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OCC sailors set for trip around Pacific Islands

May 29, 2004

Lolita Harper

It is the 20th anniversary of the Alaska Eagle's training voyages and

the crew is marking the occasion Saturday by embarking on a first leg

that is twice as far as any nonstop trip it has ever sailed.

The Orange Coast College School of Sailing leaves on another

memorable voyage at 11:30 a.m. today that will include trips to

Easter Island, Pitcarin, the Marquesas, Tuamotus, Tahiti, Moorea,

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Bora Bora, Fanning Island and Hawaii.

"We want our students to find out what life on the long passage is

all about," sailing school spokesman Brad Avery said. "And we will go

to the most remote and beautiful places in the world to learn about

making off-shore passages."

The voyage serves as training grounds for those who wish to hone

their boating skills, officials said. Each leg of the trip will have

between nine and 12 students, who fly in and out of destinations

according to the itinerary.

Sailing instructors encourage everyone on board to make the most

of their experience, whether at sea or on land. While the obvious

focus is seamanship, the trip also provides bonuses of hiking to a

remote island waterfall.

The crew shares duties that include steering, navigating, sail

handling, system checks and daily cleaning. Watches of three or four

people are assigned, and during that time they work as a team to make

sure things go right.

The Alaska Eagle was donated to the college in 1982. Originally built to race around the world, it has banked more than 200,000 miles

with OCC sailing students on board.

Captain and first mate Richard and Sheri Crowe, respectively, have

been with the ship almost since her tenure at OCC, Avery said. True

to tradition, the Crowes will lead this summer's journey.

Passengers from last year described their adventure around the

Pacific Islands as a "once in a lifetime opportunity." All hands were

called on deck when a sail broke about 1,000 miles away from Newport

Beach, during 25-knot winds. Passengers and crews hung the sail in

the cabin and attacked the problem, with four people on each side.

They painstakingly stitched the 12-foot tear in the sail, passing

sewing needles back and forth -- a task that took them eight hours.

Bob Kirkpatrick, who was on board in 2003, wrote an e-mail home on

July 9 regarding the first leg of the trip from Newport to Hawaii. He

said it the weather was "warm and sunny" and the wind was light.

"Makes this old 'stinkpotter' feel right at home," Kirkpatrick

wrote.

Carol Keiper said she gained "magnificent memories" and "expert

guidance" from the 2003 trip. She wrote of sailing in shorts and

T-shirts "under skies ablaze with stars," taking a stab at some

celestial navigation, and "all working together in concert with the

wind -- the driving force behind [the] journey."

Avery, who has taken part in nearly every year the program has

been in place, said the people on board really make the experience.

"The best thing about it is the people you meet," Avery said. "You

spend a considerable amount of time together in a fairly close

environment and people are working together toward a common goal."

That goal being to sail the boat safely to a common destination,

he said.

Avery said he hopes this year's passengers and crew are equally as

pleased, create their own, individual memories -- and learn something

along the way.

* LOLITA HARPER is the enterprise and investigative reporter for

the Daily Pilot. She may be reached at (949) 574-4275 or by e-mail at

lolita.harper@latimes.com.

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