posted on January 28, 2012 11:05
As I write this, the winter program convoy is underway to Kingston for the weekend. Our early-morning venture is a result of a massive winter storm that prevented us from leaving last night … then again, I should have known better than to plan a departure for Friday the 13th.
This weekend will take us to Fort Henry where we will all enlist in the British Army and spent a day and a night learning what life would have been like here in 1867. Following that, the sailmaker at the Kingston Sail Loft, where the sails for our ships are made, will be teaching everyone to sew canvas ditty bags.
Most winter programs don’t venture this far from home, though. Every second weekend, 18 or so teenagers, who don’t believe sail training ends when it snows, come together at the Bytown Brigantine office on Saturday mornings. They know they will be getting volunteer hours or picking up some useful skills from a course being offered. At the first winter program weekend in November, we spent the whole day constructing a shelter over Black Jack, which is dry dock at Britannia yacht club. Later this winter days will be devoted to training in marine first aid and VHF radio use, among other topics.
Saturday night is essentially a slumber party at the office. We've gone to the bowling alley or to the park to play ball, and come back to drink hot chocolate and watch movies in the wardroom. There's a secret stash of old ships mattresses at the office, and everyone goes down for lunch.
Sundays are often devoted to logbook skills, if there isn’t a course running. There has been a day of marlinspike seamanship to make new deadeye lanyards, and another is planned to make traditional fenders for the whalers for reenactments next summer. Other Sundays we’ve had lessons in chart work, the buoyage system, and tide tables. At the beginning of December, we visited the Bytown Museum, next to the locks were Fair Jeanne is drydocked for the winter, to learn how the Rideau Canal was built and what Ottawa looked like back in the 1830s when it was called Bytown.
I cannot stress enough how these weekends are only successful through a huge time commitment from many volunteers, from the crew who show up every single weekend to keep things running smoothly, to the parents who prepare food for the weekend or drive to Kingston. To all of you, a heartfelt “Thank you.”