The Words of the Smith Family

Ocean Challenge '87

Karen Smith
July 1987

Ocean Challenge education aims at developing internal character as well as practical skills.

Ocean Challenge is a program that is still growing both in size and in the extent of its programs. It grew out of Father's personal ocean-going tradition that he established in Gloucester, Massachusetts, during the mid- and late 1970s. In 1981 the first summer Ocean Challenge program was held by the fledgling Ocean Church, which had been inaugurated October 1, 1980. From the 35 vessels used in 1981, the Ocean Challenge program has grown to include 80 vessels in Gloucester, with an additional 12 in Kodiak, Alaska. The number of vessels does not adequately reflect the vast amounts of energy, knowledge, excitement, effort, and organization that are required to produce exciting programs year after year.

The Gloucester program had 260 participants this summer, including staff and instructors. Many of the blessed children over 17 years of age, as well as the recent UTS graduating class, were among the trainees.

The fishing season in Gloucester officially began on July 2 with the blessing of the fleet.

The Blessing of the Fleet

On July 2, the blessing of the fleet inaugurated the beginning of the Gloucester tuna-fishing season. First we held a four-hour Il Jeung prayer vigil from midnight until 4:00 am.

Later on in the morning of July 2, all the boats left the dock for the outer harbor, and as the vessels passed by the mother boat, they were blessed with prayers and holy salt. This year it was the Sea Hope II, since the New Hope, which has been the mother boat in past years, was still in New York waters. The third part of the blessing of the fleet was a ceremony held out at sea beyond the breakwater, conducted by Mrs. Shin Wook Kim (Lady Dr. Kim). She prayed and made offerings of fruit, fish, nuts, and other foods on behalf of each vessel and its crew that would be going out to sea during the season.

The trainees were drilled in boat-handling techniques. Sara Dall, center, gets a turn at the wheel.

The initial 22 days of the Ocean Challenge program were devoted to instruction and boat and equipment preparation. For the first 12 days, training was landside, consisting of lectures on navigation, seamanship, fishing techniques, basic mechanics, and boat maintenance. The training then moved seaward for the next 10 days. The trainees were drilled in anchoring, docking, boat handling, and tuna-fighting routines. During this period, the instructors observed the trainees, and at the end of the 10 days, they selected those who appeared to have what it took to be potential captains. Each selected person then went through another 10 days of hard training and, if successful, was assigned to a boat as a junior captain. Thirteen of the blessed children became junior captains. The training continued, both for the new junior captains and for the selection of additional junior captains.

The 80 boats currently in Gloucester are divided into groups of seven boats, each having a squadron leader. If the squadron consists mainly of junior captains, the squadron leader continues to coach them in all aspects of the task of becoming a young man or woman of the sea.

The working day usually begins at 4:00 am. Once out at sea, the crew gets busy right away with anchoring up, setting out the lines, cutting chum, and catching and preparing bait. During the day the crew has to continually adjust the lines and the position of the boat, according to the wind and water conditions, in order to create the most favorable conditions for the tuna to strike. After a long day on the ocean, the captains and crews return to the dock for refueling, chumming up, and cleaning the boats and themselves in time for dinner at 6:30 pm.

Three of the blessed children prepare tuna lines. Left to right: In Ho Pak, Jin Geun Kim, and Jin Goon Kim.

Developing Character

Each day, through early morning prayer service, general meetings, and individual squadron meetings, the educational process continues. Ocean Challenge education is aimed at developing internal character, integrity, and perseverance, as well as practical skills in boat handling and fishing.

Throughout the summer, special educational sessions led by Rev. Chang Sung Ahn were held after dinner at Morning Garden, particularly for the blessed children and the UTS graduates. The summer was definitely a full and diverse experience for all participants.

Father's concern and hope for the trainees was evident through his talks to them at Morning Garden as they began the season. He urged them all to completely invest themselves in every aspect of their training and to make memorable progress toward maturing their character while they confronted the challenges and difficulties of their days at sea. "The power of spirit and determination is great," he said. "No matter what it may take, just remember that you have to get significant memories out of this expedition"

Instructor Doug Schlageter teaches basic mechanics to the trainees.

The promise of a good season stirred the hearts of the Ocean Challenge participants. Squadrons were spread out from Montauk, Long Island, to Maine. In July we heard reports of tuna being sighted off the Grand Banks near Canada, but we were not able to explore those areas. However, we wen- able to catch medium Bluefin tuna in Ipswich Bay. Mediums have not been seen in that area for about 15 years. The tuna started coming into the Gloucester area around early to mid-August. (The classification of Bluefin tuna is as follows: Young school tuna are those up to 14 pounds; school tuna range from 14 to 135 pounds; mediums range from 135 to 310 pounds; and giants are those over 310 pounds).

Catching a giant Bluefin is what gives each captain and crew a sense of success and fulfillment after their long hours of training and effort. It is impossible to know what to expect each year, but through our individual determination and the power of the spirit, we can make each season valuable and successful.

God is able to dramatically move the hearts of people when an appropriate opportunity, a unique focus, and a challenging environment are provided. This is one of the goals of Ocean Church and the Ocean Challenge experience: to rekindle in our lives the excitement of life and an enthusiasm for tomorrow through real experiences in the world of creation with the living God, our Heavenly Father. Then, with greater knowledge and awareness of how to live in harmony with the creation and our Creator, we can better live with one another and become wise, responsible stewards of our most precious oceans. 

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