Sunday, January 10, 2021

Spirit of South Carolina Volunteers wish "Fair Winds" on planned departure of Captain Cleveland

 January 15, is expected to be Capt Dan Cleveland's last day in command, after which he will take a long-delayed leave of absence, returning to his home in St. Louis to help in care of his parents,  and decide his next professional options.

That left this past Saturday, as his last day to spend with volunteers who had worked and sailed under him. 

Capt Cleveland had been serving the ship for the past 3 and a half years, as Chief Mate under Capt Bailey, and then taking command on Capt Bailey's departure. In that time, he took Spirit of South Carolina to Havana, Cuba in 2016. In 2017 he helped sail the ship up the Atlantic seaboard all the way to Quebec and back with over 7 ports of call, including Bermuda.  In 2018, it was the Citadel Semester at Sea program, with 14 Citadel cadets and educators aboard, as well as a full complement of crew  with 7 ports of call throughout the Caribbean. He brought with him a vast amount of professional experience and lessons learned, having sailed under notable tall ship Captains as an AB, and 2d Mate on square riggers, Bounty and Picton Castle, not to mention several smaller traditional sailing vessels. 

And so it was, that in addition to the projects tackled by the 9 volunteers Saturday morning, they, and an additional 2 "Old Salts" gathered around after a hot lunch on deck to say farewell.  

Dan, examines the gadget
 probably wondering whether
 to believe Bryan that it works.

Bryan, after speechifying
 for all the volunteers,
  presents Dan his sextant.

In a short ceremony they demonstrated their appreciation to Dan Cleveland for his leadership, and mentorship, not only on deck, but as a persistent, tenacious advocate for the ship over the past year. More so, he stepped up when COVID-19 hit, funds dried up, professional crew and officers laid-off, and no apparent way forward indicated by the ship's executive board.  

"Whadya know!
 I can get a horizon."

After a testimonial, Volunteer Coordinator, Bryan Oliver presented to Capt Cleveland the gift from the volunteers of an antique replica of a brass "travel sextant"  a fully functional miniaturized version of a standard marine sextant. along with an inscription on its wooden box. 

While the honors made to Capt Cleveland were the highlight, the morning was dedicated to some notable progress aboard ship. In this case it centered around "Dory", not the fish, but the ship's small boat.  Dory was the nickname by which crew began referring to a small 'stitch and glue' kit boat  which was built on deck by Dan Cleveland and crew during the two months Spirit of South Carolina cruised with Tall Ship's America in 2017.  

Deckhands enjoy an afternoon sail
 in Dory off Thunderbolt Marina
 during Shipyard in 2019

Upon completion, the little craft bore a close resemblance to the iconic "dory" fishing boats launched from Gloucester fishing schooners, except with much lower freeboard. Dory was designed to be rowed with up to 3 banks of oars, (for youth) or sailed, complete with centerboard, main and jib.

  Muster began with the recognition of two Volunteers who had achieved notable milestones in volunteer time devoted to the ship.  Mikell Evatt, and John Whitsitt received  Jibsail Volunteer pins for 50 hours of support aboard the ship.  Dan Maurin, received his Foremast Volunteer pin for achieving over 100 hours.  

Immediately following the 0900 Muster, volunteers broke up into work parties.  Dan Maurin and Layne Carver carried Dory's spars and oars onto the dock and began a bleaching wash to blanch out weathering stains.

While Bryan agitates the paint can,
 Calvin, Layne, and Charlie
 tack down her interior planking. 
Dory looks almost new,
while new coat of paint sets up.

The remaining six volunteers, Danny Johnson, Calvin Milam, John Whitsitt, Joe Gorman, Bryan Oliver, and Mikell Evatt, and Chief Mate Charlie Porzelt organized to take on the small boat. First, they capsized the Dory on deck to spill out rain water, rinsed out accumulated grime, dried and tacked down her inside hull, and mask-taped her gunwales. They followed that by laying down a coat of sand-tone-colored epoxy enamel. 

Dan and Layne start in on the chili.
 Mike checks out the hot sauce selection
 while Danny checks the buffet spread he just set up.
Once that work was complete, crew changed over to prepping for lunch.  Bryan had brought aboard a large pot of chili, that had been stewing since the previous night, plus all the fixin's. Danny Johnson complemented with some Paella.  Old Salt, Reg Brown appeared on time with two cases of Yuengling beers, and bags of green salad. Joe Gorman brought along snacks and dessert.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Volunteers Kick off New Year with some creativity.

This Saturday threatened rain, but it never really happened.  In fact, as Volunteers Dan Maurin, John Whitsitt, and Danny Johnson came aboard the temperature was already approaching T-shirts and shorts weather.  As Muster began, Danny hurried back to the parking lot to guide in a new Volunteer, Gaye Dupre, driving in from James Island. 

She joined us just in time for a hurried orientation, while John and Dan took on the first chore of bringing the Mainsail cover out of the forecastle and laying it out over the mainsail/boom. As that completed, volunteers gathered for the next tasks; Build a custom "sword mat" to protect the cap rail under the gangway, where it was creating damage.  

New Volunteer Gaye Dupre sets up
 to overhaul the slack thru the 80 coils
to even their length.

