Editor’s note: The crew of Sea Scout Ship 6 from Norwalk, CT had a strong visual presence at the Storm Trysail Club’s Block Island Race Week XXV. Most of the eight teenage sailors showed their Ship 6 pride with bright red “racing stripes” dyed into their hair to match the hull of their Tripp 37 Celebration II. The Sea Scouts also had the best crew shirts at the regatta, featuring a ‘No Whining Babies’ logo and the Ship 6 motto: Sail Tough or Stay Home!
This adventure was the most ambitious that Sea Scout Ship 6 had attempted in recent years. The Sea Scouts, ages 14-18, planned all aspects of the trip including menus, provisioning, duty rosters, delivery watches, vessel maintenance, costs planning, safety equipment, navigation, currents, departure time and much more, including parental permission to miss the last day of school.
These young men and women sailed late into the season last year, logging 45 training days. They sailed at night and in rough weather, both racing and cruising. They wet-sanded the hull of their boat in the cold of March, and started sailing early this season to get extra training under their belts. They even built their own mainsail after school, under the expert supervision of John Savage at Hathaway, Reiser & Raymond in Stamford, CT.
The Sea Scouts did all the navigation and managing of the boat on the delivery to Block Island. The weather was perfect, with a beautiful starry sky guiding our way. There was a tense moment approaching the Race in the dead of night with a large tug and barge coming the other way, but they handled it with maturity.
I couldn’t have been prouder of Ship 6 as we stepped off the launch each day together at Block Island, especially after racing in the fog on Friday. Here is the sailor’s account of their adventure. But first, a big Thank You to the Storm Trysail Club, the Green Fleet Race Committee, Oldport Marine (and their very patient launch drivers), Hathaway, Reiser & Raymond, PhotoBoat.com, former Skipper Bill Austin (who led Ship 6 to several Block Island Race Weeks and still helps out when he has time), Mate Caroline “CC” Olmo, Mark Lupo, WindCheck and all the kind, helpful folks in Block Island. We couldn’t have done it without you!
– Kai Horan, Skipper, Sea Scout Ship 6
Most teams were planning to go to the 25th Block Island Race Week for two years…you know, since practically before the last one even ended. For us, it was a little different. In late January, our Skipper reminded us that Race Week is a Ship 6 tradition. After about two weeks, most of us looked at each other and said, “Yeah, I could go to Race Week.”
From then on it was a flurry of planning. We had less than five months to put together our biggest event in almost four years. Between crew commitments and deposits and trying to find housing, it was a nightmare mixture of last minute miracles and endless debate. We just scraped by in almost every aspect, but with endless enthusiasm and a lot of extra meetings, we ended up getting everything together. There was a lot we couldn’t have done without a ton of help, and with long phone calls and late emails and many days spent waiting for messages and responses it sometimes felt like working in a post office. But early on June 21, we were loading up our boat. Block Island couldn’t have felt closer in that moment!
– Missy Lupo, 17
In preparation for Block Island Race Week, Ship 6 was given a very unique opportunity to build a new mainsail at Hathaway’s. We needed a new one, and building it was an interesting and educational experience. Because we’re not professionals, we could not do all of the work. The hard-working staff at Hathaway’s did the precise measuring and heavy-duty sewing, although we did everything that didn’t involve a large mechanical needle or a computer program.
We pre-fitted the sail pieces together, made and attached the reinforcement patches, batten pockets and edge tape, and did the last step of punching holes for grommets, the headboard and other hardware…a rather nerve-wracking experience. (“Sure, let’s jab holes in our brand-new sail!”) The experience was very enlightening, and helped us understand all the preparation and hard work of making a new sail. Though some of the work was hard, tedious and repetitive, the entire process was very enjoyable. If given the opportunity, we would gladly do it again.
– Alex Cannella, 16
Sails, sheets, lines, jacklines and harnesses – some of the things that most other crews only had to think about…but we are not like other crews. Food, personal gear and housing were just a few of the additional things we had to think about. Some parts of our planning were easy, like provisioning and meals, but other details were unknown, like finding out if we had indoor living arrangements or outdoor living arrangements. Planning this trip was a very long process, with deciding exactly what we needed to bring, going out to get it, and figuring out how we were to transport everything for eight teenagers and three adults. It was difficult, yet also simple at times, and from it all came an amazing experience.
– Sydney Goldman, 18
The most exciting and anticipated event of Block Island Race Week is the “Round Island Race,” a complete circumnavigation of the island. This race stands out from the others because the entire fleet – about 180 boats – sails the same course. Our biggest challenge was the sheer length and complexity of the race – all points of sail in addition to precise navigation, which required tremendous endurance and concentration by all crewmembers.
