Monday, September 25, 2023

With COI Date Pushed back into October ?th, Volunteers Concentrate on Deckhand Skills and Crew Drills

 In our previous episode-er week, Spirit of South Carolina saw more sailing time in three days than  she had experienced in three years!  With our COI exam now postponed-Mostly due to insurance underwriters busy administrating new stuff as prerequisites,  our volunteer crew and officers have been devoting the extra time to  building up a strong bench of deckhand skills

Bryan Oliver walking volunteers
thru a rigging nomenclature scavenger hunt.

Alex Alya coaxes his new
pet rope into a bowline

A new rule by our underwriter's requires documentation of training, particularly emergency drill training for each crew member signed on. Volunteers always had a system for documenting training, now we had impetus to focus on it, volunteer by volunteer. That checklist, by the way can be viewed and downloaded from this blog. 

And so, three times this past week, especially, on Wednesday, and again Saturday, Volunteers who mustered aboard, shifted away from maintenance to focus on practicing, and checking off demonstrating competence in a number of skills. 

Mark Held with Dave Brennan coaching,
makes a perfect toss of a heaving line

 Where possible, groups of volunteers broke into round-robin groups where more experienced volunteers, acted as instructors. Many thanks to David Brennan, Nate Mack, and Todd Cole for stepping into those shoes on Saturday.  Unfortunately, this past week, we were somewhat frustrated from practicing actual emergency drill that required the schooner to be underway. Another insurance requirement for this period required presences of three licenses, not just the two  by USCG standards.

Bryan Oliver demonstrating bilge checks
 to Logan Day and Doug Hartley

  Subsequently, Spirit of South Carolina remained on the dock.  Nevertheless, all hands conducted a walk-thru rehearsal of the drills for Fire Fighting, Man-overboard, and Prepare-to Abandon Ship. 

Today, Monday, saw our first opportunity to cast off again and go sailing.  With eight volunteers and two crew members from Capt Hackett's company aboard we left the dock at 0945, for the harbor.  This day, with mostly new volunteers, they were immediately challenged with some on-the-job skills training in dock line handling, heaving lines, sail-raising and trim evolutions-- and then the actual scenarios of Man-Overboard, and Fire fighting.  Capt Hackett directed the drills, each time creating a real scenario that required actual action.  Each time, following a drill, Capt Hackett pointed out the things done right, and the things that needed work.  Then we repeated the drill, and got better.  Another critical review, and we repeated the drill again. and we got better still.  

We hoisted the Foresail and Jib, in light airs and tacking/gybing between the channels down to Ft Sumter and back, all volunteers took ample opportunity to trim sail, man halyards, launch and retrieve the tender, toss heaving lines, make huge bowlines, and lots of other really neat stuff.  just ask em. 

By 1600 we had docked again at the Maritime Center.  It was a highly productive, and physical day, fortified by a welcome  Chili Lunch, laid out by Capt Davis in the Saloon.  And lots of checked and initialed blocks on everyone's deckhand skill checklist. 

Saturday, September 16, 2023

A Long Week of Three Back -to-Back Sailing Days as The Schooner, Captain, and Crew go thru Sea Trials.

 Today is a Sunday; I have to remind myself, having lost track of days over this past week of heightened activity and urgency.  Things changed last weekend on Sunday afternoon with a phone call from Capt Hackett that on Monday the schooner should be ready to cast off for a sea trial to exercise crew and new Captain in docking/undocking operations and basic on-off dock piloting. On Tuesday the Coast Guard Inspectors would be coming on board for their anticipated Courtesy Walk-Thru.  Finally, we should be prepared for sea-trials in the harbor the rest of the week. The operating tempo of the schooner's march toward gaining her COI accelerated.

 And so, on that short notice, Volunteer Coordinator, Bryan Oliver phoned his short list of standby volunteers with most experience, to fill out a minimal crew for Monday. Dave Brennan, Nate Mack and Ken Fonville responded.  

Monday:  Combining with a  contingent of three  "Captains Choice"  hands from Capt Hackett's company, a  minimum crew of 8 mustered aboard at 0800 for casting off and even setting a headsail or two.  Also coming aboard later was Capt Andy Hudak, an experienced Tall Ship-Schooner Captain, who had previously help deliver Spirit of South Carolina from shipyard in Savannah back to Charleston. Capt Andy had been invited to return for a  four days as a coach/consultant.   

Tuesday: Early the next morning, Tuesday, the three-man Coast Guard Inspection Team led by John Doughton boarded for a courtesy pre-COI visit. Doughton knew the vessel well, having led previous year's inspections aboard, and was enthusiastic about seeing the schooner in operation again. His team spent a little over an hour aboard in collaboration with Capt Heath and Capt Davis, answering questions, offering advise, to ensure we would be well-prepared for the actual Certificate of Inspection Visit. It was also agreed that due to Insurance administrative process still bring completed, the Visit would be delayed a week, or more.   After the Coasties departed, The three Captains, and crew readied the schooner to cast-off.  While the three Captain's, Davis and Hackett, exercised practice at piloting the vessel, Bryan exercised the rest of the crew in line-handling, and docking operations.  Later in the day, the crew raised the foresail, jumbo, and jib.  Initially planned for about four hours, the cruise finally docked around 1700; 7 hours on the water.   Immediately after docking and securing the vessel Bryan was immediately online to drum up additional volunteers for the rest of the week. 

