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Sailor's Creed to Life at Sea

Monday, September 25, 2017

Dockside, Henricus Historical Park

For hundreds of years, a life at sea has unlocked opportunities that would otherwise have been unachievable for many young men. This was not the case for Bartholomew Gosnold, who commanded the original Godspeed in 1607. He was born into a wealthy and politically influential family, which allowed him to become one of the earliest advocates and movers in the Virginia Company of London. The admiral of the three ships bound for Jamestown in 1607, however, had a much different background. Christopher Newport rose through the ranks as a common seaman to become a captain, ship owner and eventually, “one of the six masters of the royal navy.” (Brown, Genesis of the U.S.)

students aboard Godspeed at HenricusTo describe life aboard our re-created Godspeed as arduous would be stretching the truth at best. But, the same principles that have been instilled in sailors through time immemorial are now practiced here. “Ship, Shipmate, Self.” This motto encompasses the foundation for a successful life at sea (and on shore, for that matter). Your ship is your home and you must first serve that vessel with hard-work, attention to detail, and loyalty. Take care of your shipmates, because when there is heavy lifting to be done, they will be right beside you, pulling with all their weight. And, take care of yourself because without your help, the crew lacks a set of hands so necessary to accomplish the work.

In the waning days of sail in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, the maritime industry understood the value of sending young men to sea under sail. Even as steam replaced sail, most European and American shipping companies preferred their officers to start on sailing ships where the work instilled discipline, strong seamanship skills, and teamwork. Today, many countries operate sailing vessels as training platforms for their naval midshipmen. The United States Coast Guard Academy sends midshipmen to sea on the USCG Barque Eagle and dozens of American sailing school ships take high school and college students to sea.

Students learning about GodspeedGodspeed’s outreach programs are part of that larger mission of preserving maritime history, traditions and skills. We use traditional commands when handling sail. When weather and schedule allow, we sail the ship as much as possible, using the same technology as Gosnold’s crew in 1607.  Godspeed is a floating extension of our museum, expanding our reach into communities and school systems across the Commonwealth of Virginia. For some students, this may be their only opportunity to study the Jamestown story outside of a textbook. Over the past weekend, we saw more than 1,300 people across the ship’s deck. Today and tomorrow, we will host another 300 students, conducting maritime-based education programs. Whether setting the foretops’l or learning about the colonist’s life onboard during the 144-day trip to Jamestown, we continue the tradition of using ships to help teach, inspire, and train another generation of youth.

View from  Godspeed at Henricus

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