Danny handed up out of the forecastle, a 288 ft loose coil of manila rope previously culled out by Bryan and Charlie Malone just before Christmas. After a huddle to confirm the plan, and with Chief Mate Charlie Porzelt's occasional advice and coaching, the group began creating a crude "loom" out of broom sticks, and bronze stripping for "shuttles".  Next, they began the tedious task of wrapping out a continuous coil  of  1/2-inch stiff new manila rope between two broom sticks. The task seemed easy enough in the illustrations of The Marlinspike Sailor, but in practice turned out to be something quite challenging. 

Gaye counts up the completed turns over the frame
 and confirms the dimensions haven't changed.

By Lunch time, when Danny brought up lunch he'd heated up in the galley, we had most of the coil of almost 80 loops properly sized and ready to start the weave across the mat.

Following lunch, the crew set about measuring out and weaving a long length of heavy seine twine across the coils. Again, the actual task of  threading sein twine through 80 some-odd packed rope strands without missing one, proved slow and occasionally frustrating.

About five hours of labor, volunteers called it a day after completing about 50 percent of a new sword mat.  

Bryan adds 3 more weaves into
the stiff manila coils before calling it
 quits for the day.

Bryan stayed back another couple of hours to continue the next three lines of weaving. After snugging up the completed weaves, and securing the corners of the manila mat from working apart, he set the partially finished mat over the cap rail, under the gangway, and double-checked the fit. 

A work-in-progress. A bit over 60% complete.
The ship's new sword mat is positioned
 over it's future resting place, protecting the cap rail
 under the gangway.
Hoping to complete the mat this week and test it out.. Thanks to the crew that joined together Saturday, for a constructive and creative team effort, and a good start to the New Year.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Tall Ships Volunteers ; A Big Community Across the Country with a lot in Common

 We  don't think much on it, but Spirit of South Carolina Volunteers are really part of a much larger community of people all over the country who share an interest, even a passion for the maritime heritage represented by tall ships.  Most tall ship programs are bolstered by a corps of volunteers, whose dedication, efforts, and talent, provide indispensable support. Some volunteer programs, like ours are relatively nascent, while others are long established, and institutional in their recognized importance.

The links below offer a glimpse into some of these tall ships programs, along with their volunteer programs. They're worth looking into, as a source of ideas, maybe even inspiration.

 South Street Seaport Museum, at the southeastern corner of Manhattan in New York City, curates the full-rigged  Tall-ship Wavertree, and Schooner, Pioneer. They are supported by a large corps of active volunteers. More on their activities at this link: 

South Street Seaport Volunteers

Pride of Baltimore II is a generic replica of "Baltimore Clipper" topsail schooners that ranged out of the eastern coast in the late 18th and early 19th century.  Best known as privateers in the American Revolution, and War of 1812, they also, infamously became the favorites of slavers and pirates for their speed, and shallow draft. Pride of Baltimore II's website includes the  

Captain's Log, a blog of all activities involving her volunteers.   

Their program also maintains an active Facebook Page Pride II

Harvey Gamage , a Maine schooner sailing under the auspices of Ocean Passages, is a consistent visitor to Charleston and has been operating programs that keep her sailing the length of the eastern coast from Main to the Caribbean.  

Her blog Ocean Passages   contains a pretty good recap of her activities. 

Maritime Museum of San Diego curates four Tall Ships;  Star of India, HMS Surprise (ne; HMS Rose), Topsail Schooner, Californian, and 16th Century Galleon San Salvador. Volunteers are actively engaged in all aspects of their care and operation. The museum maintains a fairly robust Volunteer-oriented webpage and blog: 

Get Involved

Barque Elissa;  The only other active tall ship south of the Chesapeake, other than Spirit of South Carolina, is Elissa, in Galveston Texas.. She's a doozy. She also runs an active Volunteer sail training program.


SSV Roseway   She's well known for her tanbark died sails, and more significantly as a still active original-not replica schooner.  She docks regularly at Charleston, and takes on volunteers as needed during her passages up and down the coast, and into the Caribbean.  

Volunteer opportunities

Monday, December 14, 2020

Volunteers fortify their Bonds to the Ship with "The Deep Clean"

 Deep Cleaning. Sailors know it well; It's a regular phenomenon, usually predictable, tied to an event, or just the Chief Mate's sense that it's overdue.

Not our schooner,
but you get the idea

There's no way to make it sound fun, It's physical work, plain and simple; somewhat unpleasant, occasionally downright nasty.  But for sailors, especially traditional tall ship sailers, it's the most fundamental component to taking care of their ship. 

It requires you to get intimate, so to speak. In the course of deck washing, or below decks scrubbing, dusting, mopping, scraping, wiping,  you have to explore spots you never before gave any thought to. discovering hidden compartments, plumbing, caches of spare parts, lost tools, and deep recesses that don't seem so foreboding once you lower yourself into them and look around. You inevitably find something amiss, something that will need to be fixed, and sometimes, something that could be improved.

 In the course of wiping away some accumulated grime, you're putting your hands on a timber, a fastening, that was designed as part of a whole thing to shelter you and keep you safe from some of the worst of the sea's tempers. The workmanship is a thousand years or more of evolution in carpentry, tools, metalwork, and ship design, seagoing experience, upon the shoulders which stand the modern epoxy and carbon fiber wonders gliding around the harbor,,,  while you are toiling below decks with a bleach bottle and sponge in the forecastle head. 