Crew spent rest of the day resolving issues raised during the previous day's sea trial, and prepping for Wednesday. Bryan working his contact list to build a pick-up volunteer crew for Thursday.  

Wednesday: Wednesday was spent at the dock. The Volunteer contingent dropped to zero, as real-life priorities that had been set aside for two days stacked up.  Bryan went aboard for the afternoon, primarily to prioritize following day training tasks,, and confirm the next days volunteers.

Thursday:  Thursday was expected to be a crunch day, to get in as much practice and drills as possible before Capt Hudak had to leave the next morning.  This time the Volunteer crew came thru, largest thanks going to our star Volunteer Recruiter Danny Johnson, and daughter Laura, who cajoled a total five new volunteers to come aboard with them Thursday morning. Also coming aboard was Jody Smith. Combined with the Captains Choice contingent our station bill of deckhands had grown to thirteen!

This being our third harbor sea-trial the steep learning curve of our volunteer and novice Captains Choice crew was becoming evident.  Cast off drills were running smoothly;  line handling was increasingly efficient and disciplined;  Consequently, Capt Hudak announced he would like to raise, All Sail,, including the Main sail, which would first require that the luff be lashed onto the hoops, and the shallow reef set.  That issue  would require us to loiter somewhere.. and drop anchor.  The three Captains consensed on taking her to the "Middle Ground" in the harbor, the commercial anchorage area between the north and south passages into the harbor.  Bryan walked the crew thru the drill of "catting the anchor", then dropping it,  measuring chain and setting the rode. Then they set up to do it for real.

All hand's took stations:

  • the Burton hook was passed to raise the anchor flukes off the caprail and lower the anchor down until it was suspended only by a "Cat line" under the cathead.
  • The Windless brake was eased off, 
  • On the Windlass, the Wildcat pawls were cleared from the teeth, 
  • The stopper chain hook snubbing the anchor chain to the windlass was taken off the anchor chain 
  • On Bryan's command, "Drop Anchor", volunteer Calvin Milam threw off the catline from it's single turn on the Norman hook, and the 500-pound anchor immediately splashed, pulling with it about 120 feet of chain until  Bryan screwed tight the windlass brake, and set the anchor chain snubber.  
piece of' cake.

Now the crew divided into two tasks. Bryan started with walking the crew through the steps of pulling out all the shallow reef nettles, passing them under the mainsail foot for tying on the port side with slippery reef knots (all 24 of them). Three volunteers separated off with Bryan for a demonstration in lashing the mainsail luff grommets to the mast hoops.  

Once all reef nettles were checked, and the the hoop lashings inspected, Capt Hudak sent all hands forward to raise the anchor. Basically the lowering drill was reversed with the added physical effort of pumping the windless with four strong backs, to haul back on board the anchor, and it's 120 feet of chain.
Now untethered from the harbor bottom, Capt Davis started engines situate her headed into the wind for raising sail.  Starting at the Mainsail, the crew methodically moved forward raising each sail in sequence until Spirit of South Carolina was under full press.. all sail set for the first time since 2019! Capt Davis pointed her on a south easterly course thru the jetties and out to sea.  just far enough to feel the Atlantic Ocean rollers pushing under the hull. 
Having just tacked at Buoy 16, now Homeword bound
 for Charleston Harbor
Since our  Coast Guard mandated limit was 1 mile offshore, we tacked around and stood for the harbor on a broad reach. For most volunteers aboard it was first time raising sail, and truly sailing her, no engines.  

Passing Shute's Folly (Castle Pinkney), Capt Davis turned into the wind started the engines and  directed for taking in all sail.   Bryan directed all hand's to the head rig to strike the jib, then jumbo- then Foresail and Main, flaking them down and securing with gaskets.  By now, even the newer volunteers were easing into the drills, setting up dock lines and heaving lines, throwing over and lining up ball fenders, lowering away the tender as a push boat and ferrying ashore  hands to take the dock lines. 
Capt Andy Hudak, Volunteer Scott Depung, Bryan Oliver,
and recoiling heaving lines for stowing in the line locker.
By 1600, Spirit of South Carolina was resting comfortably at her berth, and volunteers were clearing away and stowing gear, coiling up and hanging lines, adjusting sail furl,  and squaring away the deck.
Volunteers who Came aboard over this week, and left me contact info were:
Dave Brennan
Reg Brown
Scott Depung
John Gaag
Mark Held
Danny Johnson
Laura Johnson
Nate Mack
Calvin Milam
Jody Smith
Harold Wilkin

Volunteers Reg Brown, John Gaag, and Harold Wilkin,
 ready to muster off after a great day for sailing.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Saturday- Doug Hartley Recognized for 100 Volunteer Hours; The Mainsail finally comes aboard The tempo is accelerating.

 Best news of Thursday was the visual sight from a distance that the Main mast boom lifts had been installed, removing the single remaining obstacle for finishing up-rigging the Mainmast, sail and all. Thursday was almost a washout but for the appearance of Walter Barton and Jody Smith who saved the afternoon.  Bryan Oliver gathered the team around the Foremast for a demonstration in lashing the foresail luff grommets to a mast hoop. After a few do-over's Walter and Jody made eight successful lashings of the 15 mast hoops.  The remainder would be finished on Saturday. Meanwhile Bryan started marling-hitching the foot of the foresail onto the fore sail boom. The completion of that task would have to wait for Saturday and additional hands to stretch the foot out. 

