We arrived downtown right on time, and I headed over to Pier 16 with the group that was sailing first. This sail was the calmest. We started with a brief safety talk, and then the kids got to help raise the sails. They lined up along the halyards and hauled, hand over hand, shouting Heave, ho! at the end when it got really heavy. By this point, the kids who were initially nervous were smiling and chatting with their friends. The crew put a few kids to work coiling line, and others raised the foresails.
We spotted the Statue of Liberty and had a brief discussion of local geography. Now, I'm not exactly known for my sense of direction, but once I know where Manhattan and Brooklyn are, I do have a rough sense of where the other boroughs must be. Not so the kids. Where's the Bronx? the ship's educator asked. Several hands pointed towards New Jersey. Where's Queens? This one, they were sure, was in the direction of New Jersey. Where's Staten Island? And they all pointed towards Jersey. Every time we do a big trip like this one, we talk about just getting a couple of subway maps and talking to the kids about local geography and how to get around the city. Some are old pros at taking the subway alone, but others.... uptown? downtown? local? express? No clue.
The ship's educator gave the kids a few minutes to just look around them and take in their surroundings. For this first sail, she asked them to do it in silence. It was so peaceful, and the kids were mostly quiet, looking around, listening to the wind, the sails, the waves. For many, it was their first time on a boat, maybe even their first time downtown. For that alone, it was worth it. Everything has to be about enriching kids' knowledge of the world, adding to their experiences. The next time they read about sailing, or the ocean, they will have a memory to relate it to.
Then we played block & tackle tug o'war. We put one little girl on the end of the line that was attached to a block (pulley). One of our larger boys was on the other end, a fixed line. The kids gasped as the girl easily won! More heavy people were stacked against her. She continued to win. But she has a pulley! they said.
On our way back, we split the kids up into three stations. One station built boats out of aluminum foil to test how the shape of the hull affects how much cargo the boat can hold. They tested their boats in little tubs of seawater. Another group did a workshop on sail theory. A third group looked at navigational charts and how to calculate speed in the water.
Finally, we reached the pier and headed back to shore. The kids were happy, the teachers were happy, our parent chaperones were happy. As we took kids to the bathroom and let them buy icees, the next group arrived, and I was off sailing again.
The second and third sails were much like the first, except that each group had more energy than the one before. By the end of the day, it was really hot and bright out, and they'd been scarfing candy at every opportunity and were very excitable. First one boy complained of seasickness. He sat for most of the sail with his head on his knees. Soon others started complaining. I wasn't sure how much it was real and how much it was the power of suggestion, until three kids started puking over the side of the boat. I'll give the kids credit, though, they were very brave about it. They felt bad, but didn't cry or fuss, they just calmly vomited and sipped water. I brought extra bottles of water, but next time, I'll bring even more.
Our other two groups had left for home by this point, and called to say that the subway that we needed to take was not running. Uh-oh. Luckily, nearly every train line runs from lower Manhattan, so we brainstormed another route and braced ourselves for a slow, crowded trip home. My group stopped to watch a juggler for a few minutes, and by the time we got to the train station, everything was normal again, although you really haven't lived until you've taken 26 kids home from a long day's field trip in a rush-hour subway car (it didn't even get better uptown, because there was a Yankee game and we were just in time to get caught in the middle of all that traffic, too).
By the time we straggled home - around 7 pm - all the teachers were wiped out. What. A. Day. But the kids loved it, and that's what matters.
And it didn't start raining until hours later, after I had dinner with another teacher, as we headed home to crawl into our beds.