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Captain Log ID: 166
Title: Ukraine Tall Ship Entered Wilmington
Boat Name(Id): Bat'kivshchyna ( 689)
Sailor Name(Id): Roy ( 1177)
Geo Region: Delaware, USA
Date of Occurance: 2000-06-19
Latitude: N 39º   44.4'
Longitude: W 75º   31.8'
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Ahoy!

Some 40 years ago, the Navy provided me with 18 months of instruction in Russian. I've seldom had a chance to use the knowledge; so, although I could remember some of the language, I am now by no means proficient. On the other hand, I am now a lot more proficient in the language than I was a little while ago! :)

If I have any of the personal or organizational names wrong in this narrative - please feel free to send corrections. I didn't take notes and I may have some of them mixed up.

I have had some negative feedback about the use of Russian on a Ukrainian vessel that is promoting Ukraine. First and foremost - I do NOT speak Ukrainian - and my Russian is very poor; but it was the only "tool" I had. Second - It was explained to me that many people in Ukraine are not able to speak the Ukrainian language because of the dominance (between ca 1920 - ca 1990) of the Russian language in the Soviet Union. It was also explained to me that there is an ongoing effort to reinstitute the Ukrainian language. Finally, for what it's worth, many of the crew speak at least some English. A few speak English quite well.

Sometime in early January I ran across a message on the Tall-Ships news group (a discussion group for Tall Ship groupies) advertising for people to sign up for "crew training" on the Ukrainian schooner "Bat'kivshchyna" (the accent is on the "y") during their participation on OpSail2000. I responded to the e-mail and asked the obvious questions - when, where, and how much.

Captain Dmitri
BirioukovitchCaptain Dmitri Birioukovitch (accent on the second "o") replied with the information and I agreed to sign up for the portion of the trip from Norfolk, VA to Baltimore, MD (six days). We continued to correspond and eventually I put up a web site for them at http://www.teachout.org/sail, did a little e-mail promoting, and generally tried to make myself helpful. My status got changed from "crew in training" to "Captains guest" (a much more economical status)!

If you visit the web site, you will see a log of the ship's journey to date. They had some adventures getting here; but get here they did and Mary and I visited them on the 14th of June in Norfolk (actually the ship was in Chesapeake, VA). We exchanged gifts and enjoyed a day visiting with them and the crew.

On the 19th, I rented a car and drove back to the ship. I was shown my "state room" - a sort of alcove next to the mess (dining) table. The "room" contained two bunks - each about 6 ft long, 3 feet wide and with about 24 inches of head space. The top bunk was not being used so that became my "dresser." (I threw my bag up there and just took out what I needed when I needed it.)

galleyOn the Bat'kivshchyna there are two such crew compartments; one containing six of these "rooms", the mess table and the galley, the other containing a set of six double bunks without the "rooms." The Captain and his wife have a separate compartment with it's own head (bathroom) and cooking area.

The crew consisted of:

          Dmitri Birioukovitch - Captain
          Nina Birioukovitch   - Captain's Wife

      (in the forward quarters)
          Pylyp (Philip)       - First Mate and Navigator
          Sergei               - Bos'un
          Leonid               - Cook
          Misha                - Chief Mechanic
          Petr                 - Petr is a former newspaper correspondent
                                 and is currently head editor of a Ukrainian
                                 magazine.  I'm not sure what his function
                                 was with respect to the ship.
          Viktor               - (not sure of Viktor's function either)
          Katya                - Sailor (and a good one, too!)
          Myself               - Crew in training

      (in the aft quarters)
          Sergei               - Mechanic
          Sergei               - Sailor
          Ura                  - Sailor (in charge of the lifeboat)
          Genni                - Sailor
          Vladi                - Sailor
          ???                  - Sailor

Having settled in, I was invited to the table and we supped on bread, canned fish (a small mackerel, I think), a paté (something like liverwurst), cheese, and a warm beer. After supper (it takes at least two seatings to feed the entire crew - the mess table seats about 6 max) I was introduced to the Ukrainian "national drink" - vodka. (Not having had anything stronger than beer or a glass of champaign for over 20 years, I approached this occasion with a little trepidation and a great deal of caution!) I convinced them that I should only have a "VERY" small portion. I had three or four "VERY" small portions before they decided that I was NOT going to take a normal "shot" (by Ukrainian standards about two ounces) and chug-a-lug it.

