I’ve been interning with Waterfront Alliance for the past month. Their main goal is to open up the waterfront to people all over New York City. My specific project is writing and organizing middle school field trips in Northern Manhattan. There are a lot of different parts of the work: writing the lesson plan, choosing the sites, researching equipment, etc. I’ve included some of the journal entries I’ve written for my internship:
The first tattooed Europeans were probably sailors. Sailors visited the most places, learning and picking up parts of different cultures on their voyages. Though, by now, tattooing is a popular custom all over the world, Harbor School students still have a unique relationship with tattoos. I couldn’t count the number of students and alumni who have anchors, compasses and other maritime symbols on their body. While random people with artsy designs may easily get away with tattooing an anchor on them, Harbor School holds you to a higher standard.
This is where it gets interesting… Sailors would earn most of their tattoos. They were the marks of having passed a milestone, like a stamp on your passport. If you have an anchor but haven’t crossed the Atlantic (on a boat, obviously), you’ll get a stern talking to from multiple students, faculty, and other members of the maritime community. If you have a swallow, you must have travelled 5,000 nautical miles, which is about one fourth of the way around the world. If you’re thinking of getting a turtle or Poseidon tattooed without having crossed the equator or a dragon without having served in China, you should reconsider. Getting a tattoo is about your identity, what you have gone through. A harpoon identifies you as a worker in the fishing crew. Crossed anchors identifies you as a boatswain mate. If you see someone with a rope around their wrist, they’ve been a deckhand. These are medals, awarded to those who deserve them.
Other tattoos were used as a way to remember or connect you to your past. A swallow with a dagger through it symbolizes a fallen comrade. A pig and a rooster, tattooed on your feet, ankles or knees, would tell people that you’ve been in a shipwreck but survived. Pigs and roosters were often stored on deck in crates that would float in a shipwreck, so became a survival symbol. The phrase “Pig on the knee, safety at sea. A cock on the right, never lose a fight.” comes from that. Other sailors would tattoo women from home as pin-up girls or mermaids to remember them. In 1909, the Navy decided their applicants couldn’t have obscene tattoos. This was when the tattoo cover-up industry really took off.
Paul, Vessel Operations Alumnus (Graduated 2014)
Other interesting facts:
- The word tattoo means “to mark” in Tahitian
- By the early 1800s, 90% of sailors had tattoos
- A golden dragon represented crossing the Prime Meridian
- A fully rigged ship symbolized having sailed around Cape Horn
- “HOLD FAST” was often tattooed on sailors’ knuckles for luck while aloft
Paul, Vessel Operations Alumnus (Graduated 2014)
The United States Coast Guard Academy offers a summer program called AIM (Academy Introduction Mission) to rising seniors in high school. I’ve been interested in the Academy for about 3-years now so when I heard of this opportunity I had to apply. The program would mean six days on campus during the summer and would teach me the academy’s traditions and lifestyle. Hopefully, it will help me decide whether or not the Academy is the right place for me. I began my application in the beginning of February and submitted it on March 31st. I should hear back on whether I’m accepted or not on May 1st.
I wrote this about my internship over the summer. The piece was originally intended as a college essay but I ended up choosing a different topic.
I swiped the damp towel back and forth on the deck, just enough that the dried rust and mud from the anchor chain would cling to it, but not enough to make the white boat as pristine as it should be. We needed the boat to be impeccable by the time the charter guests returned from their early dinner. Erik the first mate was picking them up on the inflatable and Leah the captain was making their beds below deck.
I heard the little boat coming before I saw it. The outboard motor’s hacking coughs echoed across the still water. I dropped the towel into the aft cabin and threw on my crew shirt to look professional. I helped the little girl up onto the boat first. She must have been about ten and had a great vendetta against her younger brother, evident by her dislike of having close proximity to him. Once they were all aboard, Leah suggested the family go out for a swim before it got dark. The little girl, Charlotte, rushed to put on her polka dot swimsuit. I stood awkwardly by, wondering if I should get their towels or wait until they were done swimming to lay them out. I had almost decided to ask Leah when Charlotte ran up to me, a little out of breath, and said, “Swim with me! Please?” and tugged at my hand.
That’s not how it was supposed to work. Our other guests had politely asked my opinions and expected me to keep the drinks flowing. A week earlier, we had a family from the Upper East Side. The teenage girls had been passive and uninterested in me unless I was making them iced coffee or bringing out food. They didn’t care who was steering the boat—that is, until they heard my age. They were sprawled out on the deck, sunbathing, while their parents made small talk with Leah. I was carefully bringing the boat along the strait when Leah handed the conversation over to me, mentioning that I was a rising junior in a maritime high school.
I could see their faces freeze, their eyes widen. I could see the realization roll over them. I wasn’t significant to them, but now they knew that I could’ve been. I could’ve been their best friend or, in a different reality, I could have been the one lazily sipping juice that they had fetched for me.
The shock on their faces only lasted a second, but it dented the power dynamic on the boat. They became wary of ordering me around.
I knew this Brooklyn family was different. I knew this charter was more lax than the others. I also knew we weren’t supposed to swim unless one of the drunk passengers jumped off and started drowning.
