(Photo by John Cook) Vassar High School student Delaney Goodell, 17, center, is welcomed ashore by her parents, Wayde and Janelle Goodell, and by her younger sister, Monroe, on Aug. 29 in Bay City. Delaney Goodell worked for almost two months this summer as a deckhand aboard the Appledore IV and Appledore V schooners, sailing the Great Lakes and helping take the public on tours at talls ships festivals.

Vassar student sets sail – on Great Lakes tall ships

Delaney Goodell’s friends – or parents – didn’t see the Vassar High School student much this summer. 

But on Aug. 29, Goodell, 17, stood on a boat under a starry sky at the end of the state dock at East Tawas. It was her last night aboard a tall ship following almost two months as a deckhand logging more than 2,000 nautical miles on the Great Lakes.

“Every once in a while somebody will text me, and I’ll say ‘No, I can’t come over. I’m in the middle of a lake,’” said Goodell, who worked since July 3 as a deckhand aboard the Appledore IV and Appledore V, education-and-sail-training vessels owned by BaySail, a Bay City nonprofit organization.

“One of my mom’s friends was going to stop by the house and see us, but I wasn’t there,” Goodell said. “She was stopping by and texted me and asked ‘Hey, are you guys home?’ I was in Lake Huron.”

Goodell, daughter of Wayde and Janelle Goodell of Millington Township, is a senior at Vassar High School.

But as the youngest of the 11 total crew members working aboard the 85-foot-long Appledore IV and the 65-foot-long Appledore V, she received more than a passing grade from co-workers.

The 4-foot-11, 120-pound Goodell – nicknamed “Mighty Mouse” by crewmates – speaks in a soft tone and is quick to smile, laugh or praise her seafaring comrades.

“She’s become part of our family, and she’s like the sunshine of the boat,” said Matthew Tkach, 40, captain of the Appledore IV.

Deckhands use ropes attached to a pulley system to raise canvas sails on the Appledores, traditionally rigged Gloucester fishing schooners. They toss heaving lines to other deckhands – who go to shore by rescue boat – to help dock the 48-ton Appledore IV or 34-ton Appledore V.

While sailing in rough weather or at night, crew members wear harnesses clipped to a tether attached to a jack line leading from the boat’s bow to its stern, affording a measure of safety as they move on deck doing their jobs.

“It’s not for the faint of heart,” Tkach said. “Delaney never gives up and is very positive and gung-ho. She’s an amazing morale boost for the entire ship.”

There’s no shortage of passengers to impress, either, as a crew member aboard either Appledore, as the two boats travel to Great Lakes tall ships festivals.

“The Appledore IV has a capacity for 48 passengers, not including us,” Tkach said. “We were booked solid the entire time we were doing tall ships festivals this year – at every stop.”

That means multiple “sailaways” – trips onto the lakes with passengers – per day during festivals.

“At this festival in Erie (Pa.), they did five sailaways a day – which is a ton of work,” said Janelle Goodell, a special education teacher at Vassar’s Central Elementary School.

Delaney Goodell traveled on four of the five Great Lakes, and traversed three river systems, this summer on one or the other Appledore, as the boats traveled in tandem to various ports. She joined the Appledore IV as a deckhand in Buffalo, New York. in early July.

Later she worked at the tall ships festival in Bay City before a challenging journey to Duluth, Minnesota.

“That was a long trip,” Delaney Goodell said. “It was 100 hours from Bay City to Duluth. We stopped once to hide from the weather because we had students on board and people were getting seasick.

“We had some rough seas on the way to Duluth, but it was really, really pretty. We had some good sunsets.”

Though Delaney Goodell said she used her cellphone to snap “some really good pictures” of Great Lakes scenery, the device wasn’t always useful on this summer job.

“Usually, if you can see the land, you’ll get a little bit of cellphone service, but once you’re out there, you don’t have anything,” Goodell said. “You go for a couple days without it. It’s OK. You’re out there and it’s nice because you’re on the water, and you don’t need a phone.”

Goodell was a volunteer deckhand, but BaySail paid all expenses in connection with her job and travels. 