Okay okay alright. It's hard to wax poetic in the middle of a deep cleaning. In fact, it likely takes more than a few deep cleaning work days under your belt before you appreciate how your feelings about your ship is evolving.  Nobody anxiously awaits the next opportunity to dive into the next chore, but you do pay more attention to daily taking care of the ship in small ways, on a daily basis. You 'll see your shipmates and maybe noting it in yourself, being more careful about spills and cleaning up, stowing tools and gear after use. spot painting or lubricating something on your own, keeping things "shipshape."   "Love "is a little strong as a descriptor, but "Caring for" is pretty close to describing  the emotional bond that grows in sailors who take a berth in one of these ships.  Long time ago somewhere, an 'Old Salt' admonished  a young sailor;  "You take care of your ship, and she'll take care of you"

This last Saturday,  Capt Cleveland set a priority of a deep clean for the ship.  Expecting an inspection from the American Bureau of Shipping in the new future, he observed the ship needed some significant effort to return he to a well organized/well cared for vessel.  Eight Volunteers laid in with all the implements to dive into a deep cleaning aboard Spirit of South Carolina; for most, their first time. To maintain social distancing the crew spread over four separate areas. Madison Pulley, Charlie Malone, Layne Carver, Adam Straich, and Mikell Evatt charged the fire hose, and with hard scrub and soft broom brushes started  vigorous deck scrubbing.  Madison and John Whitsett followed down the cap rails with fresh water and chamois to wipe salt and grime off all the brightwork. Next, the crew broke into three teams for the forecastle, salon, and aft cabin for the real deep cleaning, sorely overdue after 9 months at dock without crew.  

Madison Pulley starts thru the 
lunch line
Up to this point, what was missing from this Volunteer day, much welcomed in the past, was lunch.   Danny Johnson volunteered to take contributions, and hiked back to HT to provision for some easy to prepare lunch stuff. While the rest of the crew worked through all the nooks/crannies, mopping,scrubbing,sweeping, wiping every surface, and putting away piles of tools, and gear, Danny and John prepped a hot lunch of ready-made lasagna, garlic toast, salad and brownies. 

 By one pm, the Deep Clean stood down, and all crew helped themselves generously to the buffet line laid out on the butterfly hatches. 

With the main project for the day complete,  several volunteers cleaned up and secured from lunch, then disembarked.  Madison remained for another two hours to coach John Whitsett thru some knots from the deckhand skills checklist.  Bryan Oliver and Charlie Malone began planning and gathering material for contructing a manila rope sword mat, large enough to protect four feet of cap rail currently chafing under the gangway as the tide rose and fell.  It didn't start well. Bryan created a near disastrous collapse of a brand new 500 foot coil of manila rope into a gordian knot.  With the help of Capt Cleveland, the pile was salvaged into a large working coil and specified lengths measured and cut for the next phase.  

The day ended well enough.  The ship looks great on deck and below. Volunteers can be proud of a long list of maintenance projects completed over the year, and a fair amount of deckhand skills increased.  Next Volunteer day on January 2 hopes to see the return of everyone with fresh energy to get Spirit of South Carolina sailing.  Word from Capt Cleveland is that a portion of the needed replacement electronics have arrived from Singapore, enough for Cummin's Diesel to lay on a mechanic to start work.. soon.   The light at the end of the tunnel just got a little brighter. 

Happy Holidays- Merry and a Safe Christmas to everyone!

See you on deck next year.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Volunteers swarm four different projects, wish Chef Hunter Bon Voyage home to family for the holidays; Two Volunteers make the 50-Hour milestone.

 The December morning chill this past Saturday did not dissuade, nor did the 10 knot brisk northwesterly blowing down the Cooper River discourage their determination. Nossir!  

Fourteen Volunteers mustered amidships on Spirit of South Carolina Saturday morning with masks and distancing to team up on four separate projects that needed to be advanced.  By day's end, two Volunteers had surpassed their 50-hour Volunteer-hours milestone.  Four others, newly recruited, had added at least six new deckhand skills to their repertoire and with their first-day achievements,  begun a bonding with the ship-as have many of us.  

After quick introductions, instructions, and a reminder from Capt Dan Cleveland of the ship's COVID protocols, and safety standards, Volunteers dispersed to break out ground  cloths, rig bosun's seats and harnesses, measure out D1 oils and varnishes, gather sandpapering blocks, scrapers, and get to work 

Adriaan Zimmerman starts his varnish strokes
 around the Main shrouds
Calvin Milam working another
varnish coat around the pad eyes
on the cap rail.

Four of the volunteers were brand new to her deck. Danny Johnson convinced two, Adriaan Zimmerman and Brian Wylie to try it out. So, they took a morning off from their carpentry work to lay in  with Calvin Milam in the starboard quarter cap rail, tacking down and laying down a seventh varnish coat.


New Volunteer Charlie Malone, on a 60-day leave from his Merchant Marine billet, stepped away from moving into his new apartment to do the same with the taff rail, laying down her final coat. 

Lauren Acree, from St. Louis visiting her parents in Mount Pleasant, joined up with her Dad, Bryan Oliver, and volunteered to take a bos'un's seat ride up the foremast lining up with Laura Johnson and Madison Pulley to oil her down, top to bottom.

New Volunteer Lauren Acree  calling below
 to send up more D1 oil

Madison Pulley sets the pace at the foretop.
 Laura Johnson just below, and new Volunteer
 Lauren Acree start the work of
 oiling the Foremast.

