Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Hot Summer Days aren't discouraging Volunteers from a day on the water.

Well, it's been a quiet two weeks around Spirit of South Carolina.. The 25 July Volunteer Day was cancelled due to your Coordinator's skying out to Newport Folk Festival for some father-daughter time - returning just in time to welcome a few stalwarts back on deck on a particularly soaking-humid, sticky roast-your burger on the dock-hot  Saturday. 

Danny Johnson brought along an ingenious contraption for moving air in opposite directions.. a portable fan with opposing exhaust stacks which he set up on deck. You 've got to see this thing. I shoulda' taken pictures. (actually I did,, caught part of it in the photo below )Hope he brings it back.  

The previous Volunteer Day,  in mid July, Danny Johnson initiated his own project to improve the stowage of the rowing/sailing dory, by designing and constructing a pair of cradles to rest permanently on the floating dock, and allow the hull to rest right side up, or upside down, AND enable the spars  and oars to be stowed horizontally underneath, on a rack. It's almost done, and will also make the launching and recovery easier. This past weekend, he, along with Calvin Milam, John Whitsitt, and Mikell Evatt advanced this dory cradle project thru the final trim and painting phase, customizing it in some ways.   Meanwhile, Jonathan Bautista, painted the third coat of white epoxy paint to the foremast boot, and sealed it to the mast.  

Bryan Oliver handing over to Mikell Evatt
 his Foremast Volunteer Pin
Over a welcome lunch, by Ship's Cook, Hunter, of some cold shrimp noodle salad,  Mikell Evatt was awarded his Foremast Volunteer Pin for surpassing 100 volunteer service hours.. only the eighth volunteer to hit that mark since the Program's resurgence in 2019.

Volunteer Apprentice Deckhands, Jonathan Bautiste, and Keshaun Holmes, recently graduated from Berkeley High School,  are finishing up their 120-hour apprenticeships this coming week. Their on-the-job training will net each a $1,000 grant, and $500 for the ship. We're hoping they'll return regularly. 

And, on a bittersweet note, our Volunteer, John Hart will be leaving us for Nova Scotia later in August for a six month stint aboard the barque Picton Castle, attending it's Bosun's School.  This is a unique curriculum aboard a unique traditional tall ship, known for the authenticity of its rig, and sailing culture. There's an earlier blog entry: Picton Castle- Tall Ship Chronicles Reality Show this  about Picton Castle, a reality series built around a crew member, and her several circumnavigations.  Quite a story.   John, I hope you'll keep us posted regularly on what you're getting out of that course.  Link to Picton Castle Bosun School

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Post-Sea Trials-- Maintenance Continues and Renewed focus on deckhanding

Jonathan, aloft bends a messenger line
 onto the errant halyard 
 In the ten days since Spirit of South Carolina's Sea Trials, various volunteers have come aboard on four separate occasions to advance existing projects or start new ones. 
Starting as early as the following Thursday,  Apprentice Volunteers came aboard.  Jonathan Bautista went aloft to the foremast top to retrieve the loose throat halyard that had come loose from it's pin. 

 He joined fellow Apprentice Keshaun Holmes and Bryan Oliver back on deck working out some sticky geometry problems to cut the pattern out for a new Foremast boot, to replace the torn and leaking one.

The following Saturday, on the 11th, Volunteers mustered aboard and started with up rigging the Jumbo boom which had been secured on deck. Nate and John Hart laid out forward on the bowsprit to complete the jumbo luff hanks. 

Meanwhile,  Old Salt Shipwright, Kenny Blythe borrowed a couple of belaying pins as patterns. 

Kenny Blythe delivers the long-anticipated
 belaying pins 

With some stock supplied by Joe Gorman he milled out five new Purpleheart belaying pins to fill out the mainmast fife rail and six smaller pins of white oak, to be positioned on the main boom jaws. He delivered them just in time for this last Saturday's group of Volunteers to fine-tune and fit them to the rail, and finish them with several coats of Deks olje D1 sealant/preservative. 

 This past Volunteer Day, on July 11th, Volunteers picked up the pace. With days getting only hotter, the intent was to get the bulk of projects advanced by lunchtime so that afterwards would be devoted to securing from from all work, cleaning up, and may be a practice of some individual deckhand skills. 

Immediately after the 0900 Muster, Danny Johnson split off with John Hart to the floating dock  to start constructing a pair of cradles to better secure the dory, with flexibility of the hull being stored upright, or overturned.

Nate's sawdust-encrusted forearms
would confirm he'd been working 
with purpleheart.
Calvin Milam, John Hart and Nate Mack started in finish-sanding, then oiling the 11 belaying pins Kenny had delivered earlier.

 Jonathan Bautiste, having recently achieved the milestone of 100 Volunteer hours, was now closing in on his 120 Apprentice hours target, by getting the last coat of white paint on the newly installed Foremast boot.

Jonathan Bautista checks his work
 after the last coat of paint on the Foremast boot.

Lexi Fine and John Whitsett, laid out the recently well-patched dory mainsail over a salvaged C25 main sail to see if it's lower part could be repurposed  to be sewn up  to replace the old patched up mainsail.  