Saturday morning saw a grand sight with  8 volunteers mustering midships. Today was always the stated goal post for having all the sails bent on, and the ship ready to cast off.  The mainsail still lay in a roll on the dock-her rigging likewise. Of equal priority, the tender's outboard Yamaha had been sent ashore for servicing, and was to arrive this morning to be lifted up and be reinstalled/tested.  

Oh, almost forgot,, the rigid inflatable tender had been sitting in the water tied to the dock for several days now needing her bottom brushed down.  

Dave Brennon forcing the bow
of the tender over onto the dock
 prior to cleaning off the bottom.
So, naturally,, Volunteers broke down into three groups to tackle projects simultaneously.  Bryan and Alex gathered up tackles to rig up a hoisting gear on the deck pylon, to enable the lifting of the heavy outboard engine over and into the tender.  Dave Brennon and Nate with some help from Walter Barton and Jody Smith pulled the tender up onto the dock sufficiently to get to the bottom with a broom brush. 

Nate and Walter on a test run of the tender.
Nate Mack departed with help to retrieve the outboard engine from Capt Davis's truck, and cart it back to the dock where the tender waited and the hoist was rigged. 

Doug Hartley working a lifting  bridle
 around the mainsail for hoisting and swinging aboard
Doug Hartley had finished installing the brackets for the man overboard life ring and flag pendant. He and Ken Fonville shifted to the huge mainsail rolled upon the dock. As volunteer help arrived on scene, together they laid out the huge sail on the dock, reflaking it to expose the corners then rolled it, cigar-like and rigged a strop across the center. Then, using the mainsail throat halyard tackle, they raised up the huge limp roll, and swung it out over the dock and onto the deck where they arranged the roll of sail lengthwise on the aft cabin top under the main sail boom.

As more volunteers completed their projects, they converged on the mainsail roll, laid it out and identified the head, lifting it up to the gaff where Bryan Oliver started a marling hitch from the gaff throat aft to the peak. As volunteers completed marlinghitching of the mainsail head onto the gaff, lunch arrived, a most welcome spread of pulled pork sandwiches and sodas, laid out by Capt Davis on the saloon hatch.

Lunch time, complete, a few minutes of free time for texting, etc, and hydration, then the climax project of the afternoon, the marling hitching of the mainsail to the boom.  all fifty feet of her. Volunteers lined up along the boom to lift and stretch the fifty-foot ."foot of the mainsail along the top of the boom while Bryan started the hitching from the throat end. 

Bryan stretching the mainsail boom
lacing hitch by hitch aft towards the clew.
Other volunteers fill in afterwards continuing the hitch all way to the cockpit when time runs out, as well as space to work. 

As the projects slow to a strategic pause, Bryan calls one last muster under the foresail awning and brings Doug Hartley front and center to recognize his achievement of over 100 Volunteer hours. 

Doug Hartley, flanked by Bryan Oliver
 and Capt Davis, recognized on Saturday
for 100 Volunteer hours, that milestone
was passed in April, actually,
 he's closing in on 200 hours.
Capt Davis awarded Doug his "Foremast Volunteer" Pin, and card. Doug actually passed the 100 hour mark in April, and is well on his way towards 200 hours already.  Special thanks to Doug on his workmanship in restoring the life ring and pendant pole brackets mounted on the starboard bulwark which was rotting away. 
Coxwain Nate Mack taking the tender
 on a test run around the harbor before
 bringing her up to the schooner for hipping.
Alex Lya, Bow lookout and
Painter handler aboard the tender

Sunday, September 3, 2023

Only Two Thursdays and Two Saturdays remaining before September 20.

Labor Day Weekend is tough competition when an organization based on volunteers is trying to advance a project.  Add to that, the pressure of only a few remaining volunteer sessions remaining to get ready for the COI exam.

So it was great relief to see eight volunteers come down the gangway this past Saturday. It would be a full day. Thankfully, with passage of Idalia, the temperature stayed moderate, and  a light breeze made the day on deck tolerable. 

The immediate priority was to lift off the recalcitrant outboard engine from the tender, docked inside the marina, load it onto a cart and deliver it to Capt Davis' truck for drop off at a mechanic.  While Nate Mack, and Walter Barton dropped into the tender, and passed tools back and forth to detach the outboard from the tender's transom, Bryan Oliver, Jody Smith,  and Alex Lya, brought out a handy-billy tackle and rigged a hoist high up a floating dock pylon. 

Rigging up our hoisting tackle
 to get the outboard ashore.

Meanwhile, Doug Hartley and Dave started another project on deck, reinstalling a life ring marker buoy bracket he had fabricated. 

Once the tender was repositioned so that her transom was backed against the floating dock, directly under the rigged tackle, the crew rigged a bridle around the engine and carefully hoisted it off the transom, and onto a waiting dock cart. 

While Capt Davis, Dave Brennen and Nate others loaded the outboard into the back of Capt Davis' truck, the rest of the volunteers secured the tender than walked  back down the dock and mustered around the foresail, still rolled up on the deck from last volunteer session. 

Bryan explained the project that would take up the rest of the day, with all hands... bending on the Fore Sail to the fore mast gaff and boom with marling hitches.  

Bryan emerges from the lazarette
having just heaved two forty-lb spools
 of rope onto the deck.

Bryan opened the deck hatch in the cockpit, disappeared into the Lazarette and handed up two spools of 1/2'inch three strand rope. -and  measured out, cut and whipped. The rest of the volunteer crew unrolled the massive foresail on the deck, searched for and pulled up the four corners of the sail, sufficiently close to where they would be shackled or laced on. the peak, and throat on the gaff, and the tack and clew on the fore boom. 
Head of the foresail slowly being lashed
 up to the gaff, with crew lifting
and feeding it as each grommet
 takes a hitch. 

