Schooner Virginia: classroom under sail

Virginia, the official tall ship and youth sail training vessel of the Commonwealth of Virginia, slices through the waters of Long Island Sound off New London, Conn.

“I run a traditional ship and I use traditional commands,” said Capt. Hank Moseley aboard the 126-foot schooner Virginia, the Commonwealth of Virginia’s official tall ship and youth sail training vessel.

Capt. Hank Moseley gives the crew a thorough safety and vessel-handling talk in preparation for the arrival of students. The vessel has a crew of 10 and can carry up to 16 students.

For a full hour and a half, Moseley conducted a safety and ship handling review for the fresh crew aboard the schooner, moored at the Custom House Wharf in New London, Conn., where it had spent the weekend of July 11-13 participating in the city’s annual Sailfest.

Moseley at the helm of the 126-foot vessel.

Virginia, which is owned by the Virginia Maritime Heritage Foundation in Norfolk, is a replica of the Virginia pilot schooner that worked Chesapeake Bay from 1917 to 1926. The vessel is a two-masted gaff-topsail knockabout, a type of schooner whose deck extends over the bow in place of the traditional bowsprit. The design was developed to prevent crewmembers from being washed off the bowsprit when furling sails in heavy weather.

Typically Virginia spends the sailing season operating out of Portland, Maine, offering seven-day training cruises for up to 16 students ages 13 to 17. The foundation offers several scholarships and works closely with Junior ROTC programs, ensuring a mix of students from a variety of backgrounds.

Above, Emily Worth, the cook, points to the man overboard during a safety drill. 

Below, deck hand Autumn Taphorn and Chief Mate David Gunn return to Virginia in the rescue boat following the drill.

Moseley’s review for the vessel’s professional crew designated clear and detailed responsibilities and duties pertaining to fire, man overboard, working aloft and general safety procedures. He explained the meaning and action to take in response to traditional commands such as “sweating the line,” “that’s well,” “up from behind” and “avast,” which means stop or cease. Later, while under way, he put the crew of 10 through rigorous drills and critiques designed to help them teach the procedures to the students who were arriving the next day. The crewmembers have a range of experience in the U.S. tall ship fleet.

“We use the ship as a tool to teach teamwork and responsibility, as well as some maritime history, literature and science,” Moseley said. “Our real goal is to put students in an environment where they have to work together away from the video games, etc., keep them busy, and see that they have a good time.”

Left, Chief Engineer John Pickering hauling a line on the replica of a Chesapeake Bay pilot boat that operated from 1917 until 1926. Right, Emily Worth making  cookies in the ship?s galley.

“We, as professional mariners, have a responsibility to pass information on correctly,” he said. “And here we use the right terminology.”

By Professional Mariner Staff