To close out the work day by lunchtime, the entire volunteer crew lined up on a line to stretch out the Jumbo staysail foot and shackle the clew to her boom end, then lay out on the bowsprit to harbor furl. 

With the next Saturday being effectively a "lay-day" for Volunteers, there would still be a few projects to advance over the coming week.  

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Spirit of South Carolina is back on the water!

David Brennen makes off a bowline
 at end of #1 dock line

 Maybe not what you'd call history-making, but for Volunteers and others following Spirit of South Carolina, yesterday was a BIG DEAL.

For the first time in 21 months, Spirit of South Carolina cast off from her berth at Charleston Maritime Center and motored out into the harbor. Capt Heath Hackett, Project Manager, along with Acting Capt Charlie Porzelt  and a crew of 8 volunteers, piloted her on a two-hour cruise to stress test her two newly repaired Cummins diesels. 

The test took her up the Wando River, returning down river  around Castle Pinkney to Fort Sumter and back to the dock. During the trials Capt Hackett, with a Cummins marine diesel mechanic  pushed the rpms to 3,000 driving Spirit of South Carolina a 9 knots thru the water. 

A sea trial is intended to force potential issues up to the surface both mechanical and human. This was no pleasurable harbor cruise.  Every soul aboard had to be pumping high adrenaline levels, not only for the significance of the trials, but that there would be a "First" for everyone on board.  Capt Hackett,, and  experienced large Motor Yacht Captain had never before stood in command of a 19th century wooden tall ship.  Acting Captain Charlie Porzelt, it would be his first time at the throttles, piloting the vessel off, and the hardest part-safely piloting her on to the dock.  As for the crew, everyone had practiced the  tasks they might perform, as the ship was docked, but they all appreciated it would be a different scenario, less structured, more highly charged when the deck under their feet was drawing away or coming in to dock, and the pace of everything accelerated. Bryan Oliver, Volunteer Coordinator, would run the deck as Chief Mate for the first time. It would be John Hart's, first time as coxwain in the push boat.  For deckhands Danny Johnson, Dave Brennan, Calvin Milam, Nate Mack, Jonathan Bautista and Keshaun Holmes, it was showtime.

Bryan,Keshaun and Calvin secure stern falls
 after recovering the small boat while Joe Gorman
 in foreground  monitors a dredge nearby.

And sure enough, the sea trial exposed what is was supposed to.  It started with casting off lines. #3 dockline snagged on it's yokohama fender, and was lost overside when it had to be cast off from the ship. In a miscommunication to the dock, the dock end was also cast off.  The  diesels, under load and high rpm's shut down three times during the trial, blowing off an exhaust coupling. The diesel mechanic, likely anticipating the issue was able to quickly effect repairs and adjustments to handle the higher rpms.   While underway, the crew took advantage of the down time to "dress the foresail", that is, make the foresail ready to set by taking off gaskets, and laying out all the different lines needed to run free or be tended as it was raised.

The first shut-down left the schooner drifting down river from the Ravenel Bridge on it's own momentum, causing Charlie, on the quarter deck to call for the anchor to be "catted". i.e readied for deployment.  Prior to departure, the starboard anchor's lashings had already been reduced to minimum turns allowing them to be released with one twist of the wrist. Now Bryan shouted for crew to swing the anchor burton hook over to the anchor in order to raise if off the rail, and lower it so that it was suspended entirely from it's cathead.  The crew had practiced it once on the dock, under Charlie's supervision, but now with Charlie way back in the cockpit, it was up to Bryan and team to complete the maneuver of the 500 pound pointy ended fisherman overside and down without gouging the hull.  

Coxwain, John Hart ferries Keshaun and Danny
 away for the dock to take docklines
 and swing over the gangway

And finally came the hard part. Airplane pilots will tell you that taking off is easy.  It's the landing that hard. And so it is,, particularly with wooden sailing ships.  Capt Hackett turned this over to Charlie who took his time.  In fact, he wasn't satisfied with his first approach, seeing the head rig drifting with just a bit too sharp an angle towards the dock pilings, and backed off for another approach. Getting alongside 30 feet off the dock, each of the line handlers in turn tossed heaving lines, nailing their targets.  Volunteers Ken Fonville, Kenny Johnson, and Keshaun Holmes took lines in turn, made fast, then, swung over the gangway. It took another hour of coiling, hanging, re-securing the anchor, chafing gear to the docklines, after which Charlie mustered volunteers together one last time and dismissed all.

We understand that Capt Hackett will submit his report to Mr Baker with favorable comments  on the ship's performance and her crew. Expect to hear  in near future,, plans for regaining her COI, and possible haulout. That means sailing time.

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Sea Trials Still on for Tuesday AM, Hoping to Stay ahead of Elsa

 Assuming a successful sea trial for the engines, Spirit of South Carolina will regain the preferred option of motoring up the Cooper River to a hurricane hole.  It'll come just in time, should Elsa regain strength.  

