Tall Ships sail in with history lessons, mock battles
by Trish Clenney Brown
Jan 16, 2008 | 1179 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
For a real-life history lesson "“ a chance to experience what sea travel was like for people in the 18th century "“ residents can visit some tall ships at the Kona Kai Marina this week when two such vessels sail into San Diego. The brigantine Lady Washington and her companion ship, the topsail ketch Hawaiian Chieftain, tie up on Shelter Island through Jan. 21, giving visitors not only a glimpse of history but also the thrill of mock sea battles.

Both ships are home-ported in Aberdeen, Wash., and are owned and operated by the nonprofit Grays Harbor Historical Seaport Authority.

Lady Washington is famous for her role as the HMS Interceptor in the movie "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl." Lady Washington is a replica built in 1989.

Hawaiian Chieftain, built in 1988, is an interpretation of what such a Hawaiian trading packet would have looked like in the 18th century.

The eight-day stopover will include public tours, mock sea battles and adventure sails.  The public can ride along on one of the three-hour mock battle sails "” with cannons booming "” on Jan. 19, 20, and 21, from 2 to 5 p.m. each day. Tickets are $60 for adults, $50 for seniors, students and active military, and $45 for children under 12.

In addition to the public sailings, both ships will host dockside tours at Kona Kai Marina.  Tours take place on Jan. 17 and 18 from 4 to 5 p.m., and on Jan. 19 and 21 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. for a donation of $3.

Among the school children participating in maritime heritage programs during the ships' visit will be fourth-graders from Sacred Heart Academy in Ocean Beach. Students will gain hands-on knowledge of traditional maritime skills such as weighing anchor, raising sails and singing sea chanties. Programs are taught by trained crew members in 18th-century costume aboard the vessels.

"It really connects to the curriculum we study in school, such as how San Diego was discovered by Cabrillo's sailing into San Diego Bay," said Drew Cohick, fourth-grade teacher at Sacred Heart. "I think that's just a really powerful lesson for kids to be able to experience. They're on the ship, there's no electricity, it's very traditional, they're working the ropes, the rigging. They learn all the terminology. They learn how 17th and 18th century navigators actually navigated the sea.

"In my fourth-grade class we read several books such as "˜Treasure Island,' "˜Robinson Crusoe' and "˜Gulliver's Travels' "“ all of which talk about these sailing ships. I think it's a mythical lure to the kids who don't really have a good grasp of how they navigated across these vast oceans on these slow-moving ships."

Cohick compares that mode of transportation with today's air travel, with which students are certainly more familiar. With air travel, destinations are easily reached in a matter of hours, but the kids' experience aboard the tall ship helps them realize what it was like for sailors to spend weeks or months aboard ship, often in severe weather and with a sparse supply of food.

"One of the strongest impressions is while the kids are out there, they can stop and listen "“ and you don't hear anything but the creaking of the ropes and the ship gently swaying," Cohick says. "I think this is a powerful lesson."

He points out to his students that the people who sailed on these ships were much like today's space travelers "” going out into the unknown, but in those days without NASA, with little to guide them except for the sun and clocks for navigation.

"It's a wonderful perspective on how far we've come," Cohick said.

For tickets and information, call (800) 200-5239.
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