Category: Lessons

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.

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.

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.

 

 

 

 

ASA101: Basic Keelboat, Day 2

So we woke up and packed new lunches, and lots of water for a day out on the water (and we drank all of it). We arrived at the dock at 9am, and we quickly got down to the business of reinforcing some things we learned yesterday after applying some of the book knowledge to an actual sail.


 One of the instructors brought a model sailboat to the table this time, and the principle instructor thought that was a great idea and used it a lot to demonstrate points of sail.

After an hour or so we were asked to complete our tests, I finished mine yesterday so I took the time to stretch my legs, talked with the instructors about our past sailing experiences, discussed my plans for Schooner Camp, some of our building projects past and present, and so forth. Once every one was done with their tests we went below to grade them and reinforce questions answered wrong. Elyse scored 92%, great job!!!

Skipper asked me to take the boat out of the marina so he could focus on the other students, we got stuck waiting for the tressle bridge to open, but otherwise uneventful. Once we were out into the river we hoisted the mainsail, did a few tacks then unfurled the 130 Genoa. Heading out toward the Long Island sound the wind slowly picked up to about 15 knots at its highest, and it was enough to put the boat on her ear, and we were moving along at about 7.5 to 8.5 knots over water for a good portion of the sail.

We practiced tacking and jibing, and avoiding collisions per the rules of the road and overall it was a lot of fun watching everyone take up their stations.

 
Elyse trimming up the main.

As I mentioned in the previous post, this sailboat is new to the current owner, so we were all learning something today. One of the folks was putting the sailboat so far on its ear that the boat started turning up her no matter how hard she tried to stay on course. Leaving the transmission in neutral causes the prop shaft to vibrate when we are moving at a good clip. It took a while to figure that out. At first we thought it was a shroud vibrating in the wind, then maybe the keel harmonic vibrating. When the skipper put the transmission in gear, the vibrations went away. Hmm, that’s something to look at.

 
At the helm with the wind in my hair, that backstay prevented leaning back with any comfort.

By the end of the day we’d gotten plenty of sun, and plenty of wind. Bringing the boat back in, the skipper asked me to man the helm again while fenders were deployed, sails furled, taken down and secured. This time the bridge was wide open for us so we didn’t have to putter around in circles, and once we got to the dock we cleaned up and packed up and our certification was logged in our books.

A really nice feature of being a student with American Sailing Academy (not to be confused with the ASA) is that current students are offered free evening sails on most Wednesday evenings at no cost. It’s a sales gimmick to increase continuing interest in ASA103, 104 and 105, but this a gimmick that has real value in giving students some more time and experience on the water. I am planning on taking advantage of it to log some more sea service recency for my USCG Captains License. I have enough time overall, but not within the last 3 years.

I want to thank both Captains Dave and Dave (yes both are Dave) for providing an excellent program and service. They are both fine sailors and they have a lot of experience to offer to new sailors in the New England area.

You can find them at American Sailing Academy

ASA101:Basic Keelboat, Day 1

So my Girlfriend, Elyse and I had our first day of sailing lessons today. Although I have been sailing all my life, I thought it would be fun to take these classes together, and additionally I want to get certified myself as well so I can say I have taken the classes as a student and not just trained to teach the classes. Plus it’s some more documented sea service for my captains license.

Anyway, on to the lessons. So since we live in eastern Connecticut, we chose the American Sailing Academy out of New London Connecticut. We woke up in the morning, packed plenty for lunch and lots of water just in case. Hey you never know, yesterday we went out to dinner and I spoiled my appetite by downing 4 glasses of ice tea because I was so thirsty.


We arrived at the docks at 9 am, boarded the boat and we all introduced ourselves to one another. Shortly we were at the table going over rigging, parts of the boat, the circle of wind and all the academic material about boats, pretty much all the stuff you’re supposed to already know if you studied the book they sent a full month in advance. Then some knots, with of course the main stumbling block for most folks being the bowline. We went through three different ways to tie it until everyone found a way that works for each person. I always have fun watching people learn to tie a bowline.

 
Learning about how not to get your hand mangled.

 

So the school bought the boat we were on this past fall, it was a 1986 35′ O’Day sloop. Despite the engine being run last night, it chose not to start this morning. After a bit of fiddling, checking the water separator, and checking the fuel, it looks like there was some air in the lines. So once it got started, it finally stayed started and we shove-off.

Once out of the marina and into the river Thames, we set the mainsail and went through some guided maneuvers, sailing close hauled to broad reached, tacking and jibing. The fun stuff, then for the last hour we took turns at the helm while someone else handled the sheets, and we had some good fun. We came back to the marina and the skipper docked the boat and we all went below decks to start our written exams. Now we were only asked to do half of the exam, but I went ahead and finished it. It was all second nature, and I had just completed the safe boating course a few weeks ago, so I had the rules of the road and all that fresh in my head.

 
Guess who’s going to be the Captain?

I asked Elyse whether she thought she got something out of the lesson and she thought it was very helpful to be able to see what she’s been studying in action. I think she’ll enjoy tomorrow even more with the less step by step instruction and being left alone to make the boat do what’s been asked.