Meanwhile Volunteers mustered Saturday and, themselves stormed over several projects.  This day the focus was on growing canvas repair and other marlinespike

After a quick flat stitch/whip stitch tutorial from Bryan Oliver, Keshaun Holmes, Lexi Fine, Laura Johnson, and Mia, grabbed the bosun's bag and swarmed over the dory sail rig, to stitch patches,, well almost everywhere on the deteriorating mainsail.  

 By midmorning, the sun had risen to take away their shade, so the team transferred their operation onto the schooners deck under the huge foresail awning. 

Lane Neuhausen, part time Captain at Schooner Pride joined up with Dan Maurin, and Mikell Evatt, to patch and replace grommets around the gate banner, spanning the entrance to the face dock.  

Weeks of blustery weather was tearing loose grommets and shredding the corners.  Lane discovered the finicky Juki sewing machine below and promptly set it up on the trash pump-locker. After a few false starts he succeeded in sewing on four corner reinforcements and a number of reinforced grommets.

Danny Johnson and John Whitsitt retrieved the quarter dock line that had been taken off the schooner's stern last weekend, rinsed and brushed accumulated marine growth before coiling and stowing it in the forepeak.

Nate Mack and John Hart laid out on the bowsprit to finish lashing on the remaining luff cringles of the jumbo to the forestay.  

Nate and John set the frappes
 on the first flat seizing around
 the anchor cable

On completion, the two transitioned to the port anchor, opened a knot-tying app, and proceeded to bend the anchor cable onto the anchor with an anchor hitch, an two flat seizings to secure the tail.


And then there was lunch.  Afterward, Bryan awarded Keshaun his schooner pin recognizing Keshaun's accomplishing over 50 hours of volunteer support. 

Keshaun guiding his patch repair
 of the dory mainsail under
the needle.

As other projects, secured materials and hardware, the dory mainsail team assessed their work, and consensus was, they had gained sufficient learning in sailors palm and hand-stitching techniques, and were ready to advance to the modern technology of the sewing machine. And so they did.  By 3 pm, all the remaining patching had been completed. 

On Tuesday morning, select volunteers will muster aboard to cast off for mechanical sea trials under Capt Hackett and Acting Capt Charlie Porzelt.  Assuming a successful trial, hopes run high for a return to productive educational program and especially,, sea time!

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Planned Sea Trial postponed for Weather. Wish her a Successful Sea Trial when it comes.

 Well, Capt Hackett wasn't far off at all.  He'd set his objective of having Spirit of South Carolina casting off for a mechanical Sea Trial by mid-month.   Last week, the electronics necessary to control and monitor the diesels were installed and tested. This past week, Raymarine technicians boarded and installed her navionics.  The schooner has been tied to the dock for the past 22 months.  And so, tomorrow morning,  was planned with a mostly volunteer crew, Capt Hackett, along with Capt Charlie Porzelt would have taken her into the harbor to exercise her systems and evaluate her readiness for a future, yet undecided.   Tropical Storm Enriquez is throwing a lot of wind against our dock Monday, so the trial has been  postponed.

To get her ready for trials, nine volunteers mustered on deck Saturday, the 26th, and immediately divided into separate projects, large and small.  Danny Johnson, and Layne Carver started by doubling all four dock lines; taking off the third lines, coiling and stowing in the forepeak.  Nate Mack and John Hart teamed up to retrieve 5 gallons of gasoline and refuel the gas tank on the small boat. Joe Gorman began an inspection of each of the 18 guy lines holding up the foresail awning, and re-securing them with slippery hitches, to ensure a speedy dropping and stowing on Monday.  Bryan Oliver, Calvin Milam, David Brennan, and Jonathan Bautista, gathered around the forecastle to work the problem of bringing up the massive Jumbo staysail that was rolled and stuffed into one of the berths. As a back-up plan, in case of engine failure, the crew would have the option of raising the remaining sail -foresail and Jumbo staysail, and sail back sufficiently close to the dock for warping in.

As dock lines were coiled and stowed below, deckhands laid in on the jumbo sail roll, using lift straps and concerted pulling and lifting, forced the canvas ball up thru the forecastle hatch, laid it out and dragged it forward up into the head rig, where John and Nate began lashing the luff to the stay. 

Bryan Oliver sets up the first lashing of the Jumbo
to the Forestay. Dave Brennan positions to
pass forward the Jumbo halyard.

 Calvin and David swung the Jumbo halyard forward to be shackled on, while Layne overhauled the jumbo sheet tackles and shackled  them directly to the Jumbo clew.  There would be no Jumbo boom rigged up for now.  Jonathan split off to cut and sew up a new canvas lead shot-weighted bag for a heaving line. 

Volunteer Coordinator, Bryan Oliver
 awards Jonathan Bautista
 his 50-hour Jibsheet Volunteer Pin.
Meanwhile, Hunter was making his usual culinary magic below in the galley. As projects wound up,  lunch was handed up.  But before the feast commenced, Bryan called muster, to recognize Jonathan Bautista for hitting the 50 Volunteer hours mark the previous week, and award his JIBSHEET VOLUNTEER Pin. 
 Following lunch,  Dave Brennan completed logging in his hours, and ticked off just over 100 volunteer hours total. That qualified him for  award of the FOREMAST VOLUNTEER Award.   Special thanks to Jonathan and Dave for all they've done to keep Spirit of South Carolina going.

