DULUTH, Minn.-When the schooner Abbey Road made its way through the Duluth ship canal in Thursday's Parade of Sail, a ninth-grader was at the helm.
"Lots of wind, all the sails were up. The wind was pushing us around and I was trying to stay in the middle of the channel, but I had to go into the wind. ... You've just got to be able to feel the boat," said Yamila LeBouton of Washburn, Wis.
The Bayfield-based schooner arrived at Tall Ships Duluth with a crew of nearly a dozen teenagers and two adults. Spending a week sailing the Abbey Road to Duluth, volunteering at Tall Ships Duluth and sailing the return trip to Bayfield is part of Sea Scouts, a coed program for ages 13 to 21. The Abbey Road's crew at Tall Ships Duluth hail from Sea Scout programs in both St. Paul and Bayfield.
The Abbey Road is owned by the nonprofit Lake Superior Tall Ships and used by Sea Scouts as an educational vessel, according to Capt. Gordon Ringberg, president of the nonprofit and also mayor of Bayfield. The Scouts complete all of the tasks that go with sailing the schooner.
"Their job is to get the boat ready to go ... they pull the boat away from the dock, sails up and Yamila commands them en route," Ringberg said.
Linda Fuller, a committee member with Sea Scouts, said she loves to watch the young people assume leadership roles and acquire the skills needed to sail the schooner. They undergo "real big, major changes" to become skilled, serious leaders, she said.
"I've only been around for a year now and I can see changes in Sea Scouts and individuals - major character things and leadership potential and action," she said.
LeBouton joined the Sea Scouts three years ago after her friend urged her to join. Now leading the crew as the boatswain, she knows the limits of each crewmember and takes a "servant leader" approach to her boatswain position, she said, explaining that she helps the crew complete tasks instead of standing back to let others complete a task.
"It's taught me to be confident in myself. I wasn't very confident before. All the leadership stuff, it gets to you," she said.
Fuller is spending the weekend with the Abbey Road, volunteering at the tall ships festival. One of the Sea Scouts' values is service, she explained. Festival attendees have been generally good-natured during the festival, even when they have spent hours waiting in line to get onto the ships, she said. She also is spreading the word about Sea Scouts during her volunteering, especially if she sees a family with children, she said.
The Sea Scouts in Bayfield meet once a week, take a weekend sailing trip once a month and then complete a seven- to 10-day sailing trip every August. During winter, the Scouts learn skills such as navigation and CPR. Many of the Scouts learn to sail through North Coast Community Sailing's classes in Bayfield, Wis., Ringberg said. Duluth doesn't have a Sea Scout program, but if one was started, it would be nice to have another group of Scouts to join for sailing trips, he said.
The weekend trips usually entail sailing around the Apostle Islands. The first night involves the Scouts using their navigational skills to manually track their location on the lake before anchoring for breakfast, Ringberg said.
LeBouton recalled an interesting experience she had in her first squall on July 17. She was below deck doing the dishes and as the schooner tilted in the waves, she fell over the table. Ringberg explained that they could see the squall's edge and stayed north to avoid the worst of it. They dealt with winds blowing at about 30 to 35 miles per hour, but it probably could have been worse, he said.
Amelia Green, a sophomore at Ironwood High School in the U.P., was steering the schooner at the time and said she was getting water thrown into her face from the big waves.
"It was actually pretty fun," said Green, who joined Sea Scouts a little more than a year ago.
Lake Superior tall ship
Ringberg also is attending the tall ships festival on behalf of the nonprofit Lake Superior Tall Ships to generate interest in building a tall ship that would call Lake Superior home.
The nonprofit is hoping to build a replica of the Alice Craig, a U.S. Revenue cutter that sailed on Lake Superior from 1859 to 1887. Ringberg explained that after the cutter was retired from the Revenue Service, it was sold to a fishing family in Bayfield for private use. The nonprofit is gearing up to begin a capital campaign and is hoping that the replica will be built using steel from the Iron Range and designed and built locally on Lake Superior.
"It's not a boat just for Bayfield, it's really a Lake Superior boat. We want to be able to spend time in Bayfield, time in Duluth, time in Michigan and Marquette, even get up to Thunder Bay (Ontario) - make it a boat for the lake," he said.