First, the sail was loosely suspended from the gaff by shackling on the throat, at the gaff jaws, and the peak lashed to the "peak of the gaff. Next, Bryan buntline-hitched one end of the measured-out lacing line, then gave a quick demonstration of how volunteers would line up on both sides of the sail and pass the line thru the  10 grommets along the head of the gaff, using marling hitches;

Bryan Oliver takes a turn with

 the foresail peak lashing to stretch it aft. 

finally tying off where the sail's peak was lashed to the end of the gaff. 

While Bryan headed off to Harris Teeter to provision for lunch the rest of the crew dug the massive pile of stiff canvas to locate the bottom, of "foot" of the sail with it's fourteen grommet openings, stretched it out and positioned it to be lashed on at the Tack and Clew irons on the Fore Sail Boom.

Following a cold-cut sandwich lunch on deck under the awning, the crew lined up with Bryan to start the more cumbersome task of marling hitching the entire foot of the foresail onto the boom. 

That done, and the afternoon waning, the last task would be furling the foresail.  It entailed pulling the entire mass of canvas over the boom to the port side, where all eight of us lined up to start stretching out and laying flakes down into the "skin created by the top five feet of the sail. We soon realized some problems. 

Bryan gives an impromptu Master Class
 in flat-braiding 6 feet of three-strand
 into a passible Sail Gasket.

Bryan, Jody, and Steve
 searching our sagging furl job for the missing flakes.
We were woefully short of gaskets, the long flat-braided sail ties used to keep the furled sail together  between the gaff and boom.  Worse, our lazy-jacks, the vertical lines suspended from the boom lifts to the  boom keeping the mass of sail from spilling onto the deck, had not been properly adjusted, causing one do-over, and a less than beautiful harbor-furl. In spite, the crew was able to form a semblance of a furl, in time for most of the volunteers to depart for their planned family Labor Day festivities. 

As Volunteer Days go, this one was exceptionally productive. 
With only two more Saturdays, and Thursdays until the COI exam, we will have to maintain that high level, maybe surpass it, if we're to be ready. 

That's not a lot of time considering the milestones that must be achieved before the 20th of September, and the onboarding of a Coast Guard Inspection Team:

  • Fore Sail, lace the luff to the mast hoops- set up the lazy jacks
  • Fore Mast, Linseed oil the mast;  Slush the Mast (Vaseline)
  • Main Mast, Uprig the Boom lifts
  • Main Sail, swing over onto the deck and bend on the main sail; set up the lazy jacks, furl the sail
  • Get the Trash pump pumping properly
  • Get the tender outboard working properly
  • Dockside, Train in the three drills= Man Overboard, Fire, Prep to Abandon Ship
  • Dockside, Train to manage docklines for casting off and docking; raising and dousing sail,
  • Cast off and and train the above tasks while motoring and under sail.
Each of these require from four-to ten volunteers to complete.   Hopefully Volunteers can sustain, even increase attendance to make those milestones.

Thursday, August 31, 2023

Schooner and Volunteers Shift Gears to Face Down Idalia

 Coming off the weekend with high spirits of rigging up the Main Mast (mostly- the boom lifts are still an issue), Volunteers were now facing a new challenge.  Roiling northward up the Gulf of Mexico, Hurricane Idalia, three days out, was growing into a Category 4 monster, and threatening to drive right over Charleston.   Capt Davis immediately shifted from normal operating tempo and project priorities to a new set focused on protecting the ship, minimizing risk of damage to ship, property, and people. 

 In an ideal situation, it's called, "Risk Avoidance" . It would have involved the schooner sailing northward in June to avoid Hurricane Season, staying out of their paths, at the same time generating revenue  with summer programs and New England cruises.  

Since that option was off the table, the next favorable option would entail motoring the schooner up the Cooper River approximately 14 miles to a "hurricane hole;" a favorable upstream anchorage minimally impacted by a decreasing storm surge and soft grounding in the pluff mud-there to drop both anchors, and using the tender, ferry crew to the nearby landing at Bushy Park. 
This option would require an operational tender, and a crew of six to eight competent deckhands.   We had neither.  The outboard engine of the tender had been proven stubborn to restart after months of idleness stowed on deck.  Assembling a sizable crew of volunteers  on short notice in the middle of the week has not been achievable.

So, that leads us to PLAN C. Preparing the schooner to withstand the weather while tied to the dock. The preparation work would prove to be an excellent exercise to identify issues early on before they were exposed during our COI examination.     Starting on Monday, all the way thru Wednesday, Various Volunteers came down the dock to help out with whatever spare time they had.  Nate Mack came down to tackle the reluctant outboard motor on the tender.  In spite of a number of enticements like fresh spark plugs, new gas, and filters, the engine would just not cooperate.  Good to catch it now.  

Capt Davis and Nate Mack power their way
into the marina to tie up for the storm. 
Together, Nate and Capt Davis cast off in the powerless tender from the schooner's side and paddled her into a quiet protected slip inside the marina to continue their attempts on the motor. 

Meanwhile Volunteers took down, folded and stowed the midship awnings that had provide shade on the deck. All dock lines were doubled up. The furled jib and jumbo sails were further lashed more securely to the jibboom and jumbo boom. Capt Davis ran the generator thru some tests, including pumping out of all bilges.  Capt Davis and Bryan Oliver pulled out the new Trash pump for a test, it ran perfectly but would not gain a prime.  Another catch. 

