Saturday, November 5, 2011

Voyages of Discovery - Field Trip 11.04.11

Fri was an exciting, albeit cold, field trip. One that I was particularly looking forward to as I had never been on a sailing ship like that before.

Noone could doubt the chill in the air as we all stood there shivering in our sweatshirts and coats, shifting our weight from one foot to the other in a lame attempt to get warm. Our breath was so heavy with vapor it looked like we were all smoking.... not!

Once gathered, the young man from the ship began organizing us into 3 rows; alpha watch, beta watch and Charley watch. Each watch would begin at a different station. As I watched this young man perform his duties I noticed he was no longer a mother's son, meaning in my mind that he was on his own, his mother no longer caring for his every need. This, in part was extrapolated from the little clues; he wore two different socks and was a little disheveled. I discerned that he may be one of the crew mates so I engaged him in conversation.

It turns out my hunch was right. He had been on the Hawaiian Chieftain for  7 months and soon would be transferring to a ship up north coming out of Puget Sound. His first contact with the ship had been when it had come to his home town. He came aboard for the at sea tour, liked what he saw, sold all he had, and stayed; with no regrets. He said all he owned fit into a backpack.
I think I was expecting a larger ship, not sure why, just my own flighty imagination, stirred by Hollywood movies I guess. Although it was not as large as I expected it was a fascinating replica, beautifully constructed.
We were welcomed on board by a man I originally thought was the captain. I later found out that he was not. The captain was indeed on board, but down below decks and we never saw him.
This gentleman had worked on board on and off over the past 3 years. This tour he had been on board for about 2 months.
A bronze placard was mounted just below deck giving a brief history of the ship.
Our first station was to learn about trade. The catalyst for the treacherous undertaking of the long voyages.
Where did they sail? Why did they sail? How did they get there? What was it they wanted so badly as to risk their own lives?

China was a primary destination. It offered tea, and silk; commodities unavailable or hard to get elsewhere. The Chinese in return wanted otter pelts. An interesting fact that surprised me was that the sea otters were originally trapped were over 6 feet long!!! I had no idea they could get that big! Another fact she mention was that they had over 1,000,000 otter fur hairs per sq inch! That was such an astronomical number I had to Google it to be sure and yes that was correct.

Below is a link for more Sea Otter information:
Sea Otters

Tea was shipped in brick form. One brick could make 5,000 cups of tea and was valued at an entire years wages for the sailor.
I loved looking at the rigging!
Our next station was at the front of the ship.
This young man gave insight to the vast separation between officer and sailor. Officers were lettered and skilled in numbers. At times mutinies would occur, the officers killed and the sailors stuck out on the ocean with no knowledge of how to navigate the ship back to a port.

In this photo he is holding a compass. It was the most intriguing compass I have ever seen. I would love to have one.
I would not have hazard a guess to the use of this tool, but was surprised to learn it was how sailors of old calculated their speed and distance.

At various points knots are tied in the line, the line is wound upon the spool and the wooden padle is attached. To measure speed the paddle is dropped into the water. After a given amount of time the line was reeled back in and the knots counted. The number then determined the nautical speed and the miles covered. This of course would lead to a discrepancy in the actual accuracy so in 1954 a standard nautical mile was established; 1,853 meters.
This too was an instrument I would have like to touch and possibly own; a sextant. Extremely valuable for navigation. the sextant is an optical instrument used in navigation. They measure the angle of celestial bodies above the horizon from the observer's position. Knowing the angular elevation of a known star, and the exact time, one can calculate the latitude position of the observer.

Before moving on to the next station I took a moment to snap a few shots around the ship.
I was fascinated with the rigging and lashings so therefore there are several snapshots of them.
The ships compass was a beautiful instrument.

Pulleys were used everywhere. A necessity to raise the sails.
I doubt this could fire, but what old sailing vessel could not have one? 
Footnote: BJ has informed me this cannon does fire and is used occasionally during sailing competitions or shows.

The steering wheel was large,an exquisite example of woodwork. (Wood is so warm, vibrant, almost alive when cared for properly)

Ropes were everywhere on the vessel. Each one wound neatly onto its peg.
Interesting to note; each crew member was dressed in period style clothing, each different and obviously worn not just for us to see, but was worn every day they worked on the boat as evidenced by the wear, the stains. All making a more authentic experience. This mate had the laced up vest to allow for more freedom of movement. I noticed several mates with harness rigging. I assume for safety reasons.

