Jeanie B and Seafarer Sail On Article in Towndock.net

This Article was featured on the Oriental Town Dock Website

Jeanie B
Sailing Camp On A Schooner
June 26, 2010
 

The “Jeanie B” comes to Oriental a few times during the summer. One of those visits came Wednesday as a crew of 8 teenaged girls from Camp Seafarer navigated the 72-foot schooner to the Town Dock.
The “Jeanie B” which sails from Camps Seafarer and Seagull with young crews of sailors. While at Oriental’s Town Dock Wednesday, the boat’s silhouette included a member of the crew, many feet above the deck, tending to the ratlines. (The schooner, with a 7 foot draft was sitting on the harbor bottom.)

They’d just done an overnight passage from Ocracoke, leaving Silver Lake after sunset and arriving in Oriental Wednesday morning. The teen-aged sailors — and the 4 adult counselors on board — were winding down a two-week voyage across and up and down the Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds. They’ve been to Belhaven, Alligator River, Manteo, the Outer Banks, Ocracoke.

Distinctive bowsprit of the “Jeanie B” while at Oriental’s Town Dock.

“I’ve not touched the helm,” says Jim Baker. “The girls have been sailing the boat.”

His company Lundy Charters runs the “Jeanie B”, and Baker says that since taking off from Camp Seafarer over a week earlier, neither he nor any of the other three adults have steered the “Jeanie B.” They’ve taken a hands-off approach and left the navigation, steering and other big decisions to the 8 teenagers.

Jim Baker in front of the “Jeanie B” run by Lundy Charters. Just over a decade ago, he was a teenaged crew member on a similar two-week trip out of Camp Seagull. He’d gone to the camp for 8 summers, worked two as a camp counselor before going off and becoming a captain and now running Lundy Charters.

That’s in keeping with the aim of Camp Seafarer’s “Sail-On” program, which Baker describes as the ‘capstone’ of the sailing lessons offered by both camps, Seafarer and Seagull. Baker says that it “encourages the girls to take ownership of the boat.”

In addition to the obvious ways — sail trim and steering — some of that ownership comes by way of putting in to practice techniques — such as knot-tying and navigation — that they’d been taught before getting on the “Jeanie B”.

The bow of the Jeanie B.

Baker says that at the camp they practiced tying bowlines “ten times a day.” Yet the importance of knowing that reliable and quick knot may not have been clear until the crew went through some ‘abandon ship’ drills off of the “Jeanie B.” Baker says the girls were “in the water tying two lifeboats together” and finding that that bowline – quick and true — came in handy. As Baker puts it, “I could see the light bulbs go off, ‘So this is why we practiced the bowlines at camp.’”

(He points out that while the first abandon-ship drill took 17 minutes, the next one had all the crew off the “Jeanie B” in 2.)

That concept of “owning” the boat extends to maintaining it as well. As Baker spoke on the Town Dock, one crew member was high in the ratlines above the “Jeanie B” deck, applying teak oil to the wooden slats of the ladder. Tending to that wood wasn’t just for the aesthetics. Jim Baker said it was also a safety issue. The takeaway lesson was that an oiled piece of wood would be protected from rot for longer, offering reassurance about the foothold if one ever had to go up in to the rigging.

Someone had to oil the teak of the ratlines. Emma Wheeler who recently moved to Oriental was one of the 8 teenaged girls who crewed on the “Jeanie B” for the past two weeks. Doing maintenance work was part of the experience.

The job of applying oil to that teak fell to Emma Wheeler, a 15-year old who has just moved from Winston-Salem to Oriental. Up in the ratlines, she spent a few hours in the relentless midday sun, doing that job and seeming to like it. It compared favorably, she said, to doing the woodwork on her family’s Pearson 30. Climbing the ratlines, high above Oriental’s harbor to do the woodwork “is a lot more fun. It’s a lot more adventurous.”

On each day of the voyage, a different girl in the crew took a turn as captain of the boat. Wednesday had been Emma Wheeler’s turn. At midnight, as the “Jeanie B” was underway from Ocracoke to Oriental, the boat became her responsibility. Being captain, she said, meant “making sure nothing went wrong…” and to make sure that the crew “know what to do.”

Emma Wheeler and the ratline teak.

Jim Baker laughed as he told how having Emma as captain also drove home a lesson about the importance of “local knowledge” in sailing. If the others couldn’t be certain about exactly where the Town Dock was on the chart, Baker noted, they could “ask the kid from Oriental.”

A little while later, finished with her teak chores, Emma Wheeler was back down on the deck of the “Jeanie B”. She said sailing the large schooner required “a lot more teamwork” than the Optimist pram she first learned to sail on just two years ago at Jim Edwards’ Bow to Stern Youth Sailing Camp in Oriental. The leap from the 8-foot dinghy built by volunteers to the 72-foot boat was not lost on Emma’s mother, Camilla Wheeler.

A chance to relax. Midship on the “Jeanie B” where some crew took shelter from the sun and read and napped.

Camilla says that when Emma was 3, she and her younger sister and their parents lived aboard an Island Packet for a year, cruising from Maine to the Exumas. Once back in Winston-Salem, they didn’t sail much. A few years ago, the Wheelers bought a house in Oriental and began spending summers here. When Jim Edwards opened the Bow to Stern kids sailing camp in 2008, Emma and Kara signed up. They learned to sail on Optimists, then moved up to Sunfish and 420’s. Emma, Camilla says, developed a passion for racing the Sunfish.

On Wednesday, Camilla Wheeler, speaking at her new shop, Nautical Wheelers, at Broad and Hodges, was full of praise for the start the Bow To Stern sailing camp had provided. Later this summer, Emma will be back there, this time teaching other kids how to sail.

Parell balls on the “Jeanie B”.

Meanwhile, the “Jeanie B” will likely be making another visit to Oriental in the next two weeks. While the teenaged girls’ trip is over, a crew of 10 boys, also 14-15 years old, will be sailing around the Sounds on the “Jeanie B” starting next week.

After that, the gaff-rigged, 48-ton boat will be heading to its home, a slip along the waterfront in Morehead City. Though built for off-shore cruising — Jim Baker says the boat does beautifully in heavy wind — the “Jeanie B” spends the rest of the year doing charters in and around Beaufort and Morehead City.

Those who want to see the “Jeanie B” can easily find her in Morehead City near the Sanitary Restaurant, Big Rock and a fish taxidermy shop. (Jim Baker says she’s the only sailing vessel on the waterfront that is more commonly home to fishing and power vessels.)

The Jeanie B

Built: 1985, in Florida
Length: 72 feet
Displacement: 48 Tons (4-inch thick steel below the waterline. Concrete fills the keel.)
Draws: 7 feet (She was sitting on the harbor bottom while at Oriental’s Town Dock.)
Sail: Gaff-rigged
Previous life: Did dolphin charters between Florida and the Bahamas.