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October 22-23, 2019

Spotted! The moment the Charter Bus pulled onto campus, the excitement of our 5th Grade could not be contained, as its entrance marked the beginning of their Age of Sail field trip to San Francisco. 

The Age of Sail field trip is a long-standing tradition of the 5th Grade students of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. It is an opportunity for the class to travel back in time (to 1906 to be exact!) and experience life as a crew member aboard the mighty Balclutha. Now harbored in the San Francisco Bay and maintained by the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, the Balclutha is an historic, three-masted vessel that once transported cargo across the world (1). First launched in Scotland by Charles Connell and Company in 1866, the vessel traversed the Atlantic over a dozen times to deliver goods to South America’s Cape Horn (2).

On April 18, 1906, a 7.9 magnitude earthquake rocked San Francisco, precipitating human casualties, structural damage, and raging fires (3). Legend has it that in the midst of this terror, Balclutha’s second mate, Mr. Garbanzo, sought a crew to ready the ship for passage to Seattle the next morning. In his haste he found a class of 10 year olds who felt brave enough to take on the task!

Our 5th Grade formed groups and nominated a member of each faction to take the lead as mate. And by golly did the mates put the 5th Grade to work right away! Though they faced struggles and tribulations along the way, with some direction from their mate, first mate, and Captain, the students proved that they could live up to the task of manning the mighty Balclutha. They operated as one unit, working together to overcome each obstacle. 

The Class of 2023 learned that working on a ship is tough. Rules exist to inspire motivation among the ship’s crew and to ensure their safety.

No hands in your pockets- You need to be prepared at all times and this means your hands need to be out and ready.
There is no sitting on the deck- you have to be able to move in a seconds notice. You may stand or kneel.
Never step over a rope that is on the deck- it may pull you overboard.

They worked until about 8:30 pm, and even earned compliments from the Captain of the Balclutha about how rare it is for a group to finish before 9:00pm. What a wonderful testament to their hard work! Having invested every last stitch energy into their maritime duties, everyone felt ready for bed at the end of the day. However, at 5:00am the next morning, they arose with vibrancy and a readiness to return to work! We are so proud of their efforts and their willingness to take on increasing responsibilities. Congratulations, Class of 2023, on your successful Age of Sail!

Thank you Mrs. Cheney, Parent Chaperones, and the amazing talents that are part of the Balclutha- The Captain, Mr. Ravenwood, Mr. Whale and Mr. Garbanzo!

1. Balclutha,
2. Ibid.
3. San Francisco Earthquake, 1906,

Our special thanks to Mrs. Lemieux for her fact-finding, and her support on this article!