The trumpets of the Navy band rang, “Glory, Glory, Halleluiah,” and the drumline kept pace as thousands of midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy marched onward. They were marching two miles from the Academy grounds to the football stadium to see their football team play University of Central Florida at home.
One of our gap students has a good friend from Maine who attends the Academy. This friend stopped by to greet the Gamage crew and welcome us to Annapolis. With a healthy dose of irreverence, one of our students asked what was so special about the football team and why all midshipmen are required to attend home games. What makes them more special than the women’s soccer team or co-ed sailing? Without missing a beat, the midshipman responded, “Football brings a lot of money to the school, and they want the bleachers to be full for the television cameras.” That, and it reinforces the discipline required to safely operate ships in the open ocean.
The previous week we raced some of the midshipmen, who were members of the offshore sailing team, in the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race. They were aboard the fast and sleek racing schooner, Summer Wind, which boasts a modern carbon fiber rig, on a 1920s-wooden race boat. We were not in town, however, for Summer Wind, but rather to see the spectacular model ship exhibit in the Academy’s Preble Hall.
While there were interesting historical displays outlining naval history over the centuries, our intrepid students and crew devoured the rare model ships. These ships were large, intricate models of ships from all over Europe, some as big as armoires, and all in original cabinets that were built with equal skill. The ships were fashioned of wood, silk-rigging, and, especially if it was a model of a French ship, gold paint. The detail of the ships was precise and to scale. Historically, as a nations’ ship was completed, one of these models would be crafted and then gifted among Europe’s aristocracy. A kind donor offered his collection of these antiques for the public to view. It was impressive for us, as we could see the progression of naval architecture of fully-rigged ships from the 1600s to 1800s.
This exhibit reinforced the notion that we are part of something greater than ourselves when sailing Harvey Gamage. We are connected to ships and crews of yore, to innovation, to history, to yearning for something more. By sailing our ship south to Cuba, we are connecting back to the age of sail, while simultaneously looking forward. Our ship is a tool for us to travel onward, to engage the world, to learn more about ourselves, and, in the next few weeks, to begin to share our lives with new friends in Cuba.