I turned in; but didn't really sleep well. The cabin was warm and stuffy, I think I killed at least 500 mosquitos, the bed was hard (and, of course, it wasn't "my" bed), and the bed moved! (As I write this, I still have the sensation of the boat rocking. From previous experience, I suspect this phenomenon will last for about another day.)

Everyone turned out between 6 and 7. There is ONE toilet aboard and ONE washroom (the Captain's quarters also contains a toilet and wash area; but of course, that is off-limits) so it takes a while to get through the morning clean-up process. The toilet is T I N Y. I stand 5 ft. 6 in. and only had to stoop a little bit. It is almost impossible to turn around inside the toilet, so it is best to enter the toilet already facing the direction you need to be in - ie, if you need to sit, you back in. The toilet has virtually zero ventilation and becomes an oven in the middle of a warm day. There are no shower facilities. Needless to say, when tied up, the crew is willing to walk quite a distance to reach "standard" plumbing!

Breakfast was provided by the Tidewater Ukrainian Cultural Association (a local Ukrainian-American organization) - bacon, sausage, fried potatoes, rolls, etc. We feasted, leftovers went aboard, and we made ready to leave at about 9am. (The departure time was dictated by the need to catch the drawbridges when they could be opened - which means AFTER the morning rush hour.) Prior to entering the main Hampton Roads area, we were boarded by a local pilot who guided us through the inner harbor. (A special thanks to the pilots that helped us along the way - a great bunch of folks - and as far as I know - all volunteered their time.)

In addition to the pilot (who left at the outer limits of Hampton Roads), we were following the Larinda which was going up the Chesapeake with us. Follow that ship! The captain of the Larinda (Larry Mahan) had agreed to guide us along the way, as he had experience sailing in the Chesapeake Bay; so our navigational instructions were "follow that ship!." I had been assigned to the bridge watch with Pylyp (I was, after all, "crew in training"). I was told to take the helm. What a thrill! And what a frustrating experience! An 80+ foot, 80 ton yacht does NOT respond to the helm like a 20 foot sailboat does. I constantly oversteered, then had to correct (and oversteered again), etc. So we snaked our way up the Chesapeake Bay, following the Larinda, at the mercy of an extremely happy (and utterly clueless) helmsman!

As darkness approached we neared Pt. Lookout. I had been watching for some time for boats with Maryland registration and saw only one - the Russell (I believe) from Dameron, who came over to take a look at us. I was also trying to monitor VHF Ch. 16 (the marine contact frequency) for some of the southern Maryland charter boat captains I knew - but no luck. (The VHF radio on the Bat'kivshchyna is impossible to hear from the bridge. Pylyp was also unhappy that it could not be monitored from the bridge and our complaints finally (in Baltimore) resulted in the purchase of an external speaker for the VHF radio to be mounted on the bridge.)

After a day on the bay, I was getting a real good sunburn, I had a bad case of information overload, and I was realizing that I had had more beer in one day than I usually get in a month. Also, not having slept well the night before, I began to fade pretty badly and around 11 pm Pylyp took pity and released me from watch. It was cooler, there was some air circulation in the quarters, and I suppose it took me maybe three or four seconds to get to sleep! :)

I woke about 6:30 in the morning feeling much better (except for the sunburned portions of my body). Looking aft I could see the bridge north of Annapolis. On-deck table Breakfast was the leftovers from the breakfast of the day before served on deck at a table aft of the forward crew quarters. This table covers some tanks and was a design feature of the Captain's. During fair weather, meals can be served here and everyone gets to eat at once - sort of buffet style.