At some point Tuesday, given the number of volunteers aboard, Capt Davis expressed a wish to set the anchor.  No one had ever executed that drill before except Bryan. So, Bryan called a muster around the Anchor Burton and explained the evolution, then assigned stations. The exercise actually went more smoothly than Bryan anticipated, and the anchor splashed into the water right there at the dock... and stayed there until Thursday evening, when Dave Brennan, Bryan, Capt Davis, Walter Barton, and Jody Smith, somehow, managed to retrieve the anchor and eventually secure it on the caprail. 

Meanwhile everything loose on the dock or on deck gets lashed down, stored below or thrown away.  With most of he work done Tuesday afternoon, Volunteers, Ken Fonville, Dave Brennan,  Jack, and Capt Davis joined Bryan and Hunter at Big Gun's on Calhoun for a Fair Wind's libation and a burger salute to Hunter who would be disembarking  the next day. After 31 years, on six different tall ships, around the world, Hunter was headed home to the Dominican Republic to "throw out his anchor". He leaves behind a draft of his book, "The Complete Galley Guide", which we hope to be published on Kindle in the near future.  Look for it.

Wednesday morning and early afternoon were last minute checks.

Capt Davis and Jack adjust a dock line
 as the second belt of rain and wind arrive.

By 1100 the first belts of rain were approaching. As we finished the last tying down of gear, in early afternoon, the second  belt of rain arrived with 26 kts of wind. Per  directive, all crew were to disembark, so the last to leave were Bryan, with Hunter, Capt Davis and Jack. By 1500 consistent belts of rain with 26 sustained kts wind  SSE were  blowing thru the harbor. 

Later on Wednesday evening, Capt Davis  waded thru water on East Bay to return to the docks and assess the situation.  Our schooner was riding well, yokohoma fenders and the big ball fenders were doing their job against winds pushing 37 knts SbyE. The only casualty noted was a bronze stanchion next to the gangway, which was sheared off at the base.  As crew and volunteers arrived throughout the day, it became clear that Spirit of South Carolina had weathered Idalia very well.  Thursday, Walter Burton, Jody Smith and Dave Brennan joined Bryan to start recovering from the Storm.  Awning's came out and were reset over the deck. Next, and the last act was to try our hand at raising and securing the anchor.  Of all the volunteers present, only Bryan had participated in this drill, the last time being three years previously. Nevertheless they all jumped in.  It wasn't pretty, but after a few restarts, the crew succeeded in successfully weighing anchor, catting the anchor, then hoisting flukes over the caprail and lashing all down.  

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Major UP-Rig Milestone Accomplished -Mainmast Boom and Gaff are back on position.

  A lot of emotions cut loose late Saturday afternoon on Spirit of South Carolina's quarter deck after we'd successfully set both the mainsail boom, and gaff onto the mast and rigged. It really was sort of a big deal. All volunteers just pulled off a pretty complex Marlinspike seamanship  project, and under some motivation-sapping hot weather conditions. Somebody quoted Shakespeare's  Henry the V, .. 'we few, we happy few, we band of brothers,.. and gentlemen now abed[or kicked back in their lazy boy with the AC blasting] will think themselves accursed they were not here, and hold their manhood cheap while any tells our story.." 

It was a long time coming.

At first, the plan was not to start until mid-afternoon when the high tide would give the crew a more horizontal angle for pulling the main sail boom up and out over the dock for the best angle of setting the jaws.  

Bryan and Logan using the
 Crew manual for  walking
 thru the Pinrail layout.

So Bryan organized the morning with some deckhand skills refreshment, especially since our ranks were flush with four new volunteers.  By lunch we were done, and noticed the tide was already at a sufficiently high state to go to work, and so we shifted.

 After a two-hour  preparation of  fairing-out and securing  the massive main peak and throat halyard tackles to the boom, along with three separate tag lines to steady the boom's position in mid-air, and a deliberately methodical rehearsal of the  five different volunteer teams manning those tackles testing the strain, the 11-person volunteer crew was ready.

With the gangway pulled onto the dock,
 Dan Maurin maintains tension on a tagline
 keeping the  just-raised mainsail  boom centered
 over the deck.

  Phase II; the gangway was removed and secured on the dock in order to clear the deck obstacles over the boom lying there. Next, Volunteer Coordinator, Bryan Oliver, acting as conductor, directed each team separately to haul or ease, or hold, slowly raising the massive boom up off the deck inching it aft-ward 25 feet, and into a position to sit the jaws around the main mast., cradling the end aft end of the boom in a specially fabricated "crutch".

Volunteer deckhands Walter Barton, Alex Lya,
 and Doug Hartley on the main boom's aft tag line
 maintaining aft pressure on the suspended
 boom, angling it over the transom.

The half-ton main mast boom was suspended over the aft deck in a counterbalance of opposing tackles and taglines when the massive jaws of the main boom eased onto the mainmast table. 

Volunteers Dave, Nate, and Dave Lazar control
 the mast boom's slow descent into it's cradle,
as Matt, Ken, and Todd Cole at the jaws
push the boom aft to clear the mast

Two volunteers jumped to secure the parrel bead loop around the front of the mast, effectively tying the boom to the mast. The rest then swarmed the aft end of the boom to set up the quarter tackles, preventing it from swinging our of the crutch.