BaySail’s website states its mission is to “foster environmental stewardship of the Saginaw Bay watershed and the Great Lakes ecosystem and to provide personal development opportunities for learners of all ages through shipboard and land-based educational experiences.”

Last summer, Delaney Goodell spent about seven days on the water on a sail-training voyage with BaySail’s “Windward Bound” program. She took part in the program again this summer.

Tkach said Delaney Goodell hoped to learn traditional seamanship skills at an additional training program after her Windward Bound experience this summer.

“That (additional program) never happened, so when we had orientation – after orientation – she came back and said ‘Hey, if you guys ever need relief or someone else to be a deckhand, I’d really like to come and learn,’” Tkach said. 

“I told her I’d take that in consideration. The next thing I know I was making phone calls to get some more deckhands on the boats, and she was the first one that popped up in my head, because we typically utilize the people that come through our Windward Bound program. She just showed an absolute aptitude to everything.” 

The main mast of Appledore IV rises 76 feet above the water, and if the Appledore boats are novelties in various ports, so is Delaney Goodell.

Heather Hasty, an Oscoda Area Schools fourth-grade teacher, praised the youthful Delaney Goodell’s sense of adventure, and offered a bit of career advice, while walking past the Appledore IV on Aug. 29 in East Tawas.

Delaney Goodell said she hasn’t pinpointed a profession to pursue yet.

“I want to do something related to the water or the boats, maybe, but it’s still up in the air,” she said.

Following her summer on the Great Lakes, though, she’s leaving admirers in her wake.

“I watched a timid little girl who was afraid to ask if she could work with us this summer turn into this outstanding woman who – no matter what’s going on – is ready,” Tkach said. “She found her voice, and found personal growth.”

Delaney Goodell praised the Appledore IV’s first mate, Sydney Bickerstaff, as well as her other crew members, on the night of Aug. 29, before the Appledores made their 55-mile voyage home to Bay City. She acknowledged fellow deckhands Nik Millender and Taylor “Red” Lantz.

Tkach is “a pretty great captain,” she said, adding “I know what I know now because of him, and Sydney, and Nik, and Red (Lantz).”

Delaney Goodell, along with the others, actually took the helm of the Appledores at times, during their rotations on the boats.

“I took my turn and steered the boat and kept us on a course, according to a compass degree,” she said.

“She has been trained on both boats, and runs as a competent and valued part of both teams,” added Tkach. “When we’re transiting the boat (over a lake), she performs navigational watch. She helms the boat.

“The watches break up into teams, and everybody watches and everybody does navigation. Everybody also serves as the proper lookout throughout all of these rotations.”

While discovering big-city ports such as Cleveland and Buffalo, the Vassar student also spotted picturesque nautical locales, such as Lake St. Clair and the St. Clair River. 

Her boat visited Kelleys Island in Lake Erie, where the island’s limestone was mined in the 1800s by tall ships similar to the Appledores, and hauled to cities including Buffalo, where it was used to build municipal buildings. 

The Appledore IV was built in 1989 and the Appledore V was built in 1992. The boats have steel hulls, and the Appledore IV was the fourth in a series of schooners commissioned by Herb and Doris Smith for world voyaging. BaySail was established in 1998 with the purchase of the Appledore IV.  

“It’s definitely pretty cool,” said Delaney Goodell, standing on the Appledore IV. “It’s a piece of history, and then you’re on it, and the sail power is all you’re going by.”

During two months as a deckhand aboard the boats, she did take about a week’s vacation to kayak and camp with her dad on islands including Isle Royale. While on the schooners, she did her share of interviews with the media.

“Some of the experiences she’s had have been amazing,” Janelle Goodell said. “She was interviewed by a TV station in Buffalo.”

Janelle Goodell asked Delaney why she agreed to the interview.

“She said ‘I’m little, and I’m a girl, and other girls should know that they can do this, and it’s not just for boys, and not just for men,’” Janelle Goodell said.

Tom Gilchrist is a staff writer for The Advertiser. He can be reached at gilchrist@tcadvertiser.com.

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