So, it has been a few weeks since my last post, and with good reason. On board, things were stagnant. Our morale as a crew was sinking. We had simply been tied up at the dock for too long without big achievements like bending on sails to make up for it.
Instead of going out sailing, we were redoing things that had been done incorrectly the first time, waiting for various orders to come in, and watching our electrical system be completely torn apart and redone. The sense of success we worked for had peaked back in May during the Maritime Festival's Parade of Sail. Now, four, five, and six weeks later, time dragged on without anything to show or any rewards for our efforts.
Monday, that all changed. We rose before 0600 hours to go over emergency procedures, then we cleaned the vessel from bow to stern, transitioning from a construction site to shipshape. The Coast Guard came and did our dockside inspection, scheduling our sea trials for Tuesday morning. The only part of dock trials I had a role in is the medical kit. The USCG has some pretty specific requirements of first aid kits. Luckily when the officer opened up the kit, which I provisioned as part of my newly acquired position of Medical Officer, he whistled at how overly thorough it is.
Tuesday, we took the Coast Guard out to demonstrate our ability and preparedness as a crew for emergencies and handling the vessel in general. The three drills all vessels must practice regularly are Man Over Board (MOB), Fire, and Abandon Ship. After each of our drills, we mustered at the cockpit, where the Coast Guard and our Captain commented on what went well, what we can learn from, and what needs to change. The Coast Guard was effusively impressed with our thoroughness and professionalism in all situations and seemed particularly impressed that we ad only practiced a few times previously. Congratulations to the professional mariners aboard the SSV Spirit of South Carolina, you've earned your vessel's first Certificate of Inspection!
In celebration of our nation's independence, we slept in and then worked on preparing the ship for our Board of Directors and some key volunteers Firework Cruise. I snuck off to the office for part of the afternoon, and was pleasantly surprised to return to curtains closing off every bunk and our settee cushions (buffalo leather of all things, surprisingly comfortable). The additions, combined with the table that went in the previous Saturday, turned out ship from rustic to plush rather quickly. Before, the aura was "ooh, lots of varnished wood," whereas it is now "ohh this is amazing!"
We also dressed the ship for the holiday, signal flags starting at the end of the bowsprit, head up to the top of each mast and then down to the end of the main boom. To keep pace with out brand new signal flags, we put up a new Ensign, which thankfully didn't blow away (I was not completely sure of my constrictor hitches).
After getting off the dock, we motored up the Cooper River to North Charleston, to fire a salute of honor. We then motored back towards the USS Yorktown (docked across from our dock) for the fireworks. We ended up arriving early, so we snuck through a wilderness of small motorboats anchored in waiting for the fireworks. We nearly took out a few boats, but no one of interest. We then fired our guns towards the USS Yorktown to start off the fireworks. In the five minute lapse between their start and our firing, I could hear a little boy on a small boat repeating "Bam! Bam! Fire! Fire!" probably imitating our gun crew yelling "Fire in the hole!" before shooting.
Today we got off the dock for the third time in as many days. This time it was just the crew (just 2/3 of the crew actually...) and we were actually did some sailing. I had the joy of actually feeling like a sailor again, hauling on lines, heading out into the headrig while underway, helping furl the headsails after we got back. For those of you unfamiliar with the tallship world, the headrig is the part of the boat that juts out over the water, extending from the bow. We have two sails on ours (Go to www.knowitall.org and look for Pirates, Plankton, and Pelicans if you really want to see what I mean), the Jib and the Staysail. In order to stow the sails after we get back, the crew walks out on the lines (or stays) holding the jiboom and bowsprit in place. While standing on those stays, you contort your body and muscle around the sail to get it properly put away. At one point, I was incredibly close to horizontal, my hands tugging on the sail and my feet somewhere behind me on the stays. It felt great to be out there and fairly comfortable out there again. It's been a while since I have spent time out in the headrig or on a high ropes course (those of you who like the high ropes side of camp life, would love tall ship sailing too, lots of climbing opportunities).
So, now we are finally ready to do what we came here to do: sail and educate. We have our first four of eighteen sails for South Carolina Educators next week. We will be teaching about Water Quality, Plankton, Simple Machines, and Navigation as well as a brief introduction to Charleston Maritime History. It should be a fun switch from the prepping and reprepping we've been doing at the dock the past six weeks!