Baldwin — Baker University students enrolled in English professor Dean Bevan's interterm class are about to cast off for what may be the most scenic and enjoyable way to earn three credit hours at Baker.
They'll embark Saturday for the Virgin Islands to sail on crystal clear Caribbean waters, climb on chunks of volcanic rock and view the depths through snorkel masks for Bevan's class, "The Art of Sailing."
The students will serve as crew members aboard a 51-foot yacht and will hold a different position each day during the weeklong voyage.
"I've been sailing for 25 years and I'd chartered in the Virgin Islands before," Bevan said. "I liked it so much that I wanted to share it with the students."
He took an interterm class to the Caribbean in 1989 and decided to try it again this year, he said.
THE STUDENTS broke into two groups, which each will spend a week at sea. The trip will follow a route through the British Virgin Islands, allowing plenty of time for exploring and sightseeing, Bevan said. They'll anchor each night at a different location, ranging from primitive islands to spots with high-priced resorts, Bevan said.
Students paid $1,050 each to join the class. The fee included airfare, boat charter, provisions and miscellaneous expenses.
To prepare for the journey, students are spending this week in "ground school," Bevan said. Topics discussed in the all-day classes include anchoring and docking, procedures to follow when changing course, reading instruments and charts and communicating by radio. Students even hold a "man overboard" drill.
"THEY HAVE daily quizzes on sailing terminology," said Bevan. "Nothing has the same name on boat as on land."
Students also must pass a final exam covering the various lectures or they won't be permitted to make the trip.
Although he stresses seamanship and safety, Bevan maintains, "This is not just a sailing class. It's a literature class. The sailing is just the practicum. Before they go, they have to read about 1,700 pages from seafaring classics and write a pretty hefty paper."
The reading list, which he distributed in the fall to give students an early start, features "Moby Dick" by Herman Melville, "Sea Stories" by Joseph Conrad, "Two Years Before the Mast" by Richard Henry Dana, and "Sailing Alone Around the World" by Joshua Slocum.
"THEY TRY to become aware of the author's perceptions of the sea and sailing," Bevan said. "I want the students to feel these different modes of sailing, and when they go to the Virgin Islands, they can check their own mode of dealing with the experience."
Wendy Sharbutt, Baker senior, said she decided last year to enroll in a travel interterm during her senior year. "What attracted me was the idea of going somewhere sunny," she said. "I'm really looking forward to just getting away, being in the sun and relaxing."
She said the literature, although time consuming, will help prepare the class for the voyage.
"It does get you in the mindframe of wanting to sail," she said. "It'll be good to have their work to relate to, although hopefully, we won't run into any whales.''