This video is about the Nautical Science programs offered at the University of Southern California for its students. This program has an experience-based approach to sailing ship. Participants learn offshore sailing theory and techniques, navigation, and basic oceanography as relevant to seamanship.
The video gives an overview of the program. You may watch the video and read the video transcript below
I must go down to the seas again
To the lonely sea and the sky
And all I ask is a tall ship
And a star to steer her by…
- John Masefield
The Nautical Science Program at USC
The majesty of an earlier age, the age of sail can be found in the University of Southern California’s nautical science program. The breathtaking sight of a vessel and her sail lures many to the program to experience firsthand the magical enchantment known as the Romance of the Sea..
Whether your preference is lean toward dinghies, brigantines or something in between, the basic principles for success are taught both in the class room and aboard ship.
Bursting with excitement, and frequently a slight case of nerves, students arrive at the marina on the day of their voyage. Some students find themselves sailing aboard the lovely schooner Atlantas, a traditional wooden sailing vessel. Possessing magnificent overall charm, she conjures visions of a more elegant time. Her burnished beauty whispers in history to those who are willing to listen.
Seamlessly entwining her traditional beauty with modern technology, the Atlantas may just be the perfect vessel. She inspires devotion and many students to set foot upon her teak deck. Other students have the opportunity to enjoy the contemporary styling of the Artemis, fiberglass lou that darts effortlessly through the waves. Her modern flair, simplicity and comfort foster the sense that the mysteries of the deep are within reach. As clouds fly overhead, her polished fittings gleam, afternoon sunlight slants through her edges and a sense of peace descends that cannot be found anywhere else.
Enjoying all the modern amenities, the Artemis claims her own share of admirers. Seduced by the joy and sense of freedom ignited aboard ship on their voyages, students tend to become fiercely passionate in favor of one vessel or the other.
Away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life students bask in the peace and tranquility found among the waves and marvel as their vessel gracefully cuts its way through the water. Captivated by the salty tang of the sea air, the sweeping panoramic views, the lapping of waves against the hull and the feel of the swells beneath their feet, students delight in the sense that they returned to the world of yesteryear. A simpler world, a world where as Joseph Conrad once noted - demands presented are simple, direct and unavoidable.
The Sail Experience
In this world the spirit of teamwork is vital and bonds of friendship and solidarity are quickly established. These students have the opportunity to unravel the intricacies of life aboard ship. New sailors learn to respect the enormity of nature’s power. Day and night, sun and storm, on some voyages Mother Nature shares the spectacular tangerine glow of a perfect sunset. On other voyages she leaves the water and the vessel shrouded by fog. The mist slightly resting over Avalon, kindle of feeling of wonder and even the hardest of hearts.
A large part of the program sail training focuses on the art of navigation. Rather than relying solely on electronic data, students are not only encouraged but actually required to use paper charts to cloak positions and courses. Though initially offered as a task, students meet the challenge and overcome their difficulties by working together. Though the real-world implementation of visual navigation comes easily to some, others find it a bit bewildering.
The skippers are always ready to lend a hand and explain the finer points. Also on aboard ship our students learn sail handling and helmsman ship abilities. Learning to identify an employee rigging correctly, students take great pride in setting, trimming and dousing sails. Taking turns acting as helmsman, each student takes the wheel and puts the cruise navigation skills to the test by steering the course they have so carefully plotted. Those sailing definitely requires effort, students learn that it also has its rewards. With the sale sail set, a stiff breeze blowing and the water gliding by beneath the keel, there is often time for relaxation on Deck.
See sail pictures: USC Nautical Science Program Pictures
Occasionally, the local sea life even drops by to say hello. Using the skills acquired aboard keel boats on their voyages, students have the chance to truly become one with the wind and the waves as small boats sailors. Students at rig launch and sail the dinghies themselves. Practicing their seamanship skills aboard such highly responsible sailboats, students become immediately aware of how sail trim and rudder adjustments affect a boat. Determining who has the right of way in the nautical rules of the road games immediacy in this setting. Applying these skills under pressure takes some getting used to so good bailing skills are a must. Due to the nature of small boats sailing, man overboard and capsized recovery skills are more than simply an exercise aboard these boats. With a bit of practice, students gain confidence in their sailing abilities. Most to participate develop their skills enough to become certified small boats sailors.
Training in Square Rigged Vessels
With the construction of the twin brigantine teams Irving and Exy Johnson, the Los Angeles Maritime Institute has created the unique opportunity for students to learn to sail traditional square rigged vessels. Ensuring that no one ever feels left out of the action, each brigantine has 13 sails and dozens of lights. Building on the type of sail handling students have previously learned, the complexity of square rigged vessels requires them to learn new skills and to expand their vocabularies.
Much of the work aboard a square rigger occurs aloft. The idea of climbing to such heights can be nerve-wracking and some students choose to keep their feet firmly on deck, thus giving themselves a view of their friends not often seen elsewhere. However, most are willing to venture of the wetlands at least ones and the boldest souls climbed out onto the yards to get the square cells in their gear before setting out and for all the sails at the end of the voyage. Since there are 4 yards to choose from, apprehensive sailors need not go any higher than makes them comfortable. Of course there is always one eager student who is undaunted by climbing all the way up.
Sticking firmly to tradition there isn’t winch nowhere to be found anywhere on board. Old-fashioned muscle power is the driving force behind these vessels. Sailing them is a true accomplishment, a source of pride and a pure joy.
Beguiled by the cool caress of the wind on their faces, those who truly hear the silent song of the sea often become senior skippers, first or second mates to impart their nautical knowledge to new sailors in the program. It is in the senior skipper class that students are permitted to practice their docking and anchoring skills aboard the Artemis of course since she is a bit more resilient to the inevitable miscalculations that accompanied the development of these skills.
Seminar type format of the senior skipper class allows the students to select specific areas of interest they wish to study. Some semesters the senior skippers choose to spruce up their knowledge of marine diesel engines. Other semesters they decide to concentrate on safety, marine weather, or a variety of other marine specialties.
In the course of their studies, these students develop a discerning eye. For instance, any senior skipper unable to immediately decipher what is wrong with this picture would be clapped in irons or at least teased mercilessly. By this point in their sailing careers these students have learned that a good sense of humor is an essential ingredient for a sailor.
Aboard the Atlantas the quarter beds are reserved for the senior skippers sleeping accommodations. When sleeping on the starboard side a senior skipper quickly perfects the skill of climbing into and out of this birth without falling into the galley sink. However, trial and error is usually part of this process as is true with so many aspects of sail.
Keeping the program afloat, our fantastic group of experienced skippers who make everyone aboard feel at ease. Led by program director, their wealth of knowledge and imperturbable nature make each of them a true asset to the program.
The unpredictable nature of sailing means that anything can happen and often does. These salty men and women are ready for whatever challenges the sea and the students throw at them. If you have ever heard the call of the sea, USC’s nautical science program is ready and waiting to answer that call.