Somewhere around mid-morning, it became apparent to me that we were no longer going in the direction of Baltimore. On inquiring, I discovered that we were going directly to Wilmington, DE. My two-day trip had suddenly become extended. Not long after this we approached the entrance of the Chesapeake-Delaware Canal. The Coastal Pilot (a navigational book) said we were supposed to request permission to enter the canal, and that we should make contact on VHF 13. We tried to raise the Larinda on channels 16 and 13 to get some instruction and got no response. We hadn't a clue how to contact the canal dispatcher. (I suspect the Larinda had tried to raise us without success (because we couldn't hear the radio) - and perhaps the canal dispatcher also - and they had just given up.) We continued to follow the Larinda and no dispatcher craft came out to arrest us. (I also suspect we were being politely ignored.) Traffic in the canal was very light. There were a few pleasure craft and we met only three or four small barges under tow. The canal is very pretty.

We (Bat'kivshchyna and Larinda) proceeded through the Wilmington Port area and entered the Christina River. It was necessary to have two drawbridges raised to allow us passage and we tied up at the Riverfront Park, less than a mile above the home of the Kalmar Nyckel - a replica of the ship the Swedish settlers arrived on in the mid 1600s. Our berth was maybe 300 yards from an Amtrak station, so after we were secured I went there in search of a phone. I called Mary and let her know of the change in plans. At this time, we were scheduled to be in Wilmington for two days (Thursday and Friday). (I described my voyage so far to Mary and when I mentioned that I had been "steering" the boat, Mary commented "Well, no wonder you are in Wilmington instead of Baltimore!")

I discovered the public restrooms at the Amtrak station and reported their presence to the crew. Someone mentioned that there was supposed to be a "Y" near by and I went in search of that. It turned out to be a YWCA and not a YMCA - but I went in anyway and asked about the possibility of getting showers for the crew. The receptionist gave me the name of her supervisor (Joan Rosman) and told me to come back in the morning. I did, and Ms. Rosman passed me to the director (Mr. Frank Disabatino) who opened his facilities to us all day, every day, while we were there. I returned to the ship, talked Pylyp into coming with me for a shower so I could show him how the Y wanted to work things. (Each crew member was to sign in simply as "Tall Ship", and there was a security door to get through and an elevator - shower rooms were on the second floor. Although my Russian was improving on a daily basis, explaining all of this was a little much for me and Pylyp could explain it all when we returned - which he did! The crew used the facilities all during the stay in Wilmington and the word spread to the other Tall Ships in the area as well. I hope Mr. Disabatino gets to see this narrative and will realize how very much his gesture was appreciated.

Mr. Adam Carpenter, a teacher at the Kirk Middle School in Wilmington arrived on board to discuss the participation of his students with the ship. He had tried to set up a "virtual" trip on the Bat'kivshchyna for his students; but after only a couple of days, the satellite link was unexpectedly terminated. He arranged passage for some of his students on the trip back through the Chesapeake-Delaware Canal on Monday. (MONDAY! Another call to my wife, who is now under the impression I intend to stay on the ship forever!)

The crew has set up display tables and is doing a very brisk business selling souvenirs. I have made myself available to welcome visitors aboard the vessel and to assist in explanations in the event language difficulties arise. For two days I position myself at the foot of the gangplank and repeat the phrase "Welcome aboard! Please watch your step." about a zillion times! I got to talk to some interesting (and very interested) people and thoroughly enjoyed myself!

The "Liaison Officers" assigned to the Bat'kivshchyna from Wilmington are two marvelous ladies named Toots and Cordia. They arrived early in the morning every day and stayed with us all day. This is devotion to duty! The deck is hot and we all sought shade wherever we can find it. They arranged for supplies of water, beer and food, and provided transportation and information. They even took home laundry for some of the crew and returned it clean the next day. (Toots even took the battery and recharger for my digital camera home and recharged the battery for me.) The crew members are a very diverse, busy, and independent bunch. Getting them to do anything (other than sail the yacht) in groups larger than one is a prodigious undertaking. My description of it as "like herding cats" tickled Toots and was invoked frequently over the four days we stayed in Wilmington. (My apologies to Reader's Digest for stealing the phrase! I believe that's where I first saw it some years ago.)