At present, her Mainsail, Jib, tackles,  and spars remain entirely down-rigged for hurricane season.  But she will keep Jumbo staysail and foresail rigged. Given new ability to maneuver under power, and motor up river in event of a named storm, it's likely the Mainsail and jib will be up-rigged for shakedown harbor cruises.  
"From the deck" perspective, still awaiting word on plans for any haul-outs or COI renewals.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Project Manager, CAPT Hackett affirms intent to have Spirit of South Carolina functionally operational around Mid-June.

 In a phone call last Tuesday with CAPT Hackett, he affirmed in detail the components remaining to be installed and tested, and their status. He reiterated his intent to set a date/time for a sea trial based on the actual completion of those installations and testing, which would be mid-month (June). 

That news reinforced the priority for Volunteers to be prepared to help run the deck for casting off, and safely bringing her back to the dock after sea trials. With that, 9 Volunteers who came aboard this past Saturday at 0900, immediately organized to walk thru and  exercise their skills at:

  • dock line handling, turns on the kevels or quarter bits,
  •  making the big bowlines, 
  • making a highwayman's hitch of the heaving lines to the bowline.
  • Sending the messenger line over the rail, up over the head of the dock hand to retrieve it. 
  • swinging the gangway to the the dock, and back again;  
  • Launching the small boat, 
  • maneuvering it as a push boat, then 
  • retrieving the small boat to it's hipped position on the port bulwark.

While John Hart and Nate Mack took turns as coxwain of the small boat for a 1/2 hour. Danny Johnson and John Whitsitt made up the dockside party to cast off lines and down-rig the gangway.   Meanwhile, Layne Carver, Joe Gorman, Dave Brennan, and Dan Maurin stood by on the dock lines to take them in. Once the first cycle of casting off was completed, deckhands rotated around to a new task, and exercised  "docking" the schooner.  

With the cycles completed, all took a turn at coiling and heaving the messenger lines over the side once, followed by a hasty "failed throw" drill, retrieving the heaving line without coiling it and re-throwing it. As the last line was being retrieved, Hunter, down in the galley, called out "Lunch!" and started handing up on deck all the settings, including a huge pot of seafood pasta, and pound cake for dessert.  

After securing from lunch and from drills, some volunteers departed for other activities while a few hung back to perfect their gasket coiling techniques.  With the day over, we were much closer to being ready for the day when Spirit of South Carolina  draws away from the dock for the first time in 18 months.

Monday, June 7, 2021

News of Spirit of South Carolina's impending operational status drives a shift in Volunteer priorities.

 Fresh news indicating that Spirit of South Carolina could be functionally operational (i.e. operational engines and electronics) by mid-June came Thursday just prior to our Saturday Volunteer Day.  The situation posed a number of possibilities, which, at this writing, still exist only as possibilities, not facts.

  • There might a desire to get her off the dock and circle the harbor once or twice to test out the engines, electronics and navionics.
  • There might be a desire among the "Directors" to accelerate into the process of regaining her COI, including scheduling the bi-annual haulout.
  • A number of additional alternative possibilities for the near term future mostly point to having competent crew standing by in sufficient numbers for operations, not just maintenance.
With that, the day's priorities shifted from down-rigging the foresail and running rigging, to building skills in deck operations, specifically docking and departure drills.  Calvin Milam, Jason Patnaude, Danny Johnson, and John Whitsett stayed behind on deck to take on to the dock, the two #4 quarter docklines, then hose and brush off the months of accumulated marine growth. It would make them more agreeable to handling if the new priority included taking in all docklines, coiling, and stowing.  

Meanwhile, Jonathan Bautista, Keshaun Holmes, Nate Mack, and Danny Johnson  retrieved one of the tripled up #1 dock lines, piled it into a dock cart with the bag of heaving lines, and together, pushed it over to the large green square in front of the Aquarium. There, Bryan Oliver set up a  station for everyone to line up on the dock line, bend on their heaving line with a highwayman's cutoff (hitch), and practice coiling and tossing the heaving line a minimum of the 50 feet to the dock, over the head of Bryan (standing in for the dock-hand).  10 practice throws culminated with the "Failed Throw" drill, in which the line failed to make its target and had to be hastily pulled back aboard, and re-thrown.

At midmorning, the two groups switched locations.. The deck group shifting to the green for heaving line practice and that group returning to the deck to finish  prepping some woodwork for oiling.

Hunter capped off the productive morning with a philly-steak and peppers sandwich lunch.   After policing up after lunch, finishing the woodwork oiling project, and all  tools and implements returned to stowage, Volunteers departed to enjoy their weekend, and await some word on upcoming events.

Monday, May 31, 2021

Memorial Day Weekend Volunteer Day finishes up Hurricane Season Down-rig.

Dave Brennan and Frank Thigpen
 watch Keshaun Holmes
working loose the port side wildcat.

On Memorial Weekend Saturday 8 Volunteers came aboard to finish up the planned down-rig tasks for hurricane season, and start some new maintenance projects.

