For the two dozen youths in the local division of the U.S. Navy Sea Cadet Corps, maritime life entails cleaning duty, marching drills, early wake-up calls, and the occasional odd remark from landlubber friends.
"Some of them think it's kind of weird," said Samantha Brossia, 11, one of five girls and the youngest cadet in the Corps' Perrysburg-based Commodore Perry Division.
Yet these cadets say that any less pleasant aspects of the Navy-sponsored training program are more than offset by the camaraderie and fun, not to mention the chance to personally navigate an 180-ton Navy vessel along the Great Lakes before they are even old enough to drive a vehicle.
Under the supervision of adult Naval instructors, the 15 cadets docked the USNCS Grayfox at International Park along the Maumee River Sunday night after a 10-hour journey from Port Huron, Mich., the ship's home port.
They secured the 120-foot-long vessel using two-inch diameter mooring lines, then hopped into their bunks-pairs of thin mattresses hung by chains in an old torpedo room-for a few hours of sleep before 6 a.m. reveille.
After chores and a breakfast of sausage and waffles, the cadets donned bright white jumpers and trousers and polished black shoes yesterday morning to give tours of the ship to family and friends.
A retired torpedo recovery ship, the Grayfox was converted a decade ago into a Sea Cadet training craft. The cadets take it on an overnight cruise each year.
"The cadets do everything; we just supervise and help educate them," said Alan Mintz, a cadet instructor.
Since forming five years ago, the division's enrollment has grown from four cadets to about 25 annually, said Lt. j.g. Richard Mommers, the division's commanding officer. The program is open to youths ages 11 to 17.
The Sea Cadets meet once a month throughout the year, and receive instruction in areas such as weaponry, scuba diving, navigation, and survival. Lieutenant Mommers said nearly half of the participants stay with the cadets through high school graduation, and about a quarter of those have gone directly into the military.
Most participants are suburbanites and have one or more family members with a Navy background. The Sea Cadets have begun efforts to attract more city youths, Lieutenant Mommers said.
The one Toledo cadet aboard this trip was 13-year-old Devin Hill, who just completed seventh grade at McTigue Junior High. His parents have a Navy background: His father served in the Persian Gulf war and his mother, Vernessica Duffy, is a personnel specialist stationed at the Navy Operational Support Center in Perrysburg Township.
Joining the Sea Cadets was Devin's mother's idea.
"It gives him something to do besides running the streets," said Ms. Duffy.