Parade of Sails, Wilmington, DE Several guests boarded us early in the morning for the Parade of Sails and the Captain had the cook put out a nice spread. Highlight of the breakfast was the vodka - provided by the Captain so we all got to toast one another. If you've never had vodka with your breakfast, you should try it sometime! The Parade of Sails in Wilmington was impressive! We sailed from Wilmington to New Castle and returned. Large ships from Russia, Poland, and other nations were there, as well as the smaller vessels from a diverse group of nations - ourselves included. The lead ship in the parade was Wilmington's own Kalmar Nyckel, of course.

climbing the rigging One of the crew (Ura) offered to take someone up the rigging while we were under way. His offer was accepted by a young lady (much to his delight) who now has had a view of the city of Wilmington from a very unique perspective. Ura is also in charge of the saluting cannon, and invited the same young lady to fire it as we were approaching our berth. She accepted of course. A memorable day for her, I bet!

Monday morning (6 am) we received more passengers, including Adam Carpenter and several of his students. We departed at about 7:30am. The captain of the Mabel Stevens called the drawbridge for us (we didn't know the "call sign") and we were on our way. We made contact with the second drawbridge on our own (having been shown how it goes), passed through, then thanked the folks at Wilmington for a delightful stay. We navigated to the eastern terminus of the Chesapeake-Delaware Canal (with a little help from a road map), requested permission to enter the canal, provided an ETA in Chesapeake City, and having received permission, proceeded into the canal. Again, we experienced very light traffic and enjoyed a smooth ride.

The CDC dispatcher informs us that we should take our time, as our pilot for Baltimore wouldn't be available until about noon. The Captain was not expecting a pilot and was concerned about the expense. One of the guests (a lady from the local Ukrainian-American group) had a cell phone and called the dispatcher. It turned out that the pilot was being provided free of charge. Mollified, the Captain agreed to accept the pilot and we proceeded to Chesapeake City, where the pilot boarded.

Ura, Kirk student and Adam Carpenter in the rigging Ura offered to take one of the students up the rigging to the top of the mast. (They wear safety harnesses when in the rigging, by the way). The student was thrilled. They were soon joined by Mr. Carpenter. After these folks came back down, one of the lady guests, who admitted to being "over 50" (a very young 50 in my estimation), urged Ura to take her up the rigging also - which he did!

The day was hot and we had been underway for several hours now. We were approaching Baltimore, but still had probably an hour to go. Since the water in this part of the bay is reasonably fresh, Ura prevailed upon the Captain to let him turn on a pump and provide an underway shower. A number of the guests and most of the crew availed themselves of the opportunity to get cooled off a little. Many crew and guests were wearing bathing suits. Yours truly simply took off his shoes, emptied his pockets, and got hosed down fully dressed. Wonderfully refreshing!

We tied up at the Baltimore Marine Center in Canton. We asked about facilities (bathrooms and showers) and are told we had the use of the marina facilities. Some of us went for showers and then found that we couldn't get back to the ship because we did not have the necessary "smart card" passes to open the gate. I went to the security office to see what we were supposed to do and they arranged to place a guard in the vicinity of the gate who would open it "as required." I was told that we could get the smart cards in the morning.

On the way back to the ship, I passed most of the crew on their way to a "party." I declined an invitation to join them. I was tired and don't care much for "parties" anyway. I found the ship in the hands of Sergei (the Bos'un) and Sergei (a mechanic on duty). There was no beer (or water) aboard, so I departed again and found a package store about a half mile from the ship, bought a couple of six packs and a bag of ice and walked back to the ship. Sergei, Sergei and I had a beer and then the Bos'un and I helped Sergei string the Christmas lights that would trim the ship.

The next morning the Captain asked me to see if I can find some diesel oil for him at bulk prices. And also, could I find out if the water supplied at the pier is potable, and where do we put our trash. At nine, Pylyp and I picked up the smart card passes for the crew. I located a marine supply store near by and got a quote for 100 gallons of diesel oil. We found that the water is potable; but heavily chlorinated (which the crew hates) - and found out how and where to dispose of our trash. I returned to the ship, passing out the cards to the crew members who were on their way out on errands of their own.