Bryan divided up the projects.  Frank Thigpen and Mikell Evatt would provide deck support while Charlie Porzelt climbed aloft to send down the remaining main sail throat and peak halyard tackles.  Calvin Milam went dockside with his two "cheese boards"-perforated hatch covers for ventilation, and their third/last coat of white epoxy paint.  

Bryan joined Danny Johnson in cutting out and rigging up some additional chafing gear from old fire hose, to bend on to the tripled-up dock lines. Shortly afterwards, Mikell Evatt cleaned out,, literally, the rope locker.  

After  cleaning up and greasing
the components, John Hart
starts reassembly of the
starboard drum of the windlass.

The last group grabbed grease guns, ground cloth's, mallets, assorted socket and allen wrenches and went forward.  This was much of the same group, who, the previous Saturday had miraculously managed to stuff the "gi-mongus" main sail down the forecastle hatch and into two adjacent berths for storage. With new confidence they could take on anything,  John Hart,  David Brennan and Keshaun Holmes took on the challenge to  completely disassemble the bronze windlass, clean and grease it, then reassemble without any parts left over.  They came awfully close, but were unable to completely remove the portside drum due to the flared end of the windlass axle.  

Dave Brennan recognized for surpassing 50 Volunteer service hours.

Volunteers completed their projects in time for Hunter's lunch of grilled cheese burgers, and home-made potato salad.  While gathered together, Bryan took the opportunity to announce Dave Brennan's achievement of  attaining over 50 hours of volunteer time aboard. Bryan presented David with his "Jibsail Volunteer" pin. 

Chief Mate deliver's good and bad news.

As lunch concluded  Chief mate/Acting Captain Charlie, delivered the latest up date on Spirit's status.
Progress was being made in repairing the ship's engines.  Replacement electrical components for engines, and navigation were ordered and in progress of being shipped.  Charlie estimated the ship would not be capable of powering off the dock until after mid-July.  
At the same time, the ship's dockside liability insurance policy was being dropped for the time being, meaning that there could be no visitors coming aboard, and volunteers could come aboard only at their own risk.  Potentially a blow to Volunteer attendance numbers,, but the impact remains to be seen.   

This does not change the fact that, once the schooner is again functional, she will require a haulout inspection before she can sail for her COI(Certificate of Inspection. Haulout would likely be in Savannah (Thunderbolt Shipyard).  It will require a minimum of 8-10 crew to deliver her to Savannah and return.  It will require a minimum 8-10 crew to sail her for COI . 

Volunteer deckhands "Wet" the Anchor

As Two volunteers departed for other responsibilities following lunch,  the rest, secured all tools and materials back into storage, then mustered on the starboard anchor.

  Charlie  explained the different situations where crew would be routinely required to stage the anchor for deployment.  Next, he demonstrated the procedure for "catting" the anchor, then safely releasing it off the cathead to drop into the water, and finally,, he and the crew executed the whole procedure, climaxing with dropping the anchor about nine feet, then manning the  windlass to haul it back up, snagging the stock ring with the anchor burton  to haul up close to the cathead. Once "catted" a deckhand bent on the large burton hook to snag fluke bridle that would haul up the flukes to be fished-lashed over the cap rail.  


Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Yawlboat Charles Sneed to be re-launched this Sunday

 A few of us Volunteers from Spirit of South Carolina, have been regularly donating two hours every Thursday for the past several months on restoring the yawlboat Charles Sneed.  Her story has already been shared in an earlier blog posting.   [Introducing the Yawl boat "Charles Sneed"]

No other name is so inextricably linked to the story of Spirit of South Carolina, starting with the vision of her purpose, her construction and her early successes. In a fitting tribute to the yawlboat's namesake, Charles Sneed, Edwin Gardner composed a  poem marking the occasion. 

Rob Dunlap takes it from here:

"This poem below was crafted by the late Edwin Gardner, the true leader of the resurgence of traditional oar-on-gunwale pilot gig rowing in Charleston in the mid 1990's. He and a few others of us felt the need for the SPIRIT of SOUTH CAROLINA to have a yawl as nearly all American nineteenth and early twentieth century schooners carried. The poem tells the tale of the yawl and to some extent the schooner and accurately reflects the true vision of Charles S. Sneed. It was certainly Charlie who hatched the idea of the SPIRIT and started things moving in 2000. Thus the dedication of the yawl to him.

This Sunday, the 30th, The Lowcountry Maritime School, will relaunch her at the Sea Island Yacht Club in Rockville. at 1030 hrs.Volunteers who helped restore her are invited to participate.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

MAIN (sail) EVENT marks the high point in Down-Rigging for Hurricane Season.

There's a lot to tell after a two-week vacuum of news and information. For the the dead air, I blame myself; more on that later, but,

First, the News!

On the previous Saturday, 15 May began the most significant project for Spirit of South Carolina to-date.. down rigging for the hurricane season.  Since she is likely to be dock-bound into the summer, this project is our best investment of our effort for her. 

