Operation Sail 1986 — excerpts from the Log

Monday, July 6, 2015

The following is based on a young Hudsonian’s entries in the Eleanor’s Log
on his first sailing adventure.  One of the big goals of this restoration is to get Eleanor
back into the water so that she can provide young and old their first sailing experiences.
Sailing is more than just feeling the wind in your hair.
It is communication, understanding teamwork, building confidence,
experiencing something new and developing character.
These are the deeper and more lasting aspects of sailing.
Truly.

opsail 86Saturday:  I am not sure how I came to be on the crew for the trip to New York City for the Operation Sail Parade. Except maybe because my parents thought it would be a good experience for me, a fourteen year old boy, and they knew the Captain. I was promised an adventure. I had never been out sailing. I signed on to be crew with the promise from the Captain to my parents that he would look after me.

One week later, on June 28 at 1:20, just after four hours on the Eleanor, the tiller was in my hand.

“Steered Eleanor. Moved the tiller to the left to go right, and to the right to go left. Kept her on course as the Captain instructed.”
Good wind from the north. Sailed Eleanor past Hogs Back.”

As I passed the tiller to the next person, I felt pretty accomplished and satisfied. I felt good about being a member, a real member of the crew as we were called. Everybody took turns on the tiller and after that everybody had to write in the log book about their turn. Everybody took turns doing everything: cooking, sailing, navigating, main sheet, lookout, and resting. During rest time, I went up on the starboard side. I learned that is the right side facing forward and sat on the cabin deck and played the harmonica to entertain the crew. The captain liked that and he said it kept the wind coming.

“Took a place for sleeping on Eleanor.”

I took the cockpit floor. I had a mat and a sleeping bag. The other crew members had places – stern deck, cabin deck, bow, and the Captain slept down below on a bunk. It really wasn’t down below. You just had to get down low to go into the cabin.

“Slept very well under the stars with the gentle rocking of Eleanor. Up at 5:40 a.m. with change of tide.”

On board Eleanor I experienced everything from being becalmed to sailing in gale winds. On the day of the gale winds, I learned how to work as a team, and I mean TEAM with capital letters. The Captain had to give some orders which I learned had to be followed immediately if we wanted to survive. The wind came in gale force. I didn’t know what a gale force wind was, but it didn’t matter to me. This was terrifying. It was my turn on the main sheet which meant I was the person who would keep us from capsizing, but also keep us moving ahead which is very important for lots of reasons. Terror struck my heart. But, I felt and believed I could do this. I had learned the day before that we were all crew and someone would help me if I needed help. I had to slack the main sheet when the order was called, ‘slack the main sheet’, and ‘hold the main sheet’ when I had to instantly stop slacking the main sheet. Then I had to haul in on the main sheet when the order was called to haul in on the main sheet. To haul in on the main sheet I had to stand up and face the stern and haul in with all my might. Sometimes another crew member would have to help me because the wind was terrific and the sail was over 600 square feet. The waves were called rollers, and they were huge and we had to work our way through the troughs. The boat tipped or heeled over, the water came over the deck and the rail was under at times. This was an adventure . .  a terrifying adventure. Once, the main sheet ran through my hands and burned them pretty badly. I learned not to let that happen. I learned about communicating on a boat and maybe even not only on a boat, maybe anytime. When an order is given, like  ‘slack the main sheet’, the person giving the order may not have time to look around and see if the order has been carried out. So, a person responds, ‘slacking the main sheet’.. Or ‘let go the anchor’. ‘Letting go the anchor’ would be the response. That’s really important – to answer like that.

“Newburgh Yacht Club is a sailors dream. I am a sailor now.”

The yacht club is hard to get into by sail. Did I mention we do not have a motor? Anyway, after going aground at the narrow entrance to the yacht club (going aground is when everybody scrambles for poles from down below and pushes off) we tied up at the dock and everybody breathed a sigh of relief.

Newburgh has a restaurant, real toilets, and a swimming pool. As one of our men crew member called it . . . a stop with three s’s:  shit, shower and shave. On the Eleanor we did have fresh water for ‘washing up’ with and for brushing our teeth, and we did have one of those boat toilets, but it wasn’t like the real thing.

“Captain treated me to a nice steak dinner. Great time in the pool.”

littlestonypointPhoto by Russ Cusick, Little Stoney Point Citizens Association

Monday:

“Settling in to my adventure.

“Yours truly at the helm. Took the tiller while going around Little Stoney Point. Sailed past enthusiastic fan high up on the mountain side.”

Setting the SpinnakerThe Coast Guard charged passed us with their motors turned up to full speed causing white caps on the water. We were sailing with the wind and our spinnaker was up so as their wake hit us everything rocked and rolled high in the air. One of our crew strongly reprimanded the speeders.

“Took us neatly around Constitution Island through Worlds End. River changes direction here. Changed tacks to get the wind and head on south past West Point.”

“Slept south of Tarrytown Bridge in the river. Threw lead line to figure how deep we were. Eleanor rocked a little bit. Stars bright and clear. Another great day of sailing.”

Tuesday:

Took tiller at 9:30 a.m. with a southerly wind. Vanquished three boats and gave the tiller over at the George Washington Bridge at 10:15 a.m. New York and the tall ships in the distance.”

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