Katherine started as a deckhand in San Diego before making a career of it
  • Katherine started as a deckhand in San Diego before making a career of it
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Have you ever wanted to be a deckhand and sail on one of the old tall ships wharfed at the Embarcadero? Hoist rigs, shiver me timbers, and yell “Land ho!” from a crow’s nest?

San Diego Maritime Museum

1492 N. Harbor Drive, Downtown San Diego

The Maritime Museum of San Diego will be offering a six-Sunday class for amateur seadogs, beginning on January 21. Participants will set sail on four tall ships, which represent historical sailing over four centuries.

Katherine and her dad Richard from Rancho Bernardo were on the deck of the Star of India on December 20 for a fall class session. Katherine started onboard when she was 16. She took the course because she said she loves working on the water and learning the history of the ships. As an adult, when in town, she volunteers to help new deckhands but works seasonally for historic sailing ships based on Lake Michigan and in the Pacific Northwest.

Deckhands will be taught and tested in three areas: physical endurance — having to pull 75 pounds both vertically and horizontally, tie a series of nautical knots, and, most important, become “jibboom qualified.”

A jibboom is the pole or mast sticking out the front of the ship. To become jibboom qualified, one must hang from a yardarm with one hand for five seconds, swing over to another yardarm with the other hand, hold on, and then swing back. “You basically have to do pull-ups to climb the masts,” said Richard.

The classes include voyages on the museum’s 18th-century HMS Surprise, a full rigged frigate; the 19th-century schooner, Californian; the 19th-century Star of India; and the newly built 16th-century Spanish galleon, San Salvador.

There is no cost for the class, other than being a museum member (annual memberships start at $50; $45 for students and seniors), and having proof of health insurance. There is a mandatory orientation that takes place prior. The Sunday class sails will depart the Embarcadero at around 8:30 a.m. and return by 3:00 p.m. with usually about 10 to 20 deckhands in each class.

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