 Down-rigging of a tall ship is actually not that unusual.   In fact,, their traditional rigging and construction are designed to be easily(relatively) disassembled and reassembled.   From the Chesapeake northward, traditional sailing ships habitually down-rig for their off- season, and use the time to maintain all that hardware that would normally be inaccessible while underway.    We can use this same opportunity with Spirit of South Carolina for the same advantage.

Volunteers clear the down-rigged jib
back to the waist to be swung onto the dock.

 Two Saturdays ago, Chief Mate, Charlie laid out the plan at Volunteer Muster.  The primary  end-state would be to have removed everything above the deck that would catch heavy winds of a named storm and cause damage or be damaged;   The most obvious components to start on would be the ships sails and spars; jib, jumbo, Fore and Mainsail, and all gaffs and booms.  For Volunteers aboard a year ago, the experience of swaying those huge spars back aboard and up-rigging after their dock maintenance stirred a mixture of excitement and a little bit of apprehension. After all, it would be a complicated operation requiring EVERYONE'S participation and lots of teamwork. Follow this link for a flashback to late February 2020: Up-Rigging her Spars Feb 2020.blogspot.com/2020/03/final-push-to-up-rig-spirit-of-south.html

Volunteers cutting away the jumbo
 luff hank lashings

So, Charlie started the work at the bow, on the head rig; the jib and jumbo-with her boom.  For most volunteers, in disassembling the rigs, it was their first chance to deep dive into the intricacies of how those sails and tackles are rigged, operated, and supported. 

After inspecting for  wear and damage,
 crew flakes and rolls the jib for storage.
 The jumbo waits its turn in the background

By end of day on that Saturday, volunteers completed the down-rig and storage below of all line and tackles.  They had cut loose the jib and jumbo, hauled them by dock cart to the large grassy Liberty Square to be laid out and inspected before being flaked, rolled, returned to dock  and stuffed into  adjacent berths in the forecastle.  

This past Saturday volunteers mustered up for the Main(sail) event-the largest and most complex rig on the vessel.  

Due to her size, the  main sail would require a larger scale team effort. 11 separate lines and tackle systems would be taken off, labeled, and secured below. Another four separate tackle systems would be rigged up to take the load as the sail and spars were swung down to the deck. 

Thankfully, 11 volunteers mustered in the morning, plus an additional 3 New Volunteers;  enough to safely finish the project. 

Dave Brennon and John 
feeding the mainsail down
 the forecastle hatch

Jonathan Bautista, Nate Mack
and Jake Harrington muscle part
 of the Mainsail into a berth
in the forecastle

The mainsail down-rig, inspection, rolling and stowage took the entire morning.   

As everyone broke for a much deserved hot lunch of chicken enchiladas, black bean frijoles, and Spanish rice prepped by Sea Chef Hunter, Charlie took a poll to determine the manpower available to unship and set the  gaff and main boom down to the deck. 

Hunter counts heads before going
 ashore to provision for lunch.

Rob Harrington muscles the
 starboard main boom lift wire
and tackles into a rough coil
  for stowage.
Seven volunteers remained on deck for the afternoon to see through, the final phases of the mainmast down-rig.  The 50-foot long main boom proved predictably, the main challenge due to sheer size, weight, and available 50-foot linear space on deck for securing,  The final work came in untangling, overhauling and two-blocking tackles, coiling and storing wire boom lift lines. 

By four pm the deck was once again secure, and remaining volunteers dropped to the deck or into the chairs with some cold refreshment.

The down-rig project isn't yet over, but the most challenging phase is past with the main sail rig safely on the deck. The Foresail rig is left intact for the time being in the chance that her repairs may suddenly accelerate and there would be opportunity to cast off in the summer for a shake down cruise, docking drills or COI preparation.

  A Footnote:   Blogging so far has been a one-person operation.  I'm sure there's plenty of Spirit of South Carolina followers who'd be interested in editing and contributing content to this blog, help keep it fresh and worth coming back too.  If you're one of them, please kick me an email and we can talk about it. 

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Again, Volunteers brush aside iffy weather forecasts to lay onto a wide range of ship needs.

If you'd been happening by the face dock at the Maritime Saturday morning, you'd have to be amazed at the picture in front of you.
  It would've at least piqued  your curiosity as to what was going on,, not a scene normally  present on any modern-day wharf. Tiny beings suspended precariously in a slight web of ropes and lines, obviously busy at work doing something,,, but what?  
New Volunteer Lexi Fine
walks her tightrope (the forestay)
while coating the jibstay

If you were there, you were privileged to witness a special bunch.  Spirit of South Carolina Volunteers at work, in a traditional sailing ship world, learning and practicing the 300 year-old skills of mariners before them, all in the aim of  taking care of their ship.   
You would likely not have known that the tiny form seemingly suspended in air between the foremast and bowsprit was Lexi Fine, actually a brand new volunteer, on deck for the first time, taking on the challenge to tackle a job in an unlikely spot.. way up on the jib stay on a bosun's chair with at paint brush and bucket. Others, like father/son team of Rob and Jake Harrington  and Apprentice Deckhand, Jonathan Bautista,  high up in the shrouds brushing on black paint to preserve the wire standing rigging.  
Maybe less noticeable until you walked closer, you'd have seen others on deck like Calvin Milam, carefully laying on an umpteenth coat of varnish on the cap rail.  A half hour later, you'd have observed another small group, likely Apprentice Deckhand Jason Patnaude, Danny Johnson, and Old Salt, Joe Gorman split off with the Chief mate to measure out long lengths of nylon line and start an on-the-job learning session to splice an eye in the end of the line thru the weighted canvas bag for a new heaving line. 
These happy few are a subset of a steadily growing corps of volunteers who have signed on to steward a special, totally unique component of Charleston's Maritime History.  The only operational traditional wooden sailing ship on the east coast south of the Chesapeake, right here in Charleston.  They are preserving for the city, and South Carolina, a culture of seamanship, and maritime heritage that once made Charleston famous.   

