Tall ship visits PO marina

A dozen teenagers will be behind the wheel of a 90-ton vessel headed straight for Port Orchard this weekend.

But as it makes its way north from Tacoma across the sound, there will be an adult onboard the tall ship at all times.

“I never get very far from the wheel,” said Dick Shipley, a Poulsbo resident who began working with the Sea Scouts more than 30 years ago and is a master with the Tacoma group.

Friday afternoon, Shipley said he and about 12 Scouts, ranging in age from 14 to 18, will sail from Tacoma to Sinclair Inlet, arriving to moor at the Port Orchard Marina sometime that night.

“It’s a weekender for the kids,” said Shipley, adding that while the Scouts do all the work, he is required by the United States Coast Guard to be on the ship, the Sea Scouts Ship (SSS) Odyssey, at all times.

“They do a very good job. This past summer, they took the boat all the way up to Canada,” he said, explaining that the longer excursions are the main attraction for most teens. “That’s the lure of the program.”

And even though the vessel is “a very heavy, very powerful boat” that builds up quite a bit of momentum when underway, Shipley doesn’t worry about whether the young men and women he is supervising can handle it.

“When I worry is when we have guests aboard,” he said. “They aren’t as familiar with the boat and there are some hazardous spots to be standing in.”

Once in Port Orchard, Shipley said the Scouts will spend most of the daylight hours sailing back and forth between Port Orchard and Bremerton to practice sailing into and mooring at the newly built marina.

There is some wind expected this weekend, however, so Shipley said if conditions get particularly bad, the crew may head up to the bowling alley, instead.

“This boat’s capable of taking on almost anything,” he said, but any time the the ship is moored, the public “is welcome to come aboard.

“It is a public ship, owned by the Boy Scouts of America,” he said. “It is a national treasure, and we try and keep it available to the public.

Starting Saturday at 9 a.m., then for an hour or so until until the Scouts head out across Sinclair Inlet, Shipley said anyone anxious to tour the Odyssey should head down to the public dock, near where the Kitsap Transit Foot Ferry departs from.

“We’re hard to miss,” he joked. “Our mast, at about 110-feet, will be about twice as tall as the boats around us.”

Since January is smack in the middle of the sailing “off-season,” Shipley said the Odyssey is currently spending most of its time at its winter home in Tacoma, where it is available for private jaunts.

“People charter us for birthday parties, to scatter ashes,” he said, adding that next year the group will host its first wedding, which will be between two former Scouts who worked on the boat.

“I even had my 60th birthday party on it,” he said.

The boat will sail back to Tacoma Sunday.

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