Sailing on the Lady Maryland

Have you ever wanted to live the sea-life? Sail of into the distance? My son John got to experience this first hand thanks to JHUCTY.

JHUCTY stands for Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth ( To get into this program, you have to be invited, then take the SAT and pass it with flying colors. My son did well enough to qualify. Once you get accepted, you can choose from a variety of courses that take you all around the world. My son chose Whales and Estuary Systems. For this course, you spend nine days on land and nine days aboard the Lady Maryland.

The Lady Maryland is a 104-ft pungy schooner. It has a main-sail, fore-sail, jib, and top-sail. It is a model of the pungy schooners that sailed the Chesapeake long ago. It is Red, Green, and Pink. It is believed to be pink because back then the painters used the same paint cans for white as they did for red. When the paints mixed, it dried pink.

Life aboard the Lady Maryland was hard, but entertaining. The kids were split up into watches which were entirely segregated. My son did not like this because all his friends from the nine-days on land were in the other watch. In the morning, they were waken up at seven o’ clock. The watch on-duty (port watch) would help raise the anchor, and the other watch (starboard watch) would watch them and eat.

Raising the anchor was very tiring and scary for one person. Ever time they raised the anchor, one person would have to climb into a very small place forward of the forecastle. In this place, the anchors chain was coiled. This coiling was very loud and scary. If you are claustrophobic, I wouldn’t recommend this job.

Once the anchor was raised, the watches would switch and port watch would eat. Starboard watch would start to sail. They would hoist the sails; fore-sail first, then main-sail, then jib. One person would go up to the steering wheel (helm) and steer the boat with the captain. Another would go to the bow of the boat and do bow-watch. They would look for things like buoys, and boats. They had to learn the point-system. It’s the same point system they used in the movie “Master and Commander”. If something was 30 degrees to starboard, then it would be “Two points on the starboard bow”. Then another two people would be navigators. They would go to the charts and be responsible for our boat going to the right place and not running aground. Navigating involved many skills. You had to be able to make a dead-reckoning, triangulate your position, find speed, estimate times, etc. This job involved much mental skill. You would spend a lot of time calculating how long it would take to get from point A to point B. My son liked this job the most.

While the other watch was on-duty, the non-active watch would make ditty-bags, learn about whales, eat, clean, and socialize. The cleaning was the most boring part. Cleaning involved sol-washing, deck-wash, head-wash, dish-wash, bunk-cleaning, bronzing, settee cleaning, etc. A lot of jobs had to be done in a short period of time. Ever time they eat, they had to clean the galley and wash the dishes. Now washing the dishes was not the same as washing dishes at home. You had to wash them three times by hand before they could be used again. First, you washed them in a saltwater-soap mix. Then, they were washed in a saltwater mix. Finally, they were washed in a freshwater sanitizing mix. This activity was backbreaking and made my son appreciate our dishwasher.

Then at night, students would be on anchor watch. That means that in the middle of the night, some one would be woken up. They would have to stand vigil over the boat and do checks on the boat. They checked the batteries, bearings, headings, and the lead-line. They would record this information in a log. These boat checks were a lot more extravagant during the day. In the day, they checked the clouds, wind, wind direction, batteries, shafts, engines, deck condition, the heads, the bilges and location.

On the boat, you learned everything you need to know about sailing a large boat. My son got certified as a navigator, helmsman, able-bodied seamen, and galley-mate. That means that if you needed a crew on a schooner race, my son (and any other student on the boat) would do fine. My son would even talk like the people on board. The crewmembers on the boat always played this game called “big-blue-moon”, said “well” when describing inanimate objects and said aft when referring to the back of the house. Obviously my son enjoyed this experience a lot.

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