Dan Maurin inspects for drip marks
just below the cap rail

John Whitsitt sanding and scuffing the
 outboard bulwark at the main shrouds

Saturday also marked the last day this year, that Volunteers would enjoy a hot lunch conjured up by Chef Hunter. He will be flying home later to join family for Christmas. Hopefully returning soon.
Volunteers enjoy some sunshine at lunch while downing
bowls of Hunter's  fantastic chili and rice, 

Adam Schaich and Mate, Charlie Porzelt
cleaning up the gunwales.
Once the topmen(women) were hoisted up and mast work was underway, Volunteers Danny JohnsonMikell Evatt, Philippe Agafonovas, and Adam Schaich, alternated between tending their shipmates in the bosun's seats aloft, and  final sanding around the dory's gunwales.  Mikell brought back aboard a canvas bucket he was finishing up for a critique and guidance on "bolt-roping" the bottom. After lunch and securing tools and  coatings, some departed and some remained for practice in line-handling and knots.

By the end of day, two  Volunteers Madison Pulley, and Mikell Evatt had accumulated over 50 hours of Volunteer Deckhand time, qualifying them for the coveted moniker;  "Jibsail Volunteer". A big thanks for their commitment to the ship. They join six other volunteers who have achieved the milestone since the Volunteer Program was re-inaugurated 19 months ago.  Now, looking forward to recognizing  a whole lot more volunteers as they pass this milestone, an indicator of the priceless asset Volunteers have become to supporting Spirit's mission, and her survival.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Volunteers out-do themselves, and set some high (literally) bars for the rest of us.

Bryan points out Philippe's ultimate
 destination while Laura stands by
to help hoist.

This last Saturday, the 21st of November promised great weather.  What better conditions, and circumstances for going aloft.  Eight Volunteers mustered on the foredeck to take on a new level of team-oriented deckhand projects.  The two masts of Spirit of South Carolina were suffering  overdue maintenance, drying out due to sun exposure and weather. To fix it would require swinging someone aloft with sanding and scraping materials all the way to the top in a bosun's seat; then being slowly lowered down the mast, all the while swinging themselves around the mast, scraping and sanding down the weathering, splinters, and grime, making them ready for fresh coats of sealants and preservative.  And so our crew stepped to it.  Under Chief Mate Charlie's supervision, Calvin Milan, Philippe Agafonovas, and Madison Pulley rigged themselves into bosun's seats, to be hoisted up the foremast in sequence, with sandpaper and scrapers and instructions to scrape and sand down the surface as preparation for applying subsequent coats of DeksOlje D1.  Chief Mate, Charlie made last minute safety checks of harnesses and hoisting tackle. Then, one by one, Volunteers were hoisted up to different points on the foremast to begin work.  Charlie, and Laura Johnson, with Bryan Oliver tailing, sweated halyards to to raise each volunteer crewmember to their assigned position. Meanwhile, Mikell Evatt and  Danny Johnson were applying the final waterproofing steps to their completed canvas tool bags. 

Laura balancing on the
 Foremast Gaff Throat
while sanding down the
lower mast.
Chief Mate Charlie sands down
 the lower section, while
above him, Madison, Philippe,
 and Calvin finish up their
 assigned sections.

Laura took station on top of the foremast gaff with 80 grit sandpaper to reach the lower mast sections. Once crew were safely aloft, and between tasks of lowering the bosun's seats on demand to sand down new sections,  Mate, Charlie Porzelt joined Laura sanding on the lower sections.  

As waterproofing tool bags wound down, Mikell, Danny,  Laura, and Madison took advantage of the remaining minutes before lunch to carefully lift up the finished outer hull of the Dory, and fitted over the butterfly hatch to the opposite side of the deck.  

Meanwhile, Hunter collected contributions, and hiked to Harris Teeter to provision for lunch.  His efforts were notable, and always seemed to surpass his previous triumphs.  This time it was  Pork Loin Chop seared with a multi-spiced and creamed mushroom sauce reduction, Gruyere Potatoes Au Gratin, and a melange of fresh steamed vegetables.   There was nothing left.  

Laura, Mikell, and Danny
 team up on the Dory's grimy interior
 to make her ready for next paint coat.

As lunch concluded, some volunteers secured from lunch, and put away tools, rigging,, and trash. Laura, her Dad, Danny, and Mikell tackled the inside hull of the Dory, sanding, scuffing, and finally washing everything in preparation to painting her at the next Volunteer Day. 

The day was notable in a number of ways.. For first time ever in the ship's life, Volunteers laid aloft to conduct maintenance, a task usually reserved for paid crew.  With the increasing need for teamwork, safe line handling, and self-direction across a myriad of simultaneously ongoing tasks , Volunteers were exercising and demonstrating what they've learned in the way of taking care of the ship.  Not since last January had this ship experienced such a sense of purpose in the people aboard her...perhaps sensing that she once again had a real crew aboard.   I'm sure this crew of 8 aboard this Weekend had to sense the same thing.  Of all the 107 Volunteers currently in contact via the Coordinator's Master Contact list;  Here's hoping they take an opportunity to experience the same sense of being part of the Ship, here over the next few months. Volunteer Days will recommence on 5 December, with opportunities to lay in with the crew on weekdays, by confirming you're intent with the Volunteer Coordinator. 

A few more photo's are available on the Schooner's Volunteer photo album at the link above.