Katya and Genni (both of whom speak pretty good English) were escorting VIPs around the yacht. The Captain had been invited to tour some of the other ships in the marina and was gone. I told Misha about the oil. He was concerned that it is not the brand he requested and that it might not be mineral based, and I told him I would verify it (it was). The Captain returned and I passed the quote and contact name for the oil to him, gave him smart cards for himself Nina and let him know about the water and the trash. He thanked me, then informed me that I am to represent him at the Captain's Meeting at 2 pm where information about the upcoming Parade of Sails will be presented. I was flattered, even though I know he was just ducking a function he finds annoying.

The meeting was not as bad as I expected, but it still followed the standard format - dignitary introduces self, yadda yadda yadda, then introduces the next dignitary, yadda yadda yadda, and then the next, yadda yadda yadda, until they run out of dignitaries. Pertinent information did get passed though, and some questions were answered. We broke for refreshments - cookies, fruit, soft drinks, beer, water. Some chit chat. In a conversation with another of the "representatives." I discovered a place to haul the boat out for winter It was good information and made the meeting worth while.

Back to the ship. The Captain was gone again. I briefed Pylyp on the contents of the meeting and passed along the information on the marine railway.

I packed. It didn't take long. Went back on deck and got a beer. Sergei the Bos'un discovered my packed bags (the bunk I am in is actually his and much of his personal "stuff" is still stored there) and he joined me. buddies By now we have become good friends, even though, of all the crew, he has the least English (with the possible exception of Nina) and it was almost impossible for me to hold a conversation with him. Soon we were joined by the cook, Leonid. He too has become a good friend and persists in describing me in glowing terms whenever he gets the chance. His English is also very limited and the difficulty he has in expressing himself to me frustrates him. It's strange that the two people that I have the hardest time communicating with should become my closest friends from among the crew. Perhaps it's an age thing, as we three and the Captain and Nina are all in our 60s.

Sergei has a son who lives in New York and who is coming this evening to pick him up. I got my bags and asked one of the visitors if they will take a photo of me and my two friends with my camera. They obliged (and got a couple of shots of their own). Leonid told me to wait, ducked into the living quarters, and returned with a wooden toy house. He makes these and sells them for spending money. He told me "My house is your house" (in Russian, of course) and gave it to me. Sergei insisted on taking my bag and I knew better than to protest. We left the ship and walked to the parking lot where my wife and son are to pick me up. First we met Pylyp and I said my farewells to him. He shares my (?weird?) sense of humor and we had already exchanged e-mail addresses. When we reached the parking lot, we meet the Captain and Nina returning to the ship with some friends. I briefed the Captain quickly on the Parade of Sails information and told him where I had left the paperwork. We said goodbye. He and Nina are to leave again soon to go to dinner with their friends and it looks like Mary will not get to see them again. Sergei and I chatted a while and then he left to meet his son. In about half an hour he returned with son (and son's girlfriend) in tow. We all got introduced to one another and chatted for a few minutes. Then he left with them to visit the ship.

My wife, son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter arrived. We missed each other in the parking lot and they went to the ship. Mary left gifts for the Captain and his family, received a couple of gifts from Leonid for the family and they started back toward the parking lot. Little Sergei (the mechanic) found me in the parking lot and was escorting me back to the ship. I met the family and we continued back to the parking lot and got into the car. My adventure was over.

I suffered the bites of a million mosquitos. My legs look like the site of the national fly-biting contest. I'm sunburned. I stood on a cement deck in the hot sun for hours answering the same questions over and over. My feet hurt. I slept in a stuffy, airless hole below the deck. I had fried eggs with green beans or mixed vegetables for breakfast. I had a daily dose of borsht (which is delicious, but it gets old after about five days). For a week I saw no TV, heard no radio, read no newspaper, answered no phones (and horror of horrors - had no internet access!).

Would I do it again? In a heart beat! (Actually, the Captain wants to do a Great Lakes tour next year. Maybe, just maybe ...)

- fleet -

Within a few days, I hope to have the pictures I took posted on this site.