Sea Cadet Training

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The U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps and Sailing Ships Maine share a common commitment to empowering youth by fostering their leadership abilities and self confidence through hands-on training in seagoing skills. 

Cadets from the U.S. Coast Guard Group Portland Division and NCB39 BN came aboard for a training sail that happened to coincide with the passing of the remnants of Hurricane Dorian offshore. To ensure a safe journey, Captain Bailey delayed the departure until Saturday morning. Nonetheless, the sail down east to South Harpswell found several cadets experiencing seasickness for the first time. 

The anchorage provided a peaceful evening for experiencing night watches, however, as well as for practicing fire and man overboard drills and navigational training. Cadets, ranging from ages 13 to 17, worked at their seagoing skills by setting and striking sails, dropping and raising anchor, and less glamorous chores, such as swabbing the deck, cleaning the head, and serving on KP duty. 

The cadets impressed the Harvey Gamage crew with their hard work and eagerness to follow instruction. They were an amazing youth group and Sailing Ships Maine looks forward to their return!

Volunteer Appreciation Sail

In appreciation for all of the hard work that Sailing Ships Maine volunteers have contributed to our operations this year, the Harvey Gamage crew provided the opportunity for a volunteer appreciation sail and reception aboard the beloved schooner. 

Blue skies and a late summer sun greeted the volunteers as they boarded the schooner and began to enjoy refreshments. As the ship left Portland Harbor, however, she slipped into a thick sea fog that rolled in as sunset neared. With the help of GPS, Captain Bailey and the crew kept the sail on course through the thickening gloom. 

Not only did volunteers enjoy each other’s company and make new friends, but they were delighted by the ghostly appearance of other schooners as they emerged from the fog.

Thank you to all of our generous volunteers who make our mission possible! Please contact us if you are interested in opportunities to help our organization and support education at sea for Maine teens!

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Birdwatching Cruise

Binoculars were up and calls of “sighting!” were plentiful as a cadre of ten birdwatchers set sail out of Rockland on the Harvey Gamage for a weekend birdwatching cruise with Biodiversity Research Institute (BRI). 

This three-day sail offered glimpses of 35 bird species, several marine mammals, and an ocean sunfish sighting!

When they weren’t birdwatching with guidance from BRI's seabird expert Dr. Iain Stenhouse, participants sketched or wrote in their field journals. Anchorages near Isle au Haut and Matinicus Rock provided shelter for the preparation of some delicious meals.

We look forward to continuing the partnership next year.

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Maine educators plan tall ship voyages May - October 2019

Educators from several schools have signed on to sail the Maine coast this summer with Tall Ships Maine. Sailing from Portland on board Schooner Harvey Gamage, the educators are busy recruiting students and faculty members to stand watch, navigate, steer, sleep, eat and learn leadership skills on board. Faculty from the schools will go along to get their own educations at sea. The ship has 9 professional crew in addition to the sail trainees. For more information, see here.

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Ia verdad bell in custody of El Galeon. . . For now

Feature Story By Ben Heselton-Clements

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For the past year and a half the Spanish replica ship El Galeon has been sailing around the world with an extra piece of cargo: a heavy brass bell from the doomed ship La Verdad, which sank off Bermuda in 1899. Someone, perhaps a survivor of the shallow-water wreck, salvaged the ship's bell which ultimately was brought to America and purchased in 1979 in an antique shop by Thomas Cox then of Peaks Island, Maine.

Tom Cox is an ocean sailor, attorney expert in consumer and banking laws and still lives here in Maine. Inspired by the bell, he did some research on the history of La Verdad and decided to return it to where it belongs, the Canary Islands port of La Palma where La Verdad was launched in 1875. He contacted a tour guide in La Palma, part of the Canary Islands and the dry dock port for La Verdad and for a year and a half they emailed back and forth. The tour guide, Sheila Crosby, told him the Naval Museum in La Palma was interested in the bell. Fittingly, the process of returning the artifact to its homeland is happening at 19th century trade-route pace: Tom wrote to Sheila:

"The ship's bell from La Verdad may eventually reach Santa Cruz de La Palma aboard the Spanish vessel GALEON ANDALUSIA. That vessel is in Portland, Maine now (at the time Tom wrote, the ship was in Portland as part of the 2016 Tall Ships® Weekend) but we hope that it will eventually reach your city and that the crew will deliver the bell to the Naval Museum. It may take a year or two." That was in summer of 2016.

Fast forward to winter 2018. The delivery goes on. As of December 5th, El Galeon and her special cargo were touring Spain. But you can’t just set sail for an island chain hundreds of miles away – there are schedules to keep and sailing can be really slow. So now, given the amazing news that El Galeon has given birth to a sister ship, Nao Santa Maria, it may be the sistership that ultimately returns the bell to La Palma. Noa Santa Maria is still under construction in Spain. Under the latest plan, the bell will be transferred from El Galeon to Nao Santa Maria prior to the latter’s January 15th, 2018 launch and will be enroute to America via La Palma this spring. All this, it should be noted, is being watched carefully by Tom Cox, the crews of two ships and the residents of the Canary Islands.

This journey of the bell from Tom Cox’s house, where he had considered using it for a doorbell, to Spain and finally, in a few months time, La Palma, resonates with me. It’s almost a reenactment of the 15th century Spanish trade routes, when the original El Galeon and Santa Maria were the most advanced commercial vessels of all time. To gift someone a bell was an intractable, unpredictable process involving good will and luck and long waiting periods that are a relief in the modern world. Imagine Amazon delivering a package “in a year or two.”

The bell is an interesting story, and the transportation of the bell by replica sailing ships is equally moving. Congratulations to everyone involved, La Verdad’s bell is almost home.