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A homecoming in Norfolk

Posted by Tall Ships America on July 6, 2009

By Amelia N. Smith

     Norfolk Harborfest for the 4th of July was phenomenal but, before delving into the event itself, I should start with the morning which was lively as well.  At 5 a.m. I had a confused wake-up for anchor watch– I’d been off-watch and asleep during the midnight anchoring.    It was a brisk morning, and I watched the sun rise, helped the students to complete the hourly boat check and took bearings recorded in the log with students Zach and Lauren.  As locals to the area, they were excited to recognize the coastline and explain where we were anchored.
      During my engine room check I noted a higher than usual draw on the batteries and woke Aaron the engineer.  It turned out the coffee-maker was on and I headed back up on deck.  Our watch was nearing its end, and as the students and I waited to take bearings again, I leaned over to adjust the windscoop for the aft cabin.  The engines roared on, which was odd because we were at anchor but I knew the engineer was up and around.  Aaron came running up with a startled and confused look asking if I had turned the engines on.  Apparently I had with my knee as I was leaning to move the windscoop.  He quickly shut it off, but not before it woke the Captain who asked from the aft cabin what was going on.  So embarrassing!!
     After breakfast the students split up into watches and cleaned Virginia from top to bottom to ready her for parents and guests that evening.  Then it was time for a swim break!  Before I knew it, we were raising anchor and getting the sails loose and ready to enter Norfolk.  We set the mainsail, foresail, staysail and the jib.  I was on bow watch looking out mostly for little powerboats who wanted to take a closer look.  It was a little stressful with so many pleasure craft out for the holidays, but also really great to see the entrance into downtown Norfolk.  We passed lots of naval vessels dressed with flags in celebration, and finally Nauticus, the huge maritime museum.  Soon we spotted Capitan Miranda, Cisne Branco and Pride of Baltimore II.
     Schooner Virginia continued along the harbor side until we were opposite hundreds of people gathered along the waterfront for the festival.  Turning into the wind, the students lowered the sails beautifully in a synchronized manner before docking alongside.  Once ashore, the students were split up into three groups for a one-hour field trip, with Nelly, Nate and me each leading one.  We went onboard the tall ships and even had a private tour down below for the students on Pride of Baltimore II!
     Once the students were back on board they helped dress the ship with flags and prepared for their parents.  They acted as docents on the ship during the reception that night, sharing what they had learned and experienced aboard the ship such as navigation, boat checks, sail handling and knot tying. As the dark settled in, the students enjoyed delicious lemon tarts and punch Carey the cook had prepared.  The perfect end to a beautiful July 4th— smiling students aloft and on the main gaff watching two barges set off some impressive fireworks!

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