Dan Maurin, Nate Mack, Tod Cole, and Walter Barton
 complete rigging up the mainsail gaff
with her throat and peak halyards,,
now ready to haul up into position.
Phase III; Now all that was left was setting up the mainsail gaff, a much smaller spar, already configured to receive the peak and throat halyards. 
Again, a pair of tag lines were made fast to either end of the gaff to control the swing and yaw as it was lifted up and swung over to open arms at the mast to set the jaws and secure the gaff's parrel beads around the front. 

The gaff up-rig took less than 15 minutes.

One last task,, lash the boom to the gaff, using the gaff's halyard holding power to also hold up the boom, taking some of the compression  strain off the crutch until the boom lift pendants could be uprigged. 
It was complete! worthy of a group selfie which was quickly organized.
The Band of Brothers who finished the job;
 Ken Fonville, Frank Lazar, Walter Baron, Nate Mack,
Dave Brennan, Jody Smith, Doug Hartley, Todd Cole,
 and Alex Lya. 
Not pictured are Dan Maurin,
Logan Day, and Jamie Wert

And a special thanks, much gratitude goes to Hunter, who took care of us volunteers with some great lunches, over the past two years, a most attractive incentive  for returning volunteers. This was his last Saturday with us, since he's be heading home to the Dominican Republic and 'throwing out his anchor".

The job's still not complete. During the of the mainmast Peak and Throat tackles, the UK Sails rigger could not locate the two pendants that would secure the boom lift blocks aloft.  A search of the vessel did not produce them.  An easily fabricated thing for traditional ship sailors, so we'll wait a decision to go internal or contract out to produce the replacement pendants, or "jeers," depending on which rigger's resource you reference.

Monday, August 21, 2023

September 20. All Hands on Deck. COI Day is Set.

It's really going to happen.  Capt Heath has arranged for the Coast Guard to come aboard Spirit of South Carolina on Wednesday, 20 September to observe the ship and her crew for her Certificate of Inspection (COI). Capt Heath is also negotiating with Capt Andy Hudak come down and act as a sort of coach  for our "Afterguard" during train-up.

We have four Volunteer Saturdays, and the same amount of Volunteer Thursday Afternoons to make the ship ready, and to get ourselves ready to perform as a competent crew.  The mainmast  peak halyard and boom lift tackles will be uprigged this week, the mainsail boom and gaff likely this weekend, assuming sufficient hands can muster for it.  Same for bending on the foresail and mainsail in coming week. That takes us into September.  With sails bent on, she's ready to cast off. 

I can't overstate the significance of this event. It will determine our schooner's future, and affirm all the countless hours all of us have devoted to her recovery. This is the scenario we have often mused on; taking the ship off the dock, with majority of the crew being volunteers.   But we have to show up. 

I have been challenged with training up a volunteer crew. The talent and motivation in our ranks makes that a given as far as I'm concerned,, as long as we can muster a  sufficient crew regularly to train together. That, and a commitment to muster on deck 20 September. With work and family a priority as always for volunteers, I"m looking for creative ways to advance skills refreshments when a Saturday or weekday warm-up sail won't work. I'd appreciate hearing your ideas.

And per my email to Volunteers last week:  Hunter's last day is 30 August.  We're looking at taking him out on the 28th or 29th, to Big Gun's his favorite dive bar on Calhoun Street, and maybe close it down. It would be great to see alot of you there. Let me know if you will come. I'll try to reserve some tables. 

So what got accomplished this week.

Lexi Fine laying on a fresh coat of Fluid Film
 onto our brand new Mainsail Boom lift cables.

Thursday afternoon, Volunteer Lexi Fine returned on deck after a long hiatus working her clinical career across three different medical systems. Together, Lexi and Bryan Oliver strung up the two new 150 ft-long mainmast boom lift cables between dock rails, and began applying two coats of "Fluid Film" preservative/sealant. 

Saturday, Ken Fonville, Dan Maurin, Dave Lazar, Dave Brennen, Tony Marchesani, Logan Day,  Nate Mack, Doug Hartley, and special guest star, Dr. Peter Alford, visiting his son, Captain Davis,  mustered at 0900 to start prepping the main mast tackles that would be up-rigged on Tuesday.  Just before breaking the huddle,  Volunteer Coordinator Bryan passed around his tablet with the East Bay Deli's sandwich menu.  Peter generously volunteered his credit card to cover a carry-out lunch.

Bryan demo's clapping a flat seizing
 onto the boomlift cable and lazy jack end
After a demonstration on how to clap on a seizing to bind a lazyjack line to a boom lift cable. Volunteers laid out along the marked segments of new freshly slushed boomlift cable. In short order, volunteers had clapped on a total of twenty flat seizings, binding ten lazyjack lines to the two boomlifts. 

Volunteers line up on a tape marker where they
will clap on a flat seizing around the
boomlift cable and lazyjack end.

Volunteers Ken, Dave, Nate, Dave Brennan
 and Bryan Oliver lay out on the bowsprit
 to furl the Jumbo.
Early completion merited a welcome diversion for some real sail training. Capt Davis proposed walking  thru and  practicing an actual sail set, using one of the headsails. Volunteers jumped on it.  Bryan organized the muster on the foredeck and started walking the crew thru the evolution of dressing, then setting, then dousing the jumbo sail. Volunteers listened to the orientation, then stood by for Bryan to issue the first commands.  Beginning with, "Hands to Dress the Jumbo!", thru the entire raising and dousing evolution, the volunteers managed five different lines to haul up the jumbo, douse it(rapidly take it down), then lay out on the bowsprit to furl it.. Just in time for lunch.

