Thirteen tall ships came to Charleston Harbor last weekend for the South Carolina Maritime Foundations annual festival. I volunteered on Friday morning, but regretfully was given the task of ticket taker at one of the inflatable bouncy castles with a pirate theme. I plotted down in the shade and became listlessly apathetic to my take. My attention quickly turned towards people watching. A group of pirate and revolutionary war era reinactors made camp on the out skirts of the festival. Pirates, winches, and admirals in full costume casually passed me by. Parents chased dehydrated children with painted faces as they dared to enter the inferno of a bouncy castle. Military recruiters mingled with wooden boat artisans. Vendors and educators yelled messages and taunted the crowed with their wares, food, and information.
I was finally released for the children’s village at 1. I decided to take one ship tour before I escaped the crowds and hundred degree June heat. I boarded and met the captain of the Schooner Virginia. The replica schooner is only two years old. The hull and rigging are replicas of the ships name sake, but down bellow the equipment and accommodations are modern and comfortable. The ship acts as a sail-training program for children and adults. It is operated by the state of Virginia. A season aboard schooner Virginia would bring a tremendous amount of experience. I gave the captain a resume and hope to apply for the next season… that is if I haven’t fallen in love with some other adventure by then.
On the second day of the festival I toured the Romanian and U.S. Coast guard ships. These ships are much larger and their crews are more military oriented rather then sail training ships. These vessels teach seamanship to navy and coast guard cadets. The shot of the Romanian control room in the attached video show the soviet era technology accompanying the 7 year old replica ship. The cadet who gave us the tour was friendly and excited to be completing his training at the Romanian navy academy. Through slightly broken English eh brought us through the ship. Life aboard the ship kept moving around us as half naked cadets slipped in and out of metal doors headed towards showers, quarters, heads, and the galley.
On Monday afternoon Ben came into town and we sat on a bench in water front park to watch all the ships parade out of the Charleston Harbor under sail. Down the same tack the boats spread across the horizon and out the channel. All bound North to continue training and teaching the next set of curious tourists. The tall ship tours provided a window into history. These ships are replicas of past masters of the open sea. But the tour also gave a window into the alternative world aboard these sailing histories in a very modern world.