ROCKPORT-- The ocean in front of Sandy Bay Yacht Club was a sheet of glass Friday morning. A duck poked its neck up from the water and glanced at a seagull squawking overhead. Out past the harbor filled with quiet boats, five triangular sails defined the horizon, separating the water at the triangles’ bases from the sky behind the white sheets.
The 44-foot boats, propelled by the triangular, white sails, held 45 midshipmen and tactical advisers from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., coasting into Rockport Friday for the town’s third annual Rockport Navy Weekend. The students, training to become officers, will spend the weekend interacting with the Rockport community and staying with 22 volunteer host families.
The midshipmen set sail from Annapolis Monday, in what was a first-time sailing experience for many of the crew, according to Officer in Tactical Command Jim Maitland. Maitland, a retired Navy captain, has advised midshipmen in trips to Rockport for the past three years. Maitland said the program has become immensely popular at the Academy.
“We came back after the first year and we said, ‘Don’t tell anyone else about Rockport.’,” Maitland said, laughing. “Our scheme didn’t hold up. The kids just love this place,” he said.
With just weeks of safety and tactical training before the trip, the midshipmen were able to do everything from making minor repairs on the boats to cooking to hoisting the sails, with supervision, according to Maitland.
Since the boats only docked once on the voyage from Annapolis, for an hour-long refueling in New Jersey, midshipmen slept, cooked, ate and worked on the boats.
Midshipmen sailed in rotating shifts, with at least four people sailing at all times, even through the night. The sailors also took turns cooking.
The crew on Maitland’s boat, on various nights, managed to whip up Spanish cuisine, Spaghetti and Meatballs, salad, hot dogs, and Maitland’s favorite: corn dogs.
Maitland said besides enjoying his crews’ cooking, he also likes to watch them progress, and to connect with the midshipmen and observe as they form closer friendships.
“The trip really bonds the classes tighter together,” he said.
On this year’s trip, Maitland will have the opportunity to have his photo taken with 15 Naval Academy students who will graduate in 2014, 50 years after Maitland’s 1964 graduation. He hopes those 15 students will help lead the Naval team to victory in Saturday’s annual Rockport Navy Weekend softball match, when the U.S. Navy and the midshipmen will come up to bat against Rockport’s police and fire forces, since Maitland will sit the game out.
“I’m too young to play anymore,” Maitland joked.
Conley Brown, a 20-year-old midshipman and first-time sailor, said he is looking forward to relaxing this weekend, dueling it out in the softball game, and playing kickball with local Rockport kids.
“It’s been pretty exciting. I’m learning a lot, and I’m having a good time,” Brown said, eating a muffin on one of Sandy Bay’s benches, where the midshipmen gathered after exiting the boats.
The room bustled with midshipmen and advisers all in navy blue polo shirts, khaki shorts and tan boat shoes. The five blue boats, with each with a white stripe and red undersides, rocked gently in front of the yacht club, pendant flags fluttering from the stays, and their sails tied into blue canvas cloths for the weekend.Rockport Navy Weekend events Saturday, 10:15 a.m. -Kickball game with sailors, midshipmen, advisers, and local children, Evans Field Saturday, 6:30 p.m. -Softball game, Navy and midshipmen vs. Rockport Police and Firefighters, DJ, refreshments Sunday, 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Pancake breakfast at Brackett's ocean View Restaurant, $5 donation suggested for public Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tours of an 1812 USS Constitution gun deck replica with an 18th century, 5800 pound long gun Hourly demonstrations by a master gun team in 1813 period uniforms, Bearskin Neck upper parking lot Saturday and Sunday, noon to 4p.m. Public tours of the Naval Academy boats, midshipmen on hand to answer questions To help defer the costs of the Navy Weekend the RocNavCom will be holding a 50/50 raffle. Tickets are available from committee members. The drawing will be held during the softball game at Evans Field on Saturday night. The game starts at 6:30 pm. Monday morning Boats set sail, back to Annapolis