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Full and By

Posted by Tall Ships America on July 31, 2010

By Samara

In the summer, it doesn’t get dark on Lake Superior until nearly 11pm. This means that at the very end of evening watch the sunlight is still fading and civil twilight lingers until just after turnover. The night before we came into port in Duluth, my watch was on for the evening shift and I was posted as the bow watch. We dropped off the student trainee group that traveled with us from Bay City in Houghton, MI so, for our short transit to Duluth, watches were smaller and we all spent more time completing watch duties. During long stretches on bow watch I needed to constantly remind myself to stay focused on the horizon watching for traffic instead of letting my mind wander to our upcoming arrival in Duluth. 

I departed Bay City almost two weeks ago aboard the Denis Sullivan. Like my first hours on Europa, I once again climbed a steep learning curve to acquaint myself with the crew and pace of a new ship. The day we left Bay City was spent motoring to the starting point of race two. We crossed the startling line in the early evening, setting everything but the two top sails. However, it was not long before the winds died down (as they often do at night on the lakes) and we were forced to retire. 

We left Bay City with a group of students from the Michigan Tech summer outreach program. In addition to standing watch and participating in shipboard life, our education director, Joe, also held class every day to teach them about maritime history, lake science, and practical skills such as knot tying and the physics of sailing. Working with high school age students was very different than the guest crew on Europa who were mostly all older than me. I enjoyed taking on a leadership position to help the green sailors become adjusted to shipboard life. 

The day before we reached Houghton the wind picked up enough for us to fill our sails and we sailed through the afternoon and into the evening. My favorite moment of the trip occured during our watch that afternoon. Captain Loge ordered us to steer full-and-by, which means that we were to steer by the wind and hold the ship at an angle to keep the sails full. Aside from sleeping underway, steering full-and-by is one of my favorite parts of sailing. It is incredible to feel the forces of the wind and water literally in your hands, and I love keeping a course by feeling the wind on my face instead of by monitoring the compass. I was standing on the quarter deck when Carlos, the first mate, had one of the students, Carl, take over the helm. At first Carl struggled to catch his bearings and understand how to steer us in the right direction, but he caught on quickly and within a few minutes was smiling and laughing to himself. When Carlos asked what was up he chuckled again and responded, “I can really feel it…this is awesome!”  Moments like that fuel my passion for sail training and experiential education. 

Learning how to sail is only a small part of sail training, it is also about teaching stewardship – for others, for oneself, and for our surroundings. Even though Carl only stayed at the helm for a short time, it was long enough to show him power of nature in a way that cannot be explained in words. Even if he forgets the names of the sails, how to tie a bowline, or how to plot our position on a chart – even if he never steps foot on a tall ship again –  that moment of realization at the helm will endure in his memory and we, the crew, have done our job.

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