Doc Peter starting the winding of  an 8 foot string
 of baggywrinkle
Lunch over, and we weren't done yet. Notwithstanding losing a third of our crew to afternoon home commitments, the remaining stalwarts mustered on the dock to attack the infamous "Baggywrinkle". Actually fairly innocuous, baggywrinkle is simply 12-inch segments of old rope unlaid all the way to it's yarns, then cow-hitched onto an 8 foot length of seine twine. The long string of cut rope is then tightly wrapped around the cable at each "high point" where it might chafe the sail. Ten strings of baggywrinkle lay at our feet to be wrapped on.. So we begun.. slowly. 
By Recall, and mustering off, we had secured six wraps of baggy wrinkle with four left to be accomplished some time later in the week.


Sunday, August 13, 2023

This week The JUMBO is Up-Rigged; continuing a trend of Volunteers Getting Things done-Advancing towards the COI Goal.

Richard finishing up the Salon Butterfly hatch's
 portlight frames.
Thursday, 10 August 

Capt Heath's Project Team hasn't been exactly idle these days either.  Daily, they've been painting, varnishing, and reinstalling hardware.   After the final varnish coats, Richard took on the bedding and reinstalling of the Salon Butterfly hatch cover's  brass port light frames. 

Out on the bowprit, Jack and another team mate were finishing up a last coat of white on the bowsprit.

Starting our third Thursday afternoon Volunteer session seems to be catching on.  It was gratifying to see six of us muster at 1630, to take advantage of any moderating temperature and late afternoon sea breezes. Bryan continued the routine of hauling aboard two bags of ice, for the drinking water jug on deck, and igloo cooler, for individual water containers, and beverages. Capt Davis took charge of all hands, Dan Maurin, Gerin and Julie Choiniere, Tony Marchesani, Doug Hartley and Ken Fonville for the first twenty minutes to temporarily down-rig the portside awning, set up the boat falls and launch the tender, which has not moved from it's position on deck since leaving for shipyard  over a year ago. 

After securing the falls, and tying the tender off the schooner's port quarter, Volunteers set to lowering the foresail gaff sufficiently to reach the peak halyard blocks for refinishing.  During that drill Bryan pointed out to Capt Davis the yet unpainted, very new looking peak halyard block, as the one created by Volunteer Dough Hartley.  Davis was sufficiently impressed, to suggest that the block  be varnished, rather than painted like the rest, in order to show off  its cypress wood grain, and highlight it as representative of the work Volunteers have contributed to the ship.  Doug's block,  along with Danny Johnson's gangway steps, dory cradle, and head soap trays,  Bryan's galley counter top, Kenny Blyth's belaying pins, all examples of significant contributions by volunteers.  

Other volunteers took to completing the refurbishment of most of the ship's 52 rigged blocks;  screwing copper sheave covers back onto the 20 plus blocks recently repainted. 

Gerin and Julia diverted onto the dock to study the persistent problem with the aft Yokohama - the huge hard rubber blivit floating between the ship's hull and the wood dock piling.  It was precariously unbalanced on the piling, with it's jagged telephone pole axle, threatening the schooners hull. Different lines had been hastily rigged several weeks ago to stabilize the yokohama on the piling. Pending permanently replacing one of the lines, they rerouted two lines steadying the aft yokohama between its dock piling and Spirit's hull.  

By 1800, we had found a good stopping point to retreat under the awning, open up our rewards of a cold beer, soft drink , or just bottled water, and reflect on our handiwork. 

Saturday, 12 August

Today was "Up-Rig The Jumbo Day. Much of the same crew from Thursday mustered at 0900, with

exception of Logan Day, who was welcomed back after the past few weeks of rather intensive training at the Naval Weapons School, including transitioning from classroom to hands-on practice aboard a Sub. Also appearing was Nate Mack with a bag of freshly repaired and polished brass T-Hinges for the Salon butterfly hatches. 

While Capt Davis ran ashore to return with a jug of coffee and breakfast pastry for crew snacks, Bryan quickly collected funds for lunch, handing them off to Hunter who stepped off to go provision for lunch.  Nate gathered tools and bedding compound, and began the project of  reinstalling the six now glistening brass T-hinges on the salon butterfly hatch covers.

Ken Fonville refinishing
 the Jibsheet's bullet blocks

The rest of us divided across two  tasks.   Ken Fonville  took  on the final steps of spot painting the remaining blocks, and prepping, and varnishing the Hartley Block,, that is the peak halyard block restored by Doug Hartley. 

Bryan Tails while Logan and Doug
 ready to raise the jumbo off the dock.
 Gerin Choiniere organized the remainder of hands, dividing between deck and on dock where the rolled up bundle of the jumbo was wrestled off it's dunnage, untied and rolled out to identify locations of head, tack, and clew.  While dock hands re-packaged the jumbo and rigged a strop and sling, the deck crew selected a combination of  Anchor burton and Jumbo Halyard tackles to send over to the dock crew. 

With tag lines, and jumbo halyard manned, Gerin orchestrated dock and deck crews alternately lifting off the dock, steadying, and swaying over the water to the deck, the 1/4-ton bundle of Jumbo sail, settling it gently onto the foredeck next to the windlass.  

