Pioneer Valley Christian Academy

Sailing the Brilliant by Jessie Sprague

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  jessie-spragueOn the Fourth of July, I set out on a ten-day cruise on the schooner, Brilliant. The Brilliant, built in 1932, is a wooden sailing vessel. She was carefully crafted at the shipyard of Henry B. Nevins in City Island, New York. The Brilliant now has a permanent home in Mystic, CT where she sails with a crew made up of people who love the sea a nd have the desire to learn how to sail.

During the first day aboard the boat, the crew settled in and started to get to know the boat and how she sails. The crew was composed of eight high school students, Captain Nicholas Alley, a first mate, and a cook. We ran drills and learned how to tack and gybe. We learned safety and what procedures to do if there is a man overboard. Throughout the trip, the crew learned that if we wanted extra free time and the opportunity to do special activities, we had to prove to the captain and mate that we deserved a “prize” for our hard work during the day. The second day the captain thought we earned a swim call. So, while in a harbor at Block Island, we got to jump off the rails of the boat into the water.

We had daily chores to complete before we could start sailing. Every morning the groups alternated between cleaning below deck and washing the deck or Furling the main sailpolishing brass. We took turns doing dishes in the galley after each meal. And every night, each of us took an hour shift of anchor watch to insure the safety of the boat and crew. We monitored the wind and its speed, watched the water depth, and made sure the boat did not drift too much.

Lee rail under      Our crew had the amazing opportunity to sail in the 2016 Vineyard Cup.  We arrived at Martha’s Vineyard the day before the race, but the weather was not encouraging. The wind was strong and the water was choppy. Even in the protected harbor, the boat was rocking and the conditions were dangerous. There were three injuries that day. Two crew members burned their han
ds on a line and ripped the skin off the palms of their hands and I fell, breaking my finger. This was also the first night we were able to shower. Five of us rowed to shore and showered. As we were rowing back to the boat, the water became choppy and some of us fell out of the row boat. The trip should have only taken around five minutes, but the storm kept pushing us in circles. It took us thirty minutes to travel one hundred feet across the water.

Because of the dangerous conditions, the Captain told us that he was considering taking us out of the race. He did not think that we were prepared to sail so close to expensive sail boats. He decided, however, to let us proceed. The weather was so tumultuous a fine day to sailthat the crew needed to be harnessed so we did not go overboard. Despite the unsettled weather and our crew’s injuries, we completed the race, finishing in fifth place. Being able to sail in the regatta with excellent sailors and boats was an incredible opportunity.

This trip showed me so much about myself, the amazing power of the sea, and God’s hand in everything I do.
After long hard days working in the sun, I saw the best sunsets I have ever seen. The Lord kept us safe throughout the storm and strong winds. He had His hand upon all of us and kept us safe on a potentially dangerous trip.

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