Aeralists Calvin, Philippe, and
Madison take in the unique views
while embracing the sawdust.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Introducing the Schooner Gig, "Charles S. Sneed"

Wednesday evening, Capt Dan Cleveland and your Volunteer Coordinator were invited over to the LowCountry Maritime Society, with a few other Charleston luminaries of the Wooden boat/tall ship world to get acquainted with a long-time secret of the Spirit of South Carolina story. (For more on the LMS, see their Facebook page link at bottom of the story)

This episode begins during the inception of the schooner's design and planning.

In 2002, as the keel for Spirit of South Carolina was being laid on the same grounds as her Pilot Schooner ancestor, Francis Elizabeth, off to the side another, smaller keel was being squared up and framed up.  This craft was envisioned to be commissioned as the schooner's "gig".  A pilot schooner typically carried one to two small boats capable of being rowed or sailed, as a means of transferring her pilots to and from their client vessels.  Originally intended as a larger version to match the scaled-up Spirit of South Carolina.  As her plans were being finalized, her creators concluded she would still be too small to fulfill her intended mission of educating and training youth, so they enlarged her size to 16 feet.  She would be propelled by three banks of oars, or a two-masted fore-and-aft sail rig. 

The same volunteer group and skilled shipwrights, using timbers and materials from the Spirit of South Carolina, fashioned her ribs, thwarts, spars and lap-strake hull.  On finishing, she was christened Charles S. Sneed, after the visionary-Co-Founder of the South Carolina Maritime Foundation who led the efforts to building the Schooner Spirit of South Carolina. 

But as far as we know she was never actually launched. 

 Now she has a chance, with our help.  The LowCountry Maritime School, under supervision of their Educator and Boatyard Manager, Rachel Bergquist is organizing a volunteer effort to refinish her, fit her out and make her ready for the water.  She's banking on volunteers willing to spend up to two hours at a time late Wednesday afternoons to lay in with her on the job. As an educator as well as project manager, Rachel is also a great teacher in marine woodworking skills, so you're in for some free advice, coaching, and instruction as well.  

The first Wednesday session is tentatively set for 2 December, at the LowCountry Maritime School Boatyard, on 1230 Pherigo Street, Mount Pleasant.. (Behind the Red Drum Restaurant.)    For some more information on LMS, See their FACEBOOK Page.

Stalwarts keep the maintenance momentum;

Saturday the 14th was a pretty fair day. clear skies, roll up your sleeves, maybe your pant's too,, still a bit breezy w/NE winds gusting across. Six Volunteers mustered.  Capt Dan opened the muster with an admonition about the current Covid flare-up, and to reinforce the ship's policy for social distancing.  Philippe Agofonovas brought along his drone to capture some aerial shots. See a few more on the Volunteer Photos Link.

 Danny Johnson and Mikell Evatt continued their canvas projects, putting final stitches into some custom tool bags, then switched over to sanding down the Dory hull fiberglass repair job, in prep for it's coat of white enamel. Gary Pope, and Calvin Milam set to work repairing the wind damage done to the wet varnish job from last weekend. Joe Gorman worked on restoring canvas sewing needles, salvaged from their rusting state.  Their lunch contribution sent  Hunter off to provision.  We were not to be disappointed. While some had to depart before lunch, meaning that much more for the rest of us.. and it was... Chicken Piccatta, Italian seasoned noodles and brussel sprouts.  After lunch, with a good walk thru of the deck to make sure we'd restored order to everything, and tools secured, remaining volunteers disembarked, leaving Bryan Oliver and Joe Gorman staring at the dory.  Why not? we thought.. So we broke out the roller and tip brush, stirred up a batch of super thick fast-setting marine enamel (gloss white), and set to work covering the entire hull exterior. To credit of the sanders and scuffers,, it was quite difficult to identify the repair job. 

Saturday, November 7, 2020

So Much for a Rainy Forecast; This Volunteer Day Turned out Pretty Productive

Alright-Alright-okay! Sure, the prediction was 40% chance of rain, which would kabosh some planned projects and force others under the awnings. So, what really happened?  Just look at the pic's.. clear skies.. albeit a growing 15-20 knot blast down the Wando, but otherwise a great day to be on the water, particularly on a schooner. Ten Volunteers mustered at 0900,, or thereabouts to take on five separate projects. Danny Johnson and Mikell Evatt, volunteered their nascent canvas repair skills to start up creating a couple of tool bags. John Whitsitt, and Carter Edwards took on the greasy task of processing a pile of rusted tools thru their vinegar bath, to an oil bath, then returning to storage. Layne Carver, took on coaching of Zach Smith in the proper application of Varnish to applying the 7th coating to the quarter caprails and taff rail. Joe Gorman took Adam Schaich along to finish up the rigging of a bosun's seat. And finally, after lunch, Volunteers  teamed up to trice up the jib, unbend the jumbo and and down/prep the head rig spars for some spot varnishing.

Philippe Agofonavas accompanied by faithful friend, Lulu, came on board shortly afterward, and joined Carter Edwards laying out on the head rig to set up the jib for tricing up, clearing it off the jibboom.
Adam Schaich comforts Lulu,
worrying about her master's footing out on the jibboom

Volunteer Crew taking well-deserved lunch break 

Meanwhile, taking contributions from the crew, Hunter hiked off to Harris Teeter to provision for lunch. The result was, a welcome Lunch break, Baked burritos en chile verde, with spanish rice and frijoles. 

