August 19, 2018

Five Sailboats of the U.S. Naval Academy Pay a Visit to Little Essex, Connecticut

The Daring, a 44 foot sailboat coming into Essex

The Daring, a 44 foot sailboat coming into Essex

Five, forty-four foot sailboats belonging to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis paid a call on the little shoreline town of Essex on June 14. They stayed the weekend of June 15 and 16, and then set sail back to Annapolis by eight in morning of June 17.

The five “Navy 44” sailboats arrived at the Essex town docks at around 3:00 p.m. on Friday, June 14, and they were greeted by Essex Yacht Club’s Rear Commodore Wes Bray. (The club’s Commodore and Vice Commodore were sailing elsewhere.) Rear Commodore Bray said in his welcoming remarks that it was “fantastic” that the Naval Academy had selected Essex for a visit of its sailboats, and that the town was “honored” by their presence.

An Essex dock worker catches the sailboat's line

An Essex dock worker catches the sailboat’s line

And pulls the sailboat to the dock

And pulls the sailboat to the dock

Also, Terry Stewart, the Commodore of the next door, Essex Corinthian Yacht Club, came over to greet the crews of the Naval Academy that had come to Essex.  It was a nice touch, and showed that at least one local Yacht Club Commodore had come out to greet them.

Each Naval Academy Sailboat Costs over $1 Million

As for the Naval Academy’s custom made sailboats, reportedly, it costs $1.09 million to build each boat, with every penny paid for by U.S. taxpayers. Presently the sailboats are three years old.

Lt. Commander Joe Slaughter, the ranking officer of the five-boat cruise to Essex, was asked why did the Navy need to have sailboats, when it has nuclear submarines, aircraft carriers and a fleet of high tech, battleships. Were these sailboats really necessary to the Navy’s mission?

Commander Slaughter sprang to the defense of the Naval Academy’s policy of having sailboats at the Academy. Learning to sail, he said, teaches those at the Academy “the rules of the road” at sea, which “everybody has to learn.” These rules include, knowing the meanings of the lights, buoys and markers that are found in harbors and along coastlines.

Even more important, in the Commander’s view, learning to sail, was extremely important in learning the challenges of leadership in the Navy. This leadership training was crucial in his view to the positions of command that these midshipmen will hold in the future. These words were delivered by the Commander with almost an evangelical fervor.

Rough and Stormy Seas Sailing to Essex

The voyage from Annapolis to Essex was a very difficult sail. At times waves were as high as ten feet, and there were steady downpours of rain and high winds as well. Also, off the long New Jersey coast, one of the boats, the Daring, had an engine problem, and it had to be towed into Atlantic City by the U.S. Coast Guard for repairs.

One midshipman, John Kameen, who serves as the Starboard Watch Officer on the Daring, told the story that  at one point deep in the night in the stormiest of seas, the Daring boat found itself lagging further and further behind the other sailboats. This was happening, even though the engine of the Daring was running, and the sails were full.

Finally, as the boat slipped even further behind the others, the discovery was made that the boat‘s engine was not in gear. “Everyone was really tired,” the Starboard Watch Officer said, not really believing that this was a valid excuse.

Not a Lot of Room On Board for a Crew of Ten

Each of the 44 foot sailboats that came up to Essex had crews of ten. However, the number of sleeping bunks for these ten crew members was five.

A midshipman takes out a bumper to protect the boat's hull

A midshipman takes out a bumper to protect the boat’s hull

The boat’s five sleeping bunks are divided up as follows. There is one single bunk aft for the use of both the boat’s Skipper and the Executive Officer. This double use of a single bunk is called a “Hot Rack,” we were told.

For the other eight members of the crew, there are four bunks, which run along the along the sides of the main cabin. This means that while four crew members are sleeping in these bunks, the other four are either up on deck, or doing something useful below.

The Daring's Skipper (center) with seven of his crew

The Daring’s Skipper (center) with seven of his crew

In addition to this bunking arrangement there, is a single head (bathroom) located in the forward area of the boat. For delicacy’s stake the boat’s toilet area can be enlarged somewhat into a small dressing room. But again, there is only one bathroom for a crew of ten.

The Sexual Balance on the Sailboat

As for the sexes of the members of crew, the Skipper of the sailboat Daring was a male civilian, and the Executive Officer was a female Navy lieutenant. As for the rest of the crew, there were five males and three females.  This meant that in total the Daring had a crew of six males and four females. Considering the all male officers corps of the U.S. Navy not too many years ago, this ratio is quite impressive.

In the view of Starboard Watch Officer Kameen, and he seemed sincere, “The Navy has done a great job in making the integration of men and women seamless,” adding, “It’s been great.”

However, he did say that in a very few cases of lifting heavy objects, it is only the men that have the strength to lift them.

As for flirtations between the sexes on board, the Midshipman said, “They keep you so busy; there is no time to think about it.” Also, it should be noted that when the weather permits there are vigorous exercises programs top sides, which involves in some cases doing as many as 200 pushups.

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