, etc.), she was ready for the voyage. There was a short window before really bad weather set in for the winter, with a few days of projected nice (for winter) weather and favorable winds, so I hired a co-captain to go with me so we could sail with as few stops as possible on the way to Kittery. Well the first captain I hired injured himself on another yacht delivery, and the second captain I hired backed out due to a scheduling constraint and he couldn’t miss a family event that required his attendance. I hired an ordinary seaman to help me along the journey, which meant I was going to be the sole captain of this journey, but sometimes you have to get there. This wasn’t a pleasure cruise after all and the boat had to be in Kittery on time.

 

We set sail on Thursday December 8th, and about 2 hours underway, the engine started to act funny. It was running like a top, then it started losing RPMs until finally it shut down. We were already well out of port, so we raised the sails and headed to the first way point in Buzzard’s Bay called Fiddler’s Cove Marina which is a Brewers Yacht Yard marina in North Falmouth, MA. We sailed there slowly because the airs were light, but we were getting there. Along the way while sailing, I was trouble shooting the engine and one of the things that because apparent was if I let the engine stop running for an hour or two, the engine would start right up and run like a top again. At the time I didn’t know if was temperature or what, but I checked the water lines and the water was running clean, so that wasn’t it. So at various points we started the engine to get a little boost in speed for a while until we got to Fiddler’s Cove.

 

When we arrived, it was well after-hours and because the engine didn’t run reliably, I was reluctant to try to pull in dockside under my own power, so we pulled into the cove, and dropped anchor in one of the holes where the boat could swing safely and we went to bed. The next morning I gave the marina a call and asked explained what was going on and they came out to meet me in case the boat needed a nudge while docked. While pulling the anchor up, and once in daylight we discovered we were anchored in the middle of an oyster/scallop trap field. The field is only marked at the corners, and the traps are connected via long lines, so we didn’t see that we were in someone’s fishery. There they were pulling traps. It was lucky that my anchor didn’t fouled any traps or lines. As a side note, when I saw the fishermen later that day, I did take the time to apologize sincerely about not seeing the field, he really appreciated that I said sorry at all because most people just don’t care one whit. So please take note of this…watch where you anchor in New England, because most of the water is actively fished in one fashion or another, but if you do inadvertently stray and anchor in someone’s trap field, take the time understand you dropped your big fat anchor on his traps and lines and just made life a little harder for him or her. Take the time for a sincere apology if you can muster it.

 

So we dock, and I go up to the marina office and talk to the mechanic to see if he has any idea what the issue might be. Because I am a Brewers employee the yard manager asks the mechanic to just come down to the boat and spend some time with me to help me troubleshoot the issue. We look at the fuel filters, they both look clean (and I changed the Raycor filter while we were there). Anyway, the best that could be figured was the fuel line must be collapsing because it’s sucked up some diesel algae. Well, I don’t have any time, and I have a hired hand I have to pay for so we decide together that we can sail the rest of the way and use the engine on an as needed basis. We prepare to shove off, and then well off we go up Buzzards Bay to the Cape Cod Canal.

 

On our approach the tide was going the wrong way, so making way to the canal entrance was slowly getting slower and slower until we were at the very mouth of the canal and the sailboat was pretty much sailing at 5 knots through the water, but our speed over ground was next to zero knots. The Army Corp of Engineers hailed us on the radio to ask what we were doing, and I explained we were just waiting for the tide to change, and that we knew it was expected to start swinging not too far in the future. So we waited until I was able to make a little over 1 knot of headway and I radio ACE Canal Control for clearance to enter the canal. In hindsight, this was definitely a good situation to be in, because the tide helped move us through the canal at over 10 knots over ground. If we had to fight the current the entire way, it would have taken half a day to get to the midpoint of the canal and at the height of the current, we’d have been sailing backwards. As it was, it took us two hours to sail through the canal. And this is where it stops being as much fun.

As we start going off-shore the wind really starts picking up. It’s a westerly wind, so it’s coming from shore, but it’s picked up way more than forecasts. So much so, that I am forced to pull in the jib, because the jib was creating a lee helm and kept pushing the boat heading downwind. Our next step was supposed to be Plymouth Marina, it’s really the only next stop and it’s about 6 hours away at our present speed which is about 4-5 knots with just the main up. Although we were making good headway, the force of the wind and the gusts coming for different directions made it very difficult to keep the boat on course. Although GPS was showing we were making steady forward progress and not zig zagging through the sea, I don’t see how that was possible. The seas were probably only 6 feet, but there was lots of 2 to 3 foot chop riding the swells, and it made for a bumpy ride. When we got to Plymouth, the wind had picked up even more and there was no way I could navigate through a channel, regardless of how broad and wide it was with the winds throwing us around. If it were high tide, we might have had some forgiveness, but it was low tide and I wasn’t going to chance it. We decided to anchor as close as we could get to the windward shore under power, and dropped the anchor. Made sure everything was secured, and we went below. I made some from scratch beef stew, and we went to sleep taking shifts to check the anchor.

 

The next morning despite forecasts that the wind would settle down, it did not. It looks like a North Atlantic storm between Greenland and Iceland decided to reach its arms out and pull some air from New England and that’s where all this wind was coming from. Anyway, after another day on the hook and without a window of fair weather to continue sailing on toward Kittery, nor fair enough to navigate through the channels by sail, it was time to blow the whistle and call this leg of the journey to a close. We made it halfway there safely and intact and without any serious issues other than annoyance at the delay and the weather turning sour, so I used my SeaTow membership and had us towed into the marina that was already expecting us. We arrived on Saturday, and Elyse came to pick us up, and home we went. I called the Marina first thing the following Monday morning and asked them to figure out what was wrong with the engine. I’ll explain that in my next post, along with the next leg of the adventure but the short answer? The tank was topped off with gasoline. (nope I didn’t do it)

 

Hopefully I’ll have the second half of the journey posted by the end of this week, but that will depend on how busy I am. Being busy is why it’s taken me almost three weeks to write this post.