As we approached the start line, we all knew that we needed to consistently concentrate on our sail trim in order to increase our speed. We incurred no penalties and kept up with the fleet, which was an achievement in itself. We did not get a great result, but we completed a course that put us in competition with many much more experienced sailors. Above all, the Round the Island Race taught us much about our boat. This was especially true in the long downwind leg, when we discovered that Celebration II likes the jib out on a whisker pole and a lot of windward heel.
Every day during Block Island Race Week, we learned more about how to best sail Celebration II. There was great crew support, and we had a good time sailing. Now back in our homeport of Norwalk, we know that the skills we learned during Race Week will enable us to do a lot better in our races at home.
– Roisin Burke, 15
We faced a daunting challenge on the last day of Block Island Race Week. The weather had deteriorated, and we were looking at a race in 10-foot swells and fog that cut visibility to 100 yards. The idea of sailing in those conditions was crazy to me; the idea of racing in those conditions was beyond my comprehension. Sure enough, after several postponements the committee called for a race and we decided that we would attempt the race.
Oddly enough, we had our best start of the week that day. We beat several boats off the line and made good progress on the upwind leg. Sailing in the reduced visibility and finding marks, boats and land was a challenge unlike any I’ve ever experienced. Despite the swells and the disorienting fog, we sailed a good race and I’m happy that I was on the boat. It was a good experience, and now whenever I sail on Long Island Sound I’m not intimidated by 4-foot waves and 20 knots of breeze.
– Michael Barnaba, 16
After a whole week of racing, the time finally came to head home. Just as we did all week, we awoke at 0630 on Saturday. It felt like every other morning during this trip as we ate a quick but healthy breakfast. However, in the corner of our dining room there were boxes we had packed the night before in preparation for our departure. Before we left, we made sure the house looked exactly as when we arrived. By 0900 we were out the door for the last time and on our way to meet Celebration II, who was awaiting us at her mooring.
The ride home was one of amazement and eventfulness. The waves were about 8 to 10 feet, and we found ourselves heeling over most of the time. Though our engine was running, we put up both our main and our jib to maximize the speed and aimed to get home around 2200. A fix was done every half hour to determine our location and distance to Norwalk. This gave every crewmember a chance to practice their navigation, and allowed for senior crewmembers to teach newer ones advanced techniques such as dead reckoning. We made excellent time (even with an engine stall off Old Saybrook), with a speed over ground of around nine knots.
We arrived at Norwalk around 0200 on Sunday, beat on our feet. After tying up the boat and moving bags around in the galley, all nine crewmembers fell asleep on the bunks below. By 0800 the first few crewmembers were awake and de-rigging the boat. No less than an hour later, when all the crew had awakened, we decided to have breakfast. Everyone was exhausted, but we smiled at the fact that we had just completed Block Island Race Week. Once everything was shipshape we parted ways, each of us a more experienced and capable sailor than when we stepped onto the dock nine days earlier.
– Andres Bastitas, 18
I am a new member of Ship 6, and I was jumping into the deep end when I was recruited to go to Block Island Race Week for my first race. I personally wasn’t scared nor feeling inexperienced. I felt rather confident in my team and excited that I was going to my first race. I took part in the delivery from Norwalk to Block Island, and I could tell that our team was ready for action.
I learned all about racing strategies, starting lines, general boating rules, and sailing in extreme weather conditions. Although our ship did not earn the best rank, we tried our hardest and managed to keep up with the others (a feat we may not have been able to accomplish some time ago). This regatta helped us gain lots of experience, and I can’t wait for the next Block Island Race Week!
– Andrew King, 14
Skipper Kai Horan has been at the helm of Ship 6 since 2006. A Past Commander of the Norwalk Sail & Power Squadron, she has achieved the advanced grade of AP and received awards for dedication to Sea Scouting. She’s participated in several Block Island Race Weeks, Vineyard Races and Stratford Shoal Races and spent several weeks cruising the Maine coast.
Also aboard Celebration II at Block Island Race Week was Sammi Cannella, 16. Sea Scouting is a year-round, youth-led program. Ship 6 is an extremely active ship with an affinity for navigator-style and distance racing. Ship 6 welcomes boys and girls age 14 and up who live within driving distance of Norwalk and have an interest in the sea. To learn more, visit norwalkship6.org. To find a Sea Scout Ship near you, visit beascout.org and click on “Venturing/Sea Scouts.”