On an emotional note, Today we sent off with a literal "Bon Voyage" our Volunteer, Carter Edwards, just finishing his training at the Naval Weapons School just up the Cooper River, and now reporting to his next assignment, a Virginia class Submarine based in Groton CT.

Bryan and Carter Edwards sharing a last task
 out on the head rig before Carter departs for Groton.

 He and his wife, Alex, both Annapolis Grads, and their six month old daughter will be heading north shortly, where he'll report aboard in mid November for a six month cruise.

Old Salt, Joe Gorman taking a critical look
 at the crew's work on the head rig.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

A Spirit of South Carolina Volunteer signs on for a month-long internship on "A.J. Meerwald"

For the past three weeks, one of our own, as sought out her own adventure, and signed on for a berth on New Jersey's official Tall Ship, the 1928 Schooner A.J. Meerwald. Check out her website at: A.J.Meerwald. Madison Pulley, who normally has driven down Saturdays from Greenville, learned of an opportunity to ship aboard as an intern. A.J. Meerwald is a Sailing School vessel converted from an Oyster-dredging schooner. As such, she's distinctively different from Spirit of South Carolina in both hull and rig. Madison attached a few pictures,, below. She's expected back on board here on November 14th, and looking forward to sharing her adventures up north.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

A visit by the Schooner Roseway, and Weekday projects by Volunteers.

Hopefully, volunteers at work on Saturday, and up til Tuesday, took the opportunity to visit SSV Roseway, an original historical schooner, with a reduced complement of students bound for St Croix. Roseway had been anchored near the north channel for a few days, but since Saturday had tied up at the fuel dock. She has a website: About Roseway Over the past week, Mikell Evatt and Adam Schaich found some time to spend a few hours during the week onboard.
Adam laid on coat #6 of Varnish over the cap rail, then spent some time on the deckhand's repertoire of knots. Mikell and Bryan teamed up for a 7th varnish coat on the quarter caprails, then started a vinegar bath for a small pile of rusting tools. Every little bit helps, and most of it, like the 24 volunteer-hours during the weekday, keeps the momentum going for the rest of us.

Combining maintenance and Deckhand skillbuilding

On Halloween Saturday, eight volunteers mustered at 0900, and immediately divided into separate projects. The brisk breezes canceled hopes of lifting volunteers aloft in bosun's seats to scrape the masts. Nevertheless, One team set up the varnishing station and began prepping the quarter cap rails and taff rail for another coat of Deks olje D2 varnish. The second group assembled around the foremast port pinrail. After months of maintenance projects requiring the moving of rigging from their assigned belaying pins, almost 32 different lines were currently belayed off in all numbers of disorganized spots. There job would be literally starting from scratch, armed only with the rigging principle of "running fair, and foremost rigging starts on port side", this team started matching individual running rigging lines with belaying pins. Starting portside Foremast, over the next three hours, volunteers moved from one belaying pin rail to the next; rerouted lines, moved lines from one belaying pin to another to improve leading fair. All the while, volunteers were polishing basic line-handling skills; belaying a line, making it fast, coiling, hanging,, tailing a line, sweating a line. Anyone who wanted the practice, got it. Meanwhile, Hunter was on foot to Harris Teeter with lunch contributions to provision for lunch. By 1240 he had handed up on deck for buffet, a pan full of roast chicken and rice pilaf, to spread over the salon butterfly hatch cover.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Buoyed by Good News, eleven Volunteers advance 5 different projects; Layne Carver Recognized for surpassing the 100 Volunteer Hours milestone.

 The good news was the Captain's announcement that funds had been found to begin the electronics and engine repairs necessary to enable Spirit of South Carolina to cast off the docks. Those projects would take weeks, at least, to complete, but it was a light at end of the tunnel that wasn't there the week before. Meanwhile there were piles of  off-season projects still to complete that would also lead to the schooner's ability to go to sea again. So, at 0900, Saturday morning, eleven Volunteers mustered amidships and divvied up the projects.  

Mike Evatt and Dan Maurin
 on the PDF lockers
Dan Maurin and Mike Evatt started in on finishing up fasteners and lids for the three PDF lockers currently stowed on the dock, then transitioning to tool inventory and reorganizing the tool lockers with help from Joe Gorman

  Calvin Milam and John Whitsitt tackled pans full of vinegar-soaking rusting tools, getting them cleaned off, then bathed in heavy oil.  Philippe Agafonovas organized selected implements for photos to post online for sale.  

Danny Johnson and daughter Laura, broke out scrapers, heat guns and sanding tools to take the remaining two scarfs of the starboard quarter cap rail down to wood, and prep them for initial coats of Deks Olje D1 sealant/preservative.  

Danny Johnson and Laura
taking down the starboard
quarter cap rail
Layne Carver, eyed some rust scale and flaking paint developing around the starboard main chainplates, and took charge of that project. Bryan Oliver met Adam Schaich from College of Charleston, at the gangway and took him on a tour/orientation of the vessel. 

 Spurred on by some appropriately maritime tunes off a media speaker, built an impressive work tempo, until screeching to a halt, when Hunter handed up from the galley a large hot serving pan of hot Mac 'n Cheese with Shrimp and Crab.  