“Please?” Charlotte repeated. She wasn’t a drowning drunk passenger but I still looked at Leah for the final verdict. She nodded.
“Okay, just let me go put on my bathing suit.”
When I emerged from the aft cabin I felt naked. It was one thing to wear a bikini in front of Erik and Leah, but these were the clients. What if they disapproved of me spending time with their kids? What if they hadn’t realized I could wear anything but khaki shorts and the navy blue crew shirt—like finding out your teacher’s first name? Charlotte was waiting impatiently at the bow of the boat. When she saw me she didn’t blink an eye, just held out her hand. She didn’t see the divide between us. She didn’t see that I was trying to be professional, that I had been hired to be professional, that there were rules and class divisions and a power dynamic. So I took her hand.
She pulled me out onto the bowsprit and, clutching my hand, jumped into the bay.
Half an hour later, we climbed up the rudder on to the boat for the last time. The sun was setting and the orange and pink streaks in the sky made up for the goosebumps that covered every inch of my skin. We all lay out on the deck, talking and laughing about nothing until the last of the color had faded from the sky.
I put my shirt and khaki shorts back on and hung up all the wet garments. I set out some fake candles and a couple cookies for the kids to have before going to bed. Then I retreated into the cluttered aft cabin, which held all the facts you don’t want to see—the dirty towels and cleaning supplies.
Schooner Pioneer is a tall ship that was built in 1885. She is a 103 ft, two masted steel schooner, and her home is the South Street Seaport. This summer, several peers and I committed to sail training once a week aboard Pioneer. Our day would begin at about 8am and end at about 1pm. Sail trainings are 90-minute sails around New York Harbor. Throughout each sail we would work on basic crew duties and commands aboard Pioneer. Some crew duties include docking and undocking from the seaport, repeating commands, coiling lines, raising sails, and striking sails.
When the vessel is underway, there are multiple watches (a watch is a group of people who stay together to complete a specific task) that are occurring. For example; Watch A would be at the helm, Watch B would be at the jib sail standing by for commands, and Watch C would be on bow watch. Each watch would rotate jobs so that everyone was receiving proper training on how to crew Pioneer. Being at the helm demonstrated how to navigate and steer the vessel.
While sailing, we used a maneuver called “tacking.” Tacking is the process of turning the bow of the vessel into the wind to change direction. Tacking is carried out by shifting the jib sail (the forward most sail) from one side of the vessel to the other. Whoever is on the helm will call out “ready about” which means prepare to shift the jib sail. Standing by the jib sail is one of the watches aboard Pioneer.
Bow watch is the 3rd watch aboard the vessel. Bow watch is conducted at the bow (forward most part) of the vessel. Bow watch is required to point out anything in the water that can possible harm the vessel in 360 degrees. We have to point out other vessels, anchorages, wood in the water, etc. When on bow watch you would like to point these things out to the person on the helm and be sure they understand what you are alerting them about. Sail training expanded my knowledge of tall ships and how to specifically crew a vessel such as Pioneer.
In my sophomore class we were put into pairs to conduct a two week research project. We were given a topic to study and to become an expert in. My topic was international maritime business. Since it was such a big topic to cover, my partner and I decided we would narrow it down. There were many ideas thrown around but eventually we decided to focus on the business of cargo ships. We asked questions of how efficient the system is, how it has evolved to what we have today, and the environmentally cautious changes on ships.
Now usually I would much prefer to do any project by myself because in every group projects I usually do all the work so in my mind it’s done the way I want it to be, however this grade was based on how well you and your partner worked together. It forced me to be more dependent on my partner, and have more trust in them. We had to learn to be a team. Not only did this project make me realize how interested I am in cargo ships, but how much better group projects work when everyone’s involved and doing a part of it.
Throughout my three years in the vessel operations program, I’ve had the opportunity to explore many jobs and internships within the industry. Our class has visited Water Taxi, South Street Seaport, and Hornblower. This year, the senior class is required to take on an internship within the maritime field. My internship will be with Entertainment Cruises. Every Monday and Wednesday I now take the 1:30 ferry off the island and go down to Chelsea Piers. I will be working in the food and beverage department serving guests while they are aboard for the dinner and lunch cruises. While I won’t be throwing lines or steering, this job is just as important and maritime related as any other student’s internship. I look forward to gaining more experience in this field and working with a new team of people.
This past week I’ve been working with the techs at TRANSAS and I was able to get my personal simulator from TRANSAS up and running again. This is a great tool. TRANSAS is a marine simulation company all over the world. Their prime headquarters are based in California where they create and build these simulators. They not only have simulators in just boat steering but also have cargo ship engine room training, including specialized cargo ship crane simulators. This is great for understanding how boats operate without running the risk of actually hurting anyone. However, we still don’t approach the simulator as a game. It’s a training vehicle that happens to be fun.
TRANSAS and the crew are great to talk to and work with. They have helped me out whenever I have issues wight he simulators at school. My experiences on the simulator have taught me a lot about juggling information. You don’t want to forget about the draft of the boat in a shallow area when you’re concentrated on keeping the speed up and the course steady.