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Young Salts Visit Ship to Get a Taste of Sailor's Life

January 23, 1998|FRANK MESSINA

Ten-year-old Ashley Stipe was curious about 18th century sailors and, like, how did they handle a Big Mac attack while sailing the seven seas?

Hard tack, dried beans and salt beef, came the answer from Hal Day, a crew member of the Lady Washington, a 112-foot brig that will host tours at the Orange County Marine Institute in Dana Point Harbor this weekend.

"I think I learned that I'd rather eat at McDonald's than sailor food," said the fourth-grader from St. Michael's Academy in San Clemente.

The five-day visit by the 18th century trading vessel replica is just one of many stops scheduled along the West Coast during the school year. The ship's mission: demonstrate the science of seafaring to schoolchildren.

"We make sailoring something more interesting than the stories of old, dead white guys they get in school," said Gary Stugard, captain of the Aberdeen, Wash.-based vessel.

Students hoist huge, billowing sails, pull at the ship's 7-foot tiller and learn the inside story about life at sea.

Their instructors are Lady Washington crew members dressed in sea garb--billowing pants and shirts with brightly colored bandannas to protect their heads from the sun.

"You are a common sailor now," Day told a small group of elementary students from St. Michael's Academy on Thursday.

"Today, people live to be 75 or older," Day reminded the youngsters. Sailors [then] didn't live that long."

The crew of the original Lady Washington stayed at sea for 11 years, once working for a Boston company that traded soft sea otter pelts for Chinese tea, before disappearing without a trace in the Pacific, Day told the wide-eyed children.

This weekend, the public also will get a chance to tour the Lady Washington and sail on the brig during a mock ocean battle with the Hawaiian Chieftain, an 1860s cargo ship replica.

The Marine Institute is at 24200 Dana Point Harbor Drive. Tickets and schedules: (800) 401-7835.

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