As the crew finished up lunch, and scoured the pan of seconds, Bryan introduced Adam to the Volunteer crew, and recognized Layne Carver who drives up from Hilton Head, by the way, for his surpassing a 100 Volunteer Hour Milestone. Layne's time and skills benefitted Spirit of South Carolina for just over a year, included taking on some take-home wood refinishing projects, and a stint living on board while the schooner was in Shipyard at Thunderbolt last September.

Philippe, John, and Calvin
 sort thru old tools
As lunch completed and clean-up progressed, Bryan reorganized volunteers for one last push before ending the day. One team grabbed sanding blocks, mineral spirits and clean rags to finish up preparation of the starboard rail, following on with wiping two coats of D1 onto the finished raw Sapele wood surface.  On the port side quarter cap rail, Calvin and Adam tacked down the surface and applied it's first coat of D2 varnish.  

With those two tasks completed and tools stowed, this Volunteer crew could boast of over 55 Volunteer hours well-invested in advancing Spirit of South Carolina's progress to that day when she'll slip her lines again and bear off into the harbor.  Thanks to all hands who laid in on those projects that day. And special thanks to the Volunteers who have raised their hands to become "topmen", and go aloft for the next big project of renewing her masts.  Maybe next week.

Bryan Oliver presents Layne Carver
his "Foremast Volunteer" Pin on achieving 100 volunteer hours.
Joe Gorman in background.

Monday, October 19, 2020

A Chilly, Blustery Saturday couldn't slow down this Crew.

 On paper it seemed like an almost perfect day.  Sunny, and the summer heat was gone; If only it weren't  for that darned Nor'east Force 4-5 breeze blowing down the Wando. 13 Volunteers came aboard to lay into three projects.  

We mustered amidships at 0900 to get an earlier start.The plan was to lay down a coat of white paint on the port inside bulwark, re-secure the hinged lids on the three dockside PFD lockers, and start scraping down to wood, the last 3 scarves of the starboard caprail, and prep them for varnishing.  Then, clean up and transition to some docking drills. Somewhere in there, Hunter had volunteered to prepare a lunch for everyone.

The sharp breeze, steady at 15-20 knots threatened to derail the  painting project. Two of the more experienced volunteers, Jack Burton and Calvin Milam recommended switching from the planned use of paint rollers and trays, to brushes in order to minimize the risk of paint splatter blowing over the deck.  Bryan Oliver organized Volunteers across the three projects. The majority, Danny JohnsonMadison Pulley, Calvin Milam, Mikell Evatt, John Whitsitt, Dylan Outlaw, and friend Cameron Carsten, and Joe Gorman stretched out ground cloths under the bulwarks, broke out scrapers, brushes, and rags.  Bryan set up a paint/solvent station.  Dan Maurin grabbed tools and went ashore to tackle the PFD lockers. Kalev Kruuk and son, Riivo, selected a few scrapers, sander and several grits of sandpaper to start on one scarf of the starboard caprail.

By late morning, the Volunteer crew had completed the three projects. After cleaning up and stowing all tools and hardware, Volunteers mustered midships for an orientation led by Bryan, on the vessel's docking and undocking procedures, with requisite dockline handling, heaving lines, voice commands, and a couple of essential knots. Following the orientation, Volunteers took general positions to stand by, to take in dock lines #1 and #4.  Following voice commands, Volunteers on the dock slipped the lines from their piling or cleats, while Volunteers on deck took in each line  coiled and stowed them below decks.  After a short review of their work, everyone gathered round the butterfly hatch amidships where Chef Hunter had laid out pots with massive quantities of Spaghetti, huge meatballs, and some exotic chocolate wafers for dessert. 

After seconds had been called, and all kitchen utensils handed down to the Galley, Volunteers mustered one more time, this time to rehearse and execute a docking drill.  This required crew working together, to retrieve dock lines 1 and 4, stowed earlier, set them up properly with large bowlines, bend on a heaving line using a Highwaymen's Cutaway hitch, and toss the heaving line to the dock where a waiting Dock hand hauled the dock line over to the assigned piling or deck cleat. Volunteers then practiced the the techniques for managing dock lines thru a series of voice commands as if the vessel were being warped to the the dock, finally making them fast to a kevel or quarter bitt on the deck. With the schooner once again "safely docked" , the day's work was done. 

Monday, October 5, 2020

A Message in a Bottle-returned(a real-life sea story)

That's right, shipmate. It can happen.   What do you thing the chances are of throwing a message in a bottle overboard on the Atlantic Ocean, and having it recovered? Well, according to Capt Richard Bailey, who skippered Spirit of South Carolina from 2016-2018, about 50/50.   We tested that hypothesis, me and Tripp Seaman the 2d Mate; and, yeah,, I can say that we proved it.


May 10, 2017. In the North Atlantic,  38 degrees, 26 min North, 65 degrees, 2 min West;   

two days out of St. George's, Bermuda,  northbound to Boston. 

on the 2000 - to midnite watch.

