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Published: Monday, 7/14/2003

Teenage trainees sail over hard work

BY TAHREE LANE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
A tourist on the Bounty watches Luke Elliott, top, and Mitchell Bandklayder practice climbing the rigging on their second day of training. The ship was in Fairport, Ohio. A tourist on the Bounty watches Luke Elliott, top, and Mitchell Bandklayder practice climbing the rigging on their second day of training. The ship was in Fairport, Ohio.
KING / BLADE Enlarge

FAIRPORT HARBOR, Ohio - For Tall Ship trainees, the lessons are legion.

For starters, they will learn to tie dozens of knots and to keep three points of their body in contact with the rigging whenever climbing.

But sheer joy is being under sail.

Luke Elliott, 15, could not wait for the HMS Bounty to set sail from its stop earlier this month at this northeastern Ohio port.

“Climbing [the rigging] while we're under way. Just for the rush,” said Luke, who has come from suburban Washington to spend six weeks plying lakes Erie, Huron, and Michigan on the Bounty.

For a seasoned skipper such as Robin Walbridge, 54, the lessons fit into in a larger context.

“Sailing is only a fringe benefit. That's like the bonus part of the program,” Mr. Walbridge said. “What they really get out of it is learning about themselves. To be stuck on a boat this size with 25 or 30 others, you have to learn to deal with yourself as well as with other people.”

Like many of the Tall Ships that will grace Toledo this week, the 190-foot Bounty has a mix of professional crew and trainees or guest passengers, who sign on for a few-day leg or an entire summer. Fees are about $100 to $150 a day and help support the vessels, which are often owned by foundations or individuals who want to preserve a piece of maritime history.

Mr. Walbridge has captained ships for decades, including nine years at the helm of the lumbering Bounty, built in Nova Scotia for the 1962 movie, Mutiny on the Bounty.

“This, to me, is honest work,” he said. “The biggest thing I really like about this is when you're out at sea and Mother Nature wants to test you. She doesn't care what color your skin is, or what your religion is, or your political beliefs. All she cares about is if you're prepared for her.”

Mitchell Bandklayder, 16, was intrigued with the 1996 film, White Squall, based on a true story of a school ship caught in a storm. “I just wanted an adventure instead of staying home all summer,” said the Bounty trainee, who plans to join the sailing team at his Miami high school.

Best friends Liz Baron and Ruth Mandelbaum, 15-year-olds from the Philadelphia area, are game for 42 days of swabbing decks, cooking in the galley, and bunking in narrow berths with scant privacy.

The 190-foot Bounty was built for the 1962 film, <i>Mutiny on the Bounty</i>. It will be in Toledo this week. The 190-foot Bounty was built for the 1962 film, <i>Mutiny on the Bounty</i>. It will be in Toledo this week.
KING / BLADE Enlarge

And perhaps, before they disembark in August, they will climb 100 feet to raise the top-most square sail on one of the Bounty's three mighty masts.

“The benefits are untold: teamwork, cooperation, self-control, and self-discipline, a healthy respect for the environment and the ocean,” said Lori Aguiar, program manager at American Sail Training Association.

“It's not just about learning to sail. It's about learning from sailing.”

A group of local boys will get a taste of ship-side life on the Ohio Bicentennial Flagship, Red Witch. Some 18 Boy Scouts will rendezvous with the Red Witch tomorrow in Put-in-Bay, and remain aboard as the Port Clinton-based schooner leads the parade of sails into town Wednesday afternoon, said Walter Edelen, president of International Park's advisory board.

ASTA's membership includes 275 vessels, many of which are Tall Ships and educational vessels. “Our mission is to promote sail training at sea,” Steve Baker, ASTA's race director, said.

The association will host a race for the Tall Ships tomorrow at noon from Cleveland to Kelleys Island, he said. About half the ships are likely to participate, he said.

After leaving Toledo, ASTA will host a race from Sarnia, Ont., to Cheboygan, Mich. Each ship has a correction factor based on its specifications, said Mr. Baker, and running time is multiplied by that figure.

ASTA was founded by the late Barclay Warburton III, a wealthy Newport, R.I., businessman who owned a brigantine named Black Pearl.

In 1972 with a crew of young adults, he sailed for Europe to take part in the Cutty Sark Tall Ships' Races, in which half of each vessel's crew must be 15 to 25 years old.

He was so taken with the concept, he started ASTA when he returned to Rhode Island. The nonprofit organization is focused on youth education, leadership development, and preservation of North America's maritime heritage.

Spaces may still be available for people 15 and older, for two to 10-days aboard host vessels heading to and from Chicago.

The Pride of Baltimore II, for example, has six berths available for guest crew 19 and older, said Linda Christenson, executive director of that top-sail schooner, which is owned by the state of Maryland.

Four nights from Toledo to Green Bay, Wis., departing July 20 costs $725; three nights from Green Bay to Chicago costs $495.

For information, see Steve Baker at ASTA's information booth at International Park or call 401-846-1775 or www.tallships.sailtraining.org.



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