Our last station educated us on how the sailors sustained themselves. Taught by the mate above, who I found to be very much into his role. He hailed from Switzerland, but I waited too long and did not find out how he came about to be on the Hawaiian Chieftain.
After learning about what the sailors had to eat I have one word to describe it; YUCK!

The white chunks are hard tack. A bread that lives up to its name. He said it was almost non-perishable.
The darker chunks were salted meat. So salty and so hard it could not be eaten as is.
Sailors would determine how much salted meat and hard was need for the day and place it in a bag. Since fresh water was limited, the bag was tossed over the back end of the ship and dragged through the ocean all day to soften it and remove much of the salt from the meat.
Mmmmm, tasty especially swallowed down with stale water. No wonder many sailors drank. They needed something to wash the taste away.

What was interesting is the fact that the very food I just scoffed was one of the reasons many sailors joined a crew. It may not have been the tastiest meal, but when they signed on they were promised 4 meals a day at a time many of them were hard pressed to have one meal a day.

(Changes your outlook on hard tack and salty meat a little, ehh?)
Being out to sea meant no Home Depot or Walmart to replace worn out rope, so sailors had to be skilled at rope repair. These were examples of splicing rope. You would think it would not be as strong where it had worn through once but it actually seemed to be stronger.
Our last mate to guide us.

This was a GREAT and educational Field trip!
Thank you Dani!

The very loud and obnoxious bells and sirens are from the tower bridge. It looked like bridge personnel were testing the bridge by raising and lowering it. The bells and sirens were to warn street traffic.
Timing for us was bad. It was really loud standing on the deck of the ship.

The topsail ketch Hawaiian Chieftain is in port through December 15 to welcome guests and students in Sacramento as it focuses on helping young people understand the amazing maritime history of California and the west coast. The two-masted sailing ship is tied up at Old Sacramento, Front and L Streets.

The programs feature a number of on-board stations focused on navigation, basic oceanography, and the lives of 18th century mariners.

The Hawaiian Chieftain will also open for walk-on tours to the general public. Most tours are scheduled for Tuesday through Friday, 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. A $3 donation per person is appreciated.

The topsail ketch Hawaiian Chieftain is a replica of a typical European merchant trader of the turn of the nineteenth century. Her hull shape and rigging are similar to those of Spanish explorer's ships used in the expeditions of the late 18th century along the Washington, Oregon, and California coasts.

Built of steel in Hawaii in 1988 and originally designed for cargo trade among the Hawaiian Islands, Hawaiian Chieftain's design was influenced by the early colonial passenger and coastal packets that traded among Atlantic coastal cities and towns.

The coastal packet service was part of the coasting trade based on mercantile activity of the developing seaboard towns. The early packet ships were regular traders and were selected because they sailed remarkably well and could enter small ports with their shallow draft. Out of the gradual development of the Atlantic packet ship hull form came the ship design practices that helped produce some of the best of the clipper ships of the later 1850s.

Purchased in 2004 by the Grays Harbor Historical Seaport Authority, the Hawaiian Chieftain joins the Lady Washington, the Official Ship of the State of Washington, in educational cruises and ambassadorial visits along the west coast throughout the year. Hawaiian Chieftain also makes solo port visits as a sail training and education vessel.

No sailing programs for the general public are scheduled. The ship will be closed Thanksgiving Day.

For more information, this is the website.
Voyages of Discovery

 If you scroll to the bottom there are several links to PDF files. The link for the Pre-Visit packet takes you to a wealth of information. Within the 64 pages you will find the History behind the ships, the lives of officers and sailors, a recipe for the hard they ate, a dictionary of terms and many other interesting tidbits to flesh out your experience.

There is also a link to a pdf file filled with sailor songs. We took the dockside tour and did not have the opportunity to learn any of them, but it was still fun to download the packet and peruse the songs. :)

Something I thought was a valuable tool for educators were the 2 different pdf file; one for California, the other for Washington. Each provided information on how the tour fulled each states educational requirements
for different grades. It was a guideline on what to focus on when you go over with children what they saw and learned.

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