In an ambitious effort during challenging economic times, the sail training vessel Oliver Hazard Perry is moving toward completion at Senesco Marine in North Kingstown, Rhode Island. On a recent visit, I was able to climb around the cavernous hull of the ship as welders worked amidst showers of sparks and the belowdecks rang with hammers shaping steel.
Constructed according to American Bureau of Shipping and U.S. Coast Guard standards, Oliver Hazard Perry will more nearly resemble a modern commercial vessel in strength and safety systems than an early 19th Century wooden vessel. Yet, the OHP team is also doing an admirable job of capturing the essence of a full-rigged ship from the age of sail. When completed in late June 2013, OHP will combine the best of both worlds in a stout, capable sail training and offshore voyaging vessel.
After the tour of the vessel at Senesco Marine, I got a glimpse into the process of putting together of a vessel like OHP. I sat in on a planning session for what will be the vessel's premier belowdecks space, the great cabin. This will be a combined training/meeting/presentation space in the stern, in the area that would have been occupied by the captain's quarters during the age of sail (see plan and elevation views below). The meeting was a lively give-and-take between OHPRI chair Bart Dunbar, vice chair Perry Lewis, project manager Russell Bostock, OHP Captain Richard Bailey, marine designer Ezra Smith of Ezra Smith Design, Jim Thompson of J. Thompson Marine Carpentry and other team members. The OHP belowdecks space, being designed by Smith, will be well-appointed with raised wood paneling, bulkhead-mounted light sconces, bookshelves and chart drawers to suggest the accommodations on a period wooden vessel. In an acknowledgement of the need for effective public relations, however, the OHP team has also included gear definitely not found on a period ship: two flat screen monitors. These will be used for showing videos promoting the vessel to visitors. But the two screens will also lower and hide away in the cabinetry when not needed.
Oliver Hazard Perry will have the capacity to carry 36 trainees (whether students or adults, there will no "passengers" on board OHP, everyone will be required to stand watch and participate in sailing the vessel). This is in addition to 13 crewmembers. For accomodations, the trainees will make use of seven double cabins and two belowdecks berthing areas. A vessel like OHP will offer superb opportunities for offshore navigation and seamanship training of the type the Ocean Navigator School of Seamanship has conducted in the past. If going offshore and learning aboard a square rigger like OHP piques your interest, then stay tuned.