After two straight days of rollicking squally weather, a high pressure systems settles over us, and the SW wind drops to  less than 3 knots.  A starry, moonless sky over head.We've been motor-sailing for 3 hours, sheets hauled in tight to keep the empty sails from flogging. I'm on Capt Bailey's watch, and we're about to hand it over to Tripp's watch at midnite.  Capt Bailey directs me to open the lazarette hatch in the cockpit deck, climb down and hand up a beat-up white igloo cooler stored somewhere below.  He opens it up to display a pile of empty rum bottles. As the our two watches come together, he offers each watch member the opportunity to pick out a bottle.  Tripp and I each pick out a bottle.   Capt Bailey's got several slips of paper in his hand and hands one out to the two of us, they're preprinted with the Ship's information.  We're directed to write our own "to who ever finds this bottle'. So I scribble something on my note, roll it up, and slip it into the bottle, along with a personal business card I scrounged out of my wallet. We cork or screw the tops back on the bottles, seal it with duct tape and with a mumbled benediction, ceremoniously heave our bottles way out off the  starboard quarter into the the black sea.  Tripp then takes charge of his watch, and I practice my sailor's walk along the weather rail all the way to the forecastle and climb into my bunk.  

So, what happened you ask?   FAST FORWARD 18 months.

For a visual of the rest of the story follow this link:  What Happened to the bottle?

Sunday, October 4, 2020

A tough crew takes on a tough job.. with teamwork and grit.

It was getting colder out on the harbor. The sunny skies belied the chill of the gusting winds whipping across the docks at 10-15 knots creating chop that constantly beat at the hull of Spirit of South Carolina, sending intermittent explosions of spray up over the rail. That morning, nine volunteers began mustering amidships. They had responded to the call for help by Capt Dan for a special job.  Spirit's rigid inflatable dinghy, had been tied at an inside slip of the Maritime Center, for the past two weeks. She needed to be motored back to the schooner's port (outboard) side, and hoisted aboard;  her bottom then scoured of the barnacles, pluff mud-grown scum and other sea life that had attached firmly to her rubber and aluminum undersides. It wasn't going to be pretty or pleasant. 

As Bryan  briefed the crew gathered under he foresail boom awning, their curiosity turned to resignation, then determination. No one had done this before, save probably Mike, a salty sea captain in his own right, mostly grinning thru Bryan's explanation of what needed to be done. You could see Nina's brow furrowing in curiosity, maybe a little bit of consternation. Down from Clemson, she was visiting family, and her Dad, Philippe had invited her down to the schooner for some father-daughter time. Now she was probably questioning what she had signed up for. Bryan droned on, in excruciating detail, describing the tasks the volunteer crew needed to perform.  Madison Pulley, coming from Greenville, was impatiently shifting from one foot to the other. Having previously endured 30-minute ship's history lectures from Bryan, she was anxious to get started on something,, anything.  Danny Johnson, meanwhile separated to gather up tools to finish up his own masterpiece on the dock, the Grand Gangway Staircase. 

The huddle broke and like clockwork, crew members started to work.  First they cleared the midships' deck of strewn cordage and tools, while four others derigged and rolled back the foresail boom awning to clear the working area. Meanwhile, Bryan, Mike, Jack and Gary derigged the starboard boat falls from the gangway, and passed them over the foresail boom to Madison and Anne on the port side, who rigged them up to receive the dinghy. 
 Bryan, Mike, and Nina hiked back down the dock to man the dinghy, cast off and motored out to the schooners outboard side where the crew stood by to take the painter from Mike while Nina steadied the bouncing dinghy against the side. , lower bow and stern falls to Bryan catching the dinghy's bow and stern's bridle. Once the dinghy crew climbed back aboard,  three crew took stations on bow and stern falls.  As they hauled away, Madison, Nina, and Anne, leaned over the rail pushing against the dinghy's side to keep her clear of the stanchions and lifelines as she came up. Once the dinghy was chin-high,  the boat falls were made fast to their pins. Crew circled the suspended dinghy to ease her inboard over the cleared deck; John and Jack rigged guy lines from the stanchions to the dinghy to prevent her from swinging further inboard. 

That was the fun part.  Now the work began;  that of scraping and scrubbing. While Madison brought up a bucket of sea water, Mike manned the fresh water hose and fixed a pressured spray over the dinghy's bottom to keep her wet. Bryan infused the bucket of sea water with a liberal amount of Simple Green degreaser. 
Grabbing putty knives, crew surrounded the bottom and began working inward, scraping off scores of baby barnacles, an occasional tiny crab and other marine flora. Next, crew traded out scrapers for bristle brushes,, dunking them in the salty simple green solution, they commenced to scrubbing.  Ever so slowly, the dinghy's bottom surface became visible, regaining some smoothness.  As  Mike hosed the bottom and rubber sides down, Capt Dan walked by, scrutinized the bottom, diplomatically pointed out a missed spot, and withdrew. Two crew members jumped on the missed spot.. and   we were ..almost.. done.
But first,, taking a break for a group celebratory photo.  Danny took Bryan's cell phone and hung out on the foremast shrouds,, over the water with Bryan's phone,, to take this great shot. Actually he took several. They 're available in the Volunteer Photo's link at the top.

The happy band of Scrapers and Scrubbers
  Front row; Anne, Crosby, Bryan Oliver
Standing: Madison Pulley, Jack Burton,John Whitsitt,
 Mikell Evatt, Nina Agafonovas, and her Dad, Philippe
Behind them in the white hat. Gary Pope
Break over, one final task; Hip the dinghy.  Crew took stations on boat falls and positions to push out the dinghy as they lowered her slowly back over the side to a position level with the caprail, where is normally secured for ready use.

It was a great volunteer day; in a few hours on a Saturday morning, the crew exercised about 10 deckhand skills, saw themselves develop into an effective team, and returned the dinghy to a shipshape status. 

And Danny finished the Grand Staircase.  We proudly invite you to come use them sometime soon.