S.C. flagship embarks on offshore voyage

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The tall ship Spirit of South Carolina got an early jump on the season, heading offshore on Valentine’s Day with a crew of 18 students ranging from 14 to 18 years.

The tall ship Spirit of South Carolina got an early jump on the season, heading offshore on Valentine’s Day with a crew of 18 students ranging from 14 to 18 years.

Launched 11 months earlier, the 140-foot wooden ship, modeled after a 19th century pilot schooner, was a fixture on CharlestonHarbor and Chesapeake Bay, putting in at numerous ports. Capt. Tony Arrow leads the nine-person professional crew.

Educational programs began on board last October, focusing on sail-training as well as incorporating history, math, science and literature through a nautical prism. More than 1,000 students participated.

The young sailors kicking off the 2008 season were participating in a cooperative project between the South Carolina Maritime Foundation and Ashley Hall, an independent preparatory school for girls.

“We’re excited because this project will be a test bed for dozens more long-term student voyages,” says Brad Van Liew, Executive Director of the South Carolina Maritime Foundation. “The curriculum devised for this 10-day trip will focus on freedom, self-sacrifice, thought, action, and leadership.”

Jill Muti, head of the Ashley Hall called the leadership project “the ultimate experimental learning” experience for students.

“It starts by removing their familiar environment, and then presents daily challenges that will test their abilities to adapt, think on their feet and perform precise, coordinated actions: just the kind of crucible in which leadership and confidence are forged,” she says.

The students are required to stand watch in four-hour shifts, which involves steering, taking bearings, observing weather and making regular on and below-deck equipment checks. Each student also was to serve a number of stints in the galley preparing meals and cleaning up.

Responsibilities also entailed making entries in the ship’s log, collecting data pertaining to sea surface temperatures, salinity, air temperatures, cloud formations, sea height and direction and wind direction. Lessons in celestial navigation, practical navigation, journal writing, weather, ocean currents and history were incorporated.

The ship was expected to stop in Freeport, Bahamas, with a return sail to Charleston expected to arrive Feb. 24.

The students had been preparing for the voyage since August, when they were selected through an essay contest. In addition to their regular studies, the students attended bi-weekly classes on special topics, as well as supplemental physical education classes.

This summer, the Spirit of South Carolina will sail with a teen-age crew on a 14-day expedition to explore coastal New England and the Gulf of Maine. Call (864) 878-1041 http://spiritoceanadventure.com