Below are two reflective pieces written by trainees from OHP's Aquidneck Island Schools Voyage. From June 2 to June 11, trainees from Newport sailed from Philadelphia, PA to Newport, RI.
by Alexa O’Connor
The Oliver Hazard Perry was an amazing journey that I will never be able to forget, not to sound too cliché. We sailed from Philadelphia to Newport. There were three schools that were on that ship Rogers High, Portsmouth High and The Met high school. I am from The Met. When all of us first saw the ship we thought the ship was huge! We were first greeted by this man called Vincent, a funny guy who we would soon learn loved poetry.
We all stood there nervous and excited for the start of our voyage. We all were assigned to our bunks and then told to muster up in the great cabin which the term muster means to gather. As I’m making my bunk and putting my stuff in my locker I couldn’t help but daydream of the amazing things I would get to do. When we mustered in the great cabin I could tell the kids seemed nice and friendly which I was thankful for.
We were explained our watches and chores, what part each of the crew played, and how the boat is run. The watches were separated into port and starboard watches. Then split into mini watches A, B, C and we were all given a number so when we counted off we would say that number to make sure no one was overboard.
I was port watch, letter C and number 18. In these watches we would work with our watch-mates, eat with our watchmates, and have fun with our watch mates. We would have fun with everyone together, but we would work with our watch mates the closest. During this voyage we essentially became a family and a team, when set sailing or hauling lines we did it as a team.
We got to learn what a boat check was and actually check the ship which is checking main parts of the ship to make nothing is leaking, flooding or on fire. We also learned things like the back of the ship is called the quarter-deck, the middle of the ship is called midship, and the front of the ship is called the bow.
We learned some emergency drills like man overboard, abandon ship, and some fire drills. During all this, we were still docked and I just wished we would set sail so we could begin our journey. We also had classes which we would learn about the history of sailing and sing some, for example, one was called strike the bell! “Strike the bell, second mate let us go below look away to windward you can see it’s going to blow look at the glass you can see that is fell we wish you would hurry up and strike, strike the bell!” The shanty is about hoping the person taking over the next watch hurries up so that the person on watch can rest.
We did aloft training which is going aloft and climbing the nets you see on the ship and going to the very top. It was super scary and I surprised myself by not chickening out. I also learned some different knots and learned how to harpoon and coil rope on the ship. When we finally set sail it was amazing being in the open ocean and seeing the clear water.
When we were out in the open water I got to see a whale. It was amazing! During this trip, we did a lot of chores like washing dishes in the galley which is the kitchen. Mopping the library, Bosun’s lockers which is where they keep the cleaning supplies, laundry, tools they need and the heads which are the bathrooms. Cleaning the heads were my least favorite chore.
Polishing the brass bell that we rang anytime we anchored was my favorite. Although the chores were a lot more fun because I got to do it with my mates and they always made me laugh while doing the chores. I will mention how the food was amazing and so was meeting all the crew.
Whether it was the cook teaching me on how to make dough from scratch or the second mate teaching me to take the bearings the whole crew taught me some much stuff and they were all amazing and passionate about what they do. Working with my mates was amazing too, we really came together as a team and family and came together as a crew. I learned so much on this trip and has encouraged me to continue sailing and the experiences and friends I have made will always be with me. Yes, that was very cliche of me.
by Marianna May
Today’s high school students are constantly exposed to technology, whether it’s in their classes, their homes, or any other place where there’s an outlet to plug a charger into. However, while I was on the Oliver Hazard Perry, I completely forgot about what was going on at shore and became fully immersed in tall ship life. On the first day of the voyage, the program manager (Vincent) asked us to give our phones to the assistant engineer (James). James put the phones into a Ziploc bag and stored them in a cabinet somewhere. In no time I was busy with orientation on the boat that I didn’t worry how I was going to pass the time without my phone. And while we were at sea the list of things that needed to be done during our watches seemed to go on and on. They took our phones I liked that a lot.
The watch schedule was set up with three watches, A watch, B watch, and C watch; each with an even number of trainees in them. They ran 24 hours a day and were staggered so the trainees wouldn’t have the same watch at the same time everyday. I was on B watch and my personal favorite times for watches were the sunset and sunrise ones. During the day watches trainees learned how to take the helm and relieve it, meaning they were taught how to drive the boat and how to change the person to a different one. We were taught how to be on bow watch; how to look out for boats, buoys, or debris in the water, and how to report it to the watch captain, as well as boat checks and housekeeping chores. Taking the helm was quite the task, and honestly my least favorite part of being on watch. The helmsperson was given a set course and they had to follow it; I got off course quite often, but was able to get back on course quickly enough.
During the day we also went aloft, up onto the mast and yards. In my opinion this was one of the best parts of the trip. I went aloft every chance I got and went up as far as the pro crew members were taking trainees. On the OHP you had to wear a harness and clip into the fall-arrest wire on the yard. Once we were up and situated on the yard, we’d either set the sails by untying the gaskets, or we’d strike the sails by pulling them up and looping the gaskets around the sails. Many of the trainees went aloft, but a few didn’t go. For me, being up aloft and looking out to the horizon was the best part. Just seeing endless water and feeling the sea breeze on my face made me not want to get off the boat. Looking down on the deck I could watch all the activity happening there; trainees waiting to go aloft and feel the same sea breeze on their faces that was on my face; other trainees awaiting orders to haul on whichever line; and pro crew members making sure everything was happening like it was supposed to.
Everyday, we had an hour of homework and a lesson. During the lesson we read poems, sang shanties, journaled, drew, and learned about life when square-rigger ships were used for whaling and fishing. I kept a daily journal and in it I kept track of my watch times, what the weather was that day, what we did during the watches, day, and during the lesson, drew a few things, and I also wrote a poem.
Those ten days were the best ten days of my freshman year. I one hundred percent recommend taking this voyage if it is offered at your high school this coming year. Even if you’re on the fence about going, take that opportunity. I thought that this was such an awakening experience because I got off the ship with a new work ethic and appreciation for the sea and other communities. I know that if I get another opportunity for this trip then I am definitely taking it.