Jonathan Bautista, conquering the heights
 with his tools to protect
 the mainmast shrouds from
salt and sea moisture.
Jake Harrington steadies himself
on the foremast shrouds
to brush on a preservative coat
 of paint on the wire


Sunday, April 25, 2021

Foul Weather Holds off- Gives Volunteers a Morning for Training.

 On Friday, Volunteer Coordinator Bryan Oliver challenged the weather guessers, and gambled on Mother Nature to give the schooner a break for Saturday morning, and sent out the call for Volunteers. Sure enough, overcast  but dry skies and calm seas and  breezes greeted the 10 volunteers who answered the call to muster with Chief Mate Charlie on deck for some serious docking and undocking training. Deckhand Apprentices Deshaun Holmes and Jonathan Bautista, volunteers Danny Johnson, David Brennan, Calvin Milan, John Whitsitt, Philippe Agafonovas, and Frank Thigpen, gathered around Bryan who started with the objectives of the morning.  Charlie next explained their sequence and  how they all tied together in an actual scenario.  This crew would likely be welcoming guests aboard for a harbor sail, and would be expected to perform it all as professionals:

As a coordinated team they would actually down rig the gangway, cast off four dock lines, retrieve and stow the small boat, then as the schooner approached the dock(simulated), reverse the procedure, by launching the small boat,  set up dock lines, heave the messenger lines and send dock lines over, secure all and rig up the gangway.  Whew! Of course, with the engines not yet functioning, the only action not performed was actually motoring off the dock, but otherwise..

Each of those tasks required it's own sets of skills, surrounded by learning the different commands, the nomenclature of every line, fitting, and deck , safe line handling,, two different knots, and communicating among each other, everything founded on the imperatives of safety for oneself and each other. 

"Learning by doing" was the method, so Charlie and Bryan invested just enough time in telling and instruction,, a bit more in demonstrating, followed by a whole lot of doing,, at first, slowly, step-by-step as volunteers started absorbing the multiple roles they needed to perform in each of the tasks.   Tasks were often repeated with Charlie ensuring that volunteers rotated thru different roles, sometimes stopping action to emphasize a specific safety issue, or just a "best way to do it" .  Somewhere midmorning, Hunter disappeared ashore to forage for provisions at Harris Teeter.   

Jonathan Bautista, Charlie Porzelt
 and David Brennon lay out on
the head rig to rig the jib halyard.

By mid-day, with Dock lines finally in place, heaving lines gasket-coiled, and gangway properly set,  the skies couldn't hold it any longer, and a steady drizzle started up.  While a few volunteers disembarked, the majority laid below into the salon where Hunter had set out a hot lunch.  By clean-up the drizzle had surged to a steady downpour, so thoughts of following up with some afternoon projects were wisely set aside to next time.


Sunday, April 11, 2021

Prince Philip, Cutty Sark, and Spirit of South Carolina

 The passing of His Royal Highness Prince Philip early this week is justifiably capturing lots of public attention. He was a steady, constructive, productive partner in the constitutional monarchy of the United Kingdom. He was an effective patron of hundreds of non-profit causes and programs, more thain just a figurehead, but a driving force in their success. To merchant mariners, and historians of the maritime tradition the Prince holds a closer  more poignant spot worth remembering for that reason.  

One of Prince Philip's more notable works of philanthropy was his leadership in saving, and preserving  one the world's most visible artifacts of  maritime history's Clipper Ship era, Cutty Sark.  If you've ever had the opportunity to visit Greenwich, UK, to see this remarkable exhibit, you've Prince Philip to thank. 

Old Salt Blog Saving Cutty Sark-saving-the-clipper-ship-cutty-sark/

What's the connection with Spirit of South Carolina?  

Well, on a smaller scale, Spirit of South Carolina is our state's living icon of South Carolina's Maritime heritage.  She has no equal of that status. And, like Cutty Sark, her continued existence  is largely dependent on the philanthropical underwriting of the community, and the philanthropical leadership to drive it. 

In an ideal situation, revenue-generating educational on-board and dockside programs could make her self-sustaining.  In reality, Spirit of South Carolina's history, and that of many tall ships  show the many revenue gaps that derail, and plague these ship's ability to sustain themselves.  Some may recover.  Many do not. 

Cutty Sark was saved largely by a powerful patron with the influence to energize a nation in the cause of restoring their ship for all the right reasons.

