I asked Sgt. Fred Bodington, a Middletown Rhode Island Police Officer who was instrumental in recruiting trainees for the Sloop Providence / ASTA Tall Ships Youth Adventure Program to write something about his experience sailing with kids over the past 2 weeks.
As a community police officer working in a low income housing complex I have the opportunity to see these cadets in their home environment. The transformation I see during the training is incredible. Although not across the board most of these kids are literally jumping at this opportunity. Each morning I have been boarding the bus with the kids and they all show the same “I don’t care indifference” when asked about the upcoming day. Their body language, however, tells a different story. One girl who complains about being tired and not getting to sleep is the first on the bus and just about ran me over getting there. The kids are seen walking around with pieces of line tying bowlines and making daisy chain necklaces and bracelets. We even hear them starting to use nautical terms as if they always had. I can just imagine the looks the teachers will give them when they go back to school and ask to go to the head.
On Monday, day 1 of the second week, we observed the same out of place feeling among the new kids that was displayed in the first week. This quickly went away as the crew and cadets who returned from the first week started to interact. Day 1 is hard on the kids who think that they are going to start sailing right away and it takes some time for them to grasp the fact they need to learn the ship before sailing her.
Day 2 – I observed significant progress and was absolutely amazed at the ability of one of the recruits to tie knots. 1st Mate Chris showed us how to tie a flying bowline. I am able to tie the knot but when Tyler grabbed the line he started showing us his magic. There is no doubt in my mind that he will give anyone a run for their money in a competition. The weather was good for training as the winds were light and the cadets got the chance to work the ship without fighting her. Later in the day the winds picked up and gave them the opportunity to start getting a feel for her. We ended the day on a fairly good note and chose the cadets who will be staying onboard Thursday night.
Day 3 – woe is me. We arrived to a forecast of heavy rain and 30 mph winds. For obvious safety reasons Capt. Wendy decided it would not be safe to sail today. We were hoping the weather would clear later on but it was not to be. Instead we took the cadets to the Museum of Yachting where there was a mix of boredom and interest. Everyone enjoyed the hands on activities but I was especially interested in how the crew took over and worked with the kids. They really seem to have started establishing a fine connection with the kids. The next stop was Save the Bay’s Exploratorium at Easton’s Beach. Again the crew took charge and went side by side through the displays. Then it was onto the International Yacht Restoration School. Several of the boys took a particular interest in this part of the day and later during the bus ride home one asked me about getting started building model boats. My compliments to the crew who really stepped up to the plate and without whose help the day could have very easily turned into a disaster.
Tomorrow, weather permitting, we sail. I am looking forward to seeing the transformation of the cadets as the day passes.