Our Space Center Ship sailed into calm seas on Monday. We knew the crossing would be stormy, but having faith in the ship and every confidence in each other we knew there was no calamity that could deter us from reaching the opposite shore. We pressed forward into the gathering wind and darkening sky.
By Wednesday evening the ship was bucking beneath us. Keeping our footing was paramount, keeping our lunch was preferred but nearly impossible. Most if us were in full rain gear manning our stations on deck. And when not on duty many of us stayed on deck near the railing emptying our stomachs down the side of the ship.
I stood on deck struggling to hold the wheel and steer a straight course. Our Directors took turns beside me calling out orders to the younger sailors. First to take in sail and other times to set sail. The wind was fierce causing our youngest to rope themselves to the masts to avoid being swept away as the tidal waves washed overhead.
Aleta struggled in the ship’s galley. Cooking in a moving kitchen was no easy task. Every pot, pan, knife and spoon had a mind of its own, and unless secured, found itself on the floor in a thoughtless dance moving wall to wall. She barked orders to her kitchen help (when someone could be spared), ordering them to hold this or pour that. Miracles were performed in that Galley. All meals were ready on time. They were delicious and nutritious, if the sea would let them stay in your stomach.
By Thursday the crew with the weakest constitutions started showing signs of excessive exhaustion. They were found sleeping in the hallways, in the bunks, in the galley and anywhere they could find a spot of dry deck and little lighting. I tried to sleep in my cabin. Four to five hours was all the conditions would allow.
Friday morning the ship starting taking water. I noticed a strong list to port. Several crew, commanded by Midshipman Thomas manned the pumps. Megan was at the wheel. I was on lookout. Several of the passengers tied themselves to the benches in the ship’s galley. There were screams and cries for divine intervention every time the ship tilted to port. It seemed each crashing wave would be the one to capsize the ship sending it, along with all of us, to the bottom. The crew rose to the occasion, doing their best to calm the passengers even though thoughts of their own watery deaths wore heavily on their minds.
Saturday morning brought no relief. We knew we were close to shore but the raging storm hid everything from view except for the boiling gray sea with towering white caps. crashing over us. Near nine bells I heard a loud snap. I realized a mast was compromised. All eyes looked up.
“There it is,” came a shout from the lower deck. I saw a mast swinging in the wind. Midshipman Kevin was doing everything he could to regain control but lost it as the ship rose and then crashed downward with such force it sent most of us seat first onto the deck. The mast fell with sail unfurling. It hit with force.
“He’s Down!” came the shout from below. I rushed to the railing. The crew struggled with the heavy beam. I saw a pair of legs appear, then a torso and finally a face. Lt. Jon Parker lay on his back. His eyes stared straight upward as if in final prayer for his soul.
“Is he alive?” I shouted. Midshipman Alex was the first to his side. He felt for a pulse then put his ear to his mouth to listen for breath.
“He is,” Alex shouted back. “His skull appears to be fractured. There’s blood.”
“To the doctor,” I shouted as I moved down the stairs to the injured officer. I help him to his feet. He was speaking through a stream of rainwater and blood.
“I’m OK sir. I’m OK. Leave me be. There’s work to be done. Must save the ship.” His can do spirit was an inspiration to all that attended to him.
“I’ll hear none of it,” I replied. I moved him to my quarters. The doctor arrived. “Take care of him. He’s a good man.” I said leaving the room to attend to my duties on deck. Two hours later Lt. Jon Parker returned to duty. His forehead was wrapped. The wound required six stitches. He saluted, reached for the rigging and was climbing up to secure the sails before I could voice an objection. The Old Man of the Sea could not take a ship manned with officers like this.
At 4:00 P.M. the harbor was in view. The storm had moved from a full blown tempest to a whimper. The sea was calming. The gray ceiling that had accompanied us on our perilous journey was giving way to sunlight. The battle was won. Our week of hell was over and our destination met.
The passengers disembarked. Many walked down the ramps under their own power. Others needed assistance. A small cheer rose from the crew when the last one stepped onto land. Our responsibilities were finished. Rest was our reward.
Yes, we finished our heck week. We started with a three day camp, then a one night overnighter and finally another three day camp. Setting aside the exaggerations in the story above it really went well - all thanks to our awesome staff and volunteers. Everyone knew their duty and did it. We survived and the campers all had good times.
I want to highlight a few things:
- Aleta did a fantastic job in the kitchen. The food was wonderful and always on time and cooked to perfection. Honestly, we can’t thank her enough. A camp operates on its stomach.
- The Flight Directors gave it their all and I’m grateful for that.
- Our Supervisors did an excellent job helping the Flight Directors by keeping the simulators in good condition and helping with the campers.
- Thanks to Lorraine and Sheila for their class session. The kids really enjoyed it. And an extra thank you to Lorraine for Chaperoning the first two camps.
- What can I say about our volunteers? They are the life blood of the Space Center. Without them we wouldn’t be able to do the things we do.
- I want everyone to know that Jon Parker gave his all to the Center on Saturday Morning. He took a opened door right in the forehead. Six stitches later he was back on the job doing what he does best - working with the campers. After the camp he volunteered to stay behind and clean the school for our Monday missions and camp. Jon is awesome.
Now, in closing I need to comment on the Leadership Camp. I’m afraid I need to eat my words and then have a hefty helping of Humble Pie. I was doubtful a Leadership Camp for 14 -17 year olds would work. Megan and Taylor both came to me with the idea in March. I said no and I meant it.
They wouldn’t let stand. They kept at me - over and over, day in and day out until I listened to what they had to say. They explained the concept.
Again I wanted to say No but in the end they persuaded me to give it a yes.
They started preparations. I stayed out of it. I told them that if they really wanted to run a camp for the upper teen market they would do it on their own. I couldn’t get involved. I had far too many other things to deal with on my plate. They agreed.
I was so doubtful anyone would enroll in the camp I didn’t make a swimming reservation at PG Pool for the campers. A little fact I forgot until Friday morning. I told Megan we didn’t have a pool reservation. She gave me that look. It was the look someone gives you when you really let them down. I put it into gear and arranged for a school bus to pick up the campers that evening and take them to the Orem Rec. Center’s pool. Swimming was saved - giving Megan and her team enough time to set up the school for the most awesome ‘Landing Party’ we’ve seen in years!
Well, the camp started on Thursday and started full. The 35th spot was taken just as the camp started. I was wrong. They were right. Enough said on that.
Thank you everyone for a great week. Now don’t sit back on our laurels. We have three weeks of camps left before we wrap up the summer season so batten down the hatches and tie the campers to the masts. We leave port again on Monday and it promises to be a bumpy ride.