Spirit of South Carolina needs the same leadership now, whether it comes from a single person, an organization, a community of enthusiasts.. 


Apprentice Deckhands take up the Shipyard Routine, Roseway departs,, Harvey Gamage Returns

Although last weekend (the 3d of April)Volunteer Day, was preempted by a scheduled event aboard, it didn't preempt our Berkeley County School District Apprentice Deckhands from pitching in on the preceding Friday. 
Apprentices Ka'nye Middleton and Esmerelda Camacho
 practice their rolling tipping and trimming
 techniques on the Trash Pump hatch
Five High School Seniors, representing 3 different Berkely County High Schools pitched in on a number of maintenance projects, then shifted into some basic deckhand skills practices. 
The Apprentices committed to 120 hours of workplace productivity in return for a financial reward upon successful completion.  In our case, Spirit of South Carolina Apprentices will learn and perform the work of deckhand, as if they were paid employees, thereby adhering to a more disciplined standard than a normal unpaid volunteer. 

After two days of scraping and sanding,
Jonathan Bautista and Jason Patnaude
 start their  oiling of the Sampson Posts.

This past Friday, and Saturday, Apprentices gave up their Spring Break time, to advance their projects, and deckhand skills.   Working alongside regular Volunteers,  Dan Maurin, Layne Carver, Calvin Milam, Frank Thigpen, and John Whitsitt, the team scraped and recoated the hatch "cheeseboards), slapped white paint over bared portside hull planking, and restored/oiled a midships cap rail scarf.

Yawl Boat Charles Sneed gets some eyes-on,
and loving care on her bottom.

Meanwhile, on a separate, but related thread of our Schooner's story, on Thursday 8 April, volunteers continued the project at Lowcountry Maritime School,  of restoring the yawl boat Charles Sneed;  a 19th century replica.  In this most recent session after overturning her to access her bottom,  we all teamed up to tack down and lay down a coat of gloss white.

Lowcountry Maritime School welcomes any of us who can spare a couple hours Thursday afternoon 1630-1830. Its a laid-back environment, good conversation, and, for sure, some constructive repair/restoration experience.

Rob Dunlap and Yard Master Rachel Berquist
 apply a glossy white to her bottom.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Apprentice Deckhands Welcomed Aboard, Roseway Docks, More Volunteers tackle more projects.

First on the Agenda ; an official Welcome aboard to our crew of Apprentice Deckhands.  Six high school senior students from the Berkelely County School District came on board, (actually last Saturday-a week ago for the first time) committed to 120 hours of training in deckhand skills, and some other disciplines.  They are on deck in the same capacity as all of us;  Volunteers, with the same objectives of deckhand skill building, and taking care of the ship.  More specifically, the disciplines involved, safety and handling of tools, both manual and power, the the proper techniques for woodworking and coatings.  You can expect to have them join you on Volunteer Days, and sometimes more often, not only on various maintenance projects, but also deckhand skillbuilding. Some of you may be requested to help Charlie and I in coaching them through some of the tasks and skill areas' they are committed to practicing and learning.   

Y'know, it's probably just as well that no one remembered to take any photographs of the activities going on the deck this Saturday.  All you would see in the shot would be blurs of activity.  I swear  there was that much going on. I counted around 9 separate projects being swarmed, starting with uprigging the massive awning under the foresail boom at 0900, and the simultaneous arrival of our Apprentice Deckhands.   11 Volunteers came aboard to start on the maintenance punchlist, and later roll into some dock line handling skills with the Apprentices.   Calvin Milam and John Whitsitt launched into a cap rail scarf with bad UC damage down to the wood, requiring a total scraping down, 4-stages of sanding and first coats of D-1 oil. Other volunteers,, Dave Brennon,  Layne Carver, and Joe Gorman broke off into groups with Apprentices to rehearse skills, commands , and procedures to execute taking in  and securing of docklines, then resetting them, tossing heaving lines, and sending over dock lines to resecure them to pilings.  By late morning, Chief Mate, Charlie arrived, and volunteers Rob and Jake Harrington and an apprentice   broke off to rig 3 bosuns chairs and  D1 oil containers and brushes for going up the mainmast.  The frenzy was broken up by the welcome aroma and call to lunch, as Hunter passed up from the galley a huge stewpots of rice and Curried Chicken, and brownies for dessert.  After seconds were called and digestion began, Motivation to drive on into the afternoon now became understandably tougher, but the crew stood to, completing the main mast project. Two apprentices took on the project of scraping, prepping and repainting the trash pump locker hatch cover.  A third apprentice grabbed the canvas repair kit, hiked back around, down to the  floating dock and Dory, where the new cover needed significant additional stitching to secure velcro stripping that was pulling out.  

As projects began closing down and volunteers (including apprentices) secured tools and materials, plans were already in the works for continuation, as anticipation showed for the eventual time when the schooner would actually be ready to cast off. .   Look for our Apprentice Deckhand shipmates to be regular participants over the next few months as they work toward their 120 hour goals of acquiring new skills and discipline, which lots of you will be sharing with them.  By the way,, that will get them the rating of Foremast Volunteer- surpassing 100 hours!.   Who want's to join em?