By Thea Skinner
Triplicate staff writer
One benefit of living in a coastal community is having the opportunity to learn first-hand about tall-masted ships and their history. On Wednesday, U.S. Naval Sea Cadets, Foursquare Christian School students and Cub Scouts took full advantage of that opportunity.
The groups took part in Adventure Sails aboard the visiting Tall-masted ships, Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain. The educational tours are three-hour cruises, during which youth participate as members of an active ship's crew.
Youngsters helped hoist sails and learned about the ways of life on 18th century tall-masted ships.
"This year we anticipate a total of over 30,000 school-age children participating in shipboard education programs," Tom Hyde, spokesperson for Grays Harbor Historical Seaport Authority said. The authority is a Washington-based nonprofit organization providing the ships.
The educational programs are a huge success for Grays Harbor.
"Over 180,000 school children have taken part in shipboard educational programs," Hyde said. "We have a waiting list for Crescent City."
The tour was most similar to the teachings of the Naval Sea Cadets of the Nathan B. Brickenthal Division, named after an Iraqi soldier who died in combat.
Liutenent John Espitia is Commander, CEO, and trainer for the cadets. The educational tour involves the same discipline, integrity and teamwork that the cadets engage in, he said.
"It is just as important to know what you want to do as it is to know what you do not want to do. They (cadets) get to test drive different positions," Espitia said.
The youth were split into groups that rotated at stations ¬Ė life of a sailor, life of an officer, and trade ¬Ė on the Lady Washington.
The Hawaiian Chieftain crew showed youth how to sing sea shanties and listen to the sounds of the sea while sailing out from the harbor.
"It is about giving them something tactile to use in class," said Lee Newberry, otherwise known as Skippers, of the Hawaiian Chieftain.
Debbie Kleinsasser, a sixth through ninth grade teacher at Foursquare Christian School, oversaw the school's students and Cub Scouts.
"We went last year in Eureka. They taught them (youth) to make and mense sails. It was such a wonderful experience we did not want to miss this," Kleinsasser said.
For Foursquare Christian School students, educational topics are based on the child's learning pace.
"They (teachers) will cover this at some point, so it gives them a background. Even if it did not fit into what they are learning now, we would still come," Kleinsasser said.
At the sailor station, Purser Darryl Hall, whose hometown is the Mid Puget Sound, Wash., explained to youth the kinds of food sailors would eat on board without a refrigerator.
"This is dried spam," he said, holding beef jerky in front of them. Hall also assisted youth in hoisting the sails as they pull on the rope yelling, "Heave-ho!"
Educational Officer Holly Couling asked children what an officer's job is at the "life of an officer" station. Children replied with the answers; navigation, ringing the bell, and woodworking.
"Your job is to work with your brain, not your muscles. You let the sailors use their muscles," Couling said.
She held up a traverse board and explained that an officer would traditionally use it to communicate the direction of the navigation path to the crew. A traverse board is wooden and equipped with pegs, which are inserted into a series of holes.
The upper portion of the board is marked out in the 32 points of the compass.
With this simple device, officers recorded how far and in what direction they had traveled during each four-hour watch.
"Lady Washington reaches 11 feet into the water, so what can I use to measure the depth of the water?" asked Couling.
Some answered with a line, as Couling began to drop a leadline overboard and into the water. The leadline has a lead weight fastened to a line marked in fathoms.
In the gally of the ship, head of maintenance David Nowlin, whose hometown is San Francisco, gave a history lesson in trade.
President George Washington named the original ship Washington. "In the Civil War, the ship's name was changed to Lady Washington, in honor of his wife when she passed away," Nowlin said.
Teas were imported. "We are not going to get sick if we drink tea. How do we get it?" he asked. Nowlin received an overwhelming reply, "From China."
He later explained to several girls that in the 1700s, mothers took care of children so "you think of your ship as your mother, who takes care of you, and you take care of her."
As Couling fielded questions from youth, she was asked if pirates are still alive. She replied with a confident, "Yes, pirates and criminals are around."
Couling has been on the Lady for about 3 months. Her home state is Michigan, and she attended college in Humboldt County.
She volunteered for her position. "I enjoy working with kids and education," Couling said. She participated in a ropes course while in college. "I spent a lot of time with safety and coaching by talking kids through an element. It comes in handy while training people."
The educational tours "give them an experience outside the classroom," she said.