During the second week of October, The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum launched its new lunchtime Maritime Training Program for Lighthouse staff and volunteers. Through the program participants learn to row as a team as well as how to handle small sailing craft. The purpose of the program is to help Lighthouse staff and volunteers better understand and appreciate the unique marine environment of St. Augustine. Understanding how the winds, currents, tides, and shoals of our local water’s effect ship’s and boat’s navigation gives staff and volunteers a more personal connection with the sea. This in turn gives them confidence on the water and also enables them to better interpret and share our maritime history and archaeology with our guests.
The program runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 11:00AM and 1:00PM with occasional cancelations for inclement weather, holidays, and other major events like preparing luminaries for luminary night. Most days we prepare the 22 foot crew boat, formally a U.S. Navy training vessel, and have it ready to launch at the Lighthouse Park boat ramp at 11:00AM. Once the boat is on the dock we rig it with its oars and rudder. The boat can take up to six rowers and the coxswain who controls the boat and gives rowing instructions to the crew. Once the boat is rigged a five minute review of rowing commands and suggestions are shared and then the boat shoves off.
The boat often has new rowers so once on the water we go through various commands and maneuvers in order to get the crew to gel as a team and be able to operate the craft in a capable manner. Maneuvers include moving the boat forward, stopping the boat, moving the boat backwards, and spinning the boat. Spinning the boat requires one side of the boat to row forward while the other side backs it. This is one of the trickier maneuvers. After putting the rowers through these paces the boat heads into Salt Run with the crew focusing on the timing of their strokes so that the rower’s oar blades don’t strike each other.
Once in Salt Run we explore the coastline and get in amongst the mangroves where a number of wading birds can be observed in their natural setting. The mangrove creeks are not only fun to explore but they are a great place to hone the turning skills necessary to spin the boat on its keel in a confined space.
We have also taken out the William A. Harn, a Bevin’s sailing skiff that is the first boat made by the Heritage Boatworks at the St. Augustine Lighthouse and named after one of its keepers. This craft is our sail training vessel and is being used to give staff and volunteers an introduction to the world of sailing. With the crew boat and the William A. Harn, we will train a dedicated group of staff and volunteers who will then go on to sail and row the historic replica craft now under construction in the Heritage Boatworks.
Dr. Sam Turner joined the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum in 2006. Dr. Turner earned his master’s in nautical archaeology at Texas A&M University and received his Ph.D. in Spanish and Spanish American studies from King’s College of the University of London.