Julie measuring out, cutting and
end-splicing 24 luff lacings for the
 jumbo sail.
Julie split off  to select a roll of seine twine, and start cutting and eye-splicing 24 Jumbo luff lacings.   All remaining hands then assembled around the Jumbo sail, unrolling and stretching out it's length, this time rolling it lengthwise into a long "burrito" with the head and tack corners at the forward end, and clew exposed at the aft end. 

The jumbo's downhaul was made fast to the forward tack/head end for pulling it forward over the bowsprit to the forestay.  Again using a combination of halyard at the forward end, and anchor burton near aft end of the burrito, the snakelike jumbo was hoisted p sufficiently to clear the deck, windlass and knight heads.  Two hands manned the  jumbo downhaul to pull the forward end of the jumbo burrito forward along the jumbo boom. Gerin, out on the bowsprit guided the forward end of the burrito sufficiently close to the jumbo tack iron to shackle on the jumbo tack ring.  He then reconnected the halyard block to the jumbo's head ring. Finally, he unknotted the down haul line and reran the downhaul line from it's turning block on the bowsprit directly up to the Jumbo head, securing with with a buntline hitch.

Logan, Doug, Gerin, and Tony
 on the Fores stay starting luff lashings

All set now for the final phases, Julie handed off a fistful of readied luff lacings to Tony who climbed
out onto the head rig and passed them off to Gerin.  Logan, and Dennis also laid out to the forestay to assist  Gerin with the first five lacings, then take over from him for the remaining work. 

Somewhere in that activity, Hunter sent up the call on deck that lunch was ready- which sent some of us below grateful for the break and a second chugging of cold beverages. For other's of us, it was their  reminder to find a stopping place and disembark for other weekend shoreside chores. 

Following lunch the remainder of volunteer crew laid out on the forestay to finish up lacings.  Gerin organized a team to rig up a handy billy tackle from the foremast to stretch out the jumbo clew sufficiently to shackle it to the jumbo boom clew iron.  

Nate Mack checks the gap on the
 last hatch hinge installation

All Done!

Another group gathered round the salon hatch covers with a garden hose to water test the seals after the hinges were installed.

Next week, the Foresail, 

Maybe the Main mast to be uprigged!

Monday, August 7, 2023

Volunteer Talent Showing Through amid dealing with obstacles.

Since our last episode, During the last week of July,, the Harbor Master passed on the new restrictions to the Maritime Center Parking lot. Because of the influx of construction contractor traffic, most or all of available parking space would be preempted for construction and contractor parking.  Likely for the rest of the year.  


That leaves only metered spaces in the area, except for 12 free spaces two blocks further out- slim chance.  Nevertheless, Saturday morning, several volunteers tried some metered spots.  Nate Mack was one of them.   Cost 5 bucks for 3 hours,, effectively the morning.  Somebody else risked the Maritime Center Parking Lot on Saturday; there was evidence a Meter Maid came thru, but he wasn't ticketed. Dare we interpret this as "the Man's" willingness to accommodate our volunteer parking passes? I"m going to check it out.. likewise for after 4:30 pm on Thursdays. like tomorrow.

Thanks to renewed direction and focus by Capt Davis, our Operating Tempo has picked up. The brightwork on deck is largely finished, except for the helm. The Caprail will  be left as is for time being, possibly a cleaning and application of something like Outdoor Oil. I'm sure she's seen the last of the Deks-olje D1-D2 products. 

Last Thursday, Capt Heath brought four of his own team members who scrubbed down the deck. He also invited LtCdr John Daughton, USCG, our COI Inspector. on board to go over the vessel informally.  John Doughton  has inspected Spirit of South Carolina several times before, and knows her well.  He was impressed by her progress since last aboard in Savannah.  He's on our side.

Following on, this Saturday morning on deck saw a flurry of activity until the heat and parking fees turned onerous.

Dave Brennan as far aloft
  as he'd like to go, refinishing
the throat halyard block.
Dan Maurin touches up
the Foresail sheet blocks.

Ken Fonville checking the
 blocks for sheave covers

Dan Maurin has produced a nicely done five minute Volunteer Recruiting Video. Look for this link once we've properly posted it, then start spreading it.

Nate Mack finished up filling  the screw holes for the salon butter fly hitches.  It's ready to secure. Turns out Nate also knows metalwork.  He took home the severely cracked brass salon hinge, and braized it..,,like new, critical since they don't make em any more.

Also, Saturday afternoon, Shipwright John Little and his team mate completed their repairs on the port side Plank sheer rail.  All that's left if for a few of us to go overside and sit on the scaffolding he left rigged for us, to repaint the project area. Good as New.

What's next?

 Heath plans to bring on UK sails to go aloft and uprig the mainmast halyard and boom lift tackles, as early as this weekend.  He's also commissioning them to install a modern bosun's chair for rigging aloft. With the boom and gaff varnish project finishing this week, we should be in position to rig up the boom and gaff the following week.  


Oh.  Still is the urgent need to "slush the masts" - two coats linseed oil and a slathering of vaseline.

Then we start training for the COI.  Think these thoughts;

Plan to participate. It's likely a significant portion of our crew will be Volunteers.

Think about what you need to learn, in order to participate.

Dockside drills, 

    -Walk-thru's basic deckhand skills refresh and check-off.

    -Launching and retrieving the tender.-piloting it.

Sea Trials, Expect to participate in several. Possibly starting later this month.

    -Starting simple, Casting off, setting sail, tending sail,  deck discipline,  

    -Practice MOB, Abandon Ship, Fire, setting/retrieving anchor.


While con