Training Program Info

What the Students Will Learn

Ship Orientation

Upon signing onto the ship’s company, the students will be given a full orientation of the vessel. From this they will learn the many parts of the ship and the many strange names that seafarers have given to items and areas aboard. As well, the Spirit of South Carolina has close to two miles of lines that control our sailing rig and the students will be taught where everyone is and what it does. It is far more complicated than just port & starboard! Ever wonder what is meant when someone yells out, “STARBOARD WATCH TO THE STAYSAIL CLUB LIFT!”? The trainees will leave knowing plenty of the nautical lingo heard being bellowed by Chief Mates over the water for centuries!



Emergency Stations

The Spirit of South Carolina meets and exceeds all Coast Guard safety regulations for commercial vessels. (see vessel specifications) All personnel are required to be oriented and practiced in the use of the safety equipment aboard the vessel. Students will be trained in this area as well, not only for their safety, but also because it is part of the knowledge and experience of serving at sea as a deckhand!

Line Handling, Knots & Splices

Traditional sailing is famous for its array of intricate knots and splices. Students will learn many of these and put them to use while working on the ship. By the time they depart, they will be able to tie many of these behind their backs and in the dark! As well, they will be taught the correct way to handle line under heavy loads, working as a team to haul up or ease down the task at hand. They will come home with a few more callouses on their hands then when they left!





Watch Standing

While the ship is underway, she does not stop sailing until she reaches her destination. After the sails are all set and the ship is on course and secure, the crew is then broken into three navigational watches, which take four hour turns on deck keeping the ship on her heading and standing lookouts. As well, the vessel is constantly being checked to ensure that all things are operating correctly. Each watch is divided into stations which the students will stand alongside the professional crew.

These stations include the lookout who stand at the bow keeping eyes forward for boats, weather and any other areas of concern that the officer may need to take into consideration. There is an old saying that the bow-lookout gets to breathe the fresh air first! Next is the ship’s inspections. Once an hour a team goes through every compartment checking that all is well with the ship. And lastly, there is the helmsman. The helmsman stands at the ship’s wheel, our students will learn the art of keeping the Spirit of South Carolina’s course true!

Anchor Watches

Whenever the ship is resting on her anchor, crew are always monitoring how the ship is settled.

This is constantly being checked by using a compass to take bearings to landmarks on the shore around us. Just as with navigation, the students will learn how to take bearings using a compass to ensure that the Spirit of South Carolina is not dragging her anchor and is sitting comfortably in place. Once the schedule is set, our students will take turns throughout the night standing their anchor watches.

Navigation & Nautical Science

Students will also learn the art and science of navigating the ship over the water. They will learn how to read nautical charts, and use the compass and plotting instruments to find the ship’s position out at sea and plot her course though the water.


As well, we will introduce celestial navigation, the method by which sailors use the sun and the stars to find their way across the oceans. This is a really cool way to finally use those math classes you never thought that you would ever need! As well as chart work and compass, the students will learn about the “rules of the road” at sea. These rules govern how ships interact with each on the water safely to prevent accidents. These rules use a system of lights, shapes and sounds to communicate every vessel’s direction and configuration. Students will learn how to identify different types of vessels by practicing these systems as part of their training in safe navigation.

Students will be taught how to recognize the layout of navigational buoys that mark the safe water for vessels to transit through, and how to relate what they are observing to what they are reading on the charts to plot out a safe course over the waters.

And finally as part of their lessons in nautical science, we will teach how the orbits of the moon and the earth cause the motion of the tides and the tidal currents. The students will learn how to read the tide tables to accurately predict the times and heights of the tides in all of the areas where Spirit of South Carolina will be sailing.




Of course the weather effects all ships out on the sea, and sailors always have to keep a sharp weather-eye. We will teach students how to collect data such as barometric pressure, temperature and humidity, and look at the clouds & weather charts to predict what the weather will do and where the wind will come from. This combined with the skills they will learn in navigation will help them understand the intricacies of passage planning.


Marine Ecology

The waters of New England are well known for their fishing grounds and whale migration routes. We will be sailing through areas known to be fertile hunting areas for migrating whales, and with any luck we will get to show our students these wonderful marine animals in their natural environment. We use this experience to introduce the topic of the marine environment and its diverse array of eco-systems. As well, we endeavor to instill a sense of responsibility for this environment and foster in our trainees the desire to protect these delicate eco-systems and their inhabitants.


Maritime History

Through our own dictation and the various ports that we will visit, our students will get no shortage of history lessons about seafaring throughout the ages. Some of the locals and ports of call will include trips to maritime museums and tours of historic site that house rich maritime histories.

We endeavor to teach this history to entrench the understanding of how crucial seafaring was in shaping the world in which we live in today. It is imperative that we get our students to recognize the ramifications of this enterprise. Mastery of the seas created empires which spread across the globe, and changed the course of human history in ways that are still being felt to this day.