ABOARD THE CAPE WRATH -- Judy Goodwich got seasick on a motorboat touring Ocean City and the big car ferry from Delaware to Cape May, N.J. Her husband has been trying to persuade her to take a vacation on a cruise ship, but she flatly refuses.
"My experiences on boats are not wonderful," admitted the 45-year-old science teacher at Franklin Middle School in Reisterstown. An ocean-crossing sailboat race? Her worst nightmare. "She gets seasick in the bathtub," said her son, Alan, 24.
So how did this confirmed landlubber wind up aboard this military cargo ship just south of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge yesterday, just before the start of the Whitbread?
Last fall, Goodwich persuaded other teachers that the race was the perfect theme to tie together the sixth grade's science, English, math, social studies and reading classes. And, along with her students, she has watched every twist and turn of the contest through newspaper accounts, on television and over the Internet.
"I always find it's much easier to talk to kids about something if it is applied to real life," Goodwich said.
Virtual boating is one thing. A real-life cruise is something else. Yesterday, the Owings Mills resident put her stomach and stamina on the line and led 25 of her sixth-graders aboard a ship that once hauled Japanese autos to America.
Now, based in Baltimore and owned by the federal Maritime Administration, the Cape Wrath stands by, ready to haul tanks, Humvees, trucks, ammunition and other military supplies across the globe in support of U.S. troops.
Goodwich's students were among about 200 from Washington, Annapolis, Prince George's and Baltimore counties to ride aboard the huge, empty cargo carrier yesterday. And for the kids, their day at the races careened from boredom to fascination.
Fueled on cookies, potato chips, pretzels and peanuts, they scurried around this floating parking garage. Their running shoes squeaked on the metal, their squeals and shouts echoed through the cavernous holds.
They swarmed through the bridge, where Kevin Gugliotta, a docking pilot, showed the students how the radar worked while helicopters buzzed out his window.
Despite the spectacle, most of the kids expressed zero interest in sailing one day in a Whitbread race.
"Because it wouldn't be fun," Jason Narod said. "It's too much work to handle. You basically get no sleep. If I didn't get any sleep, you don't want to see me."
Jawad Ahmad was one of the few would-be sailors.
"Because you accomplish something in your life that's sort of, actually fun," he said.
Goodwich and a friend went to see the boats at the Inner Harbor. She was appalled.
"We both looked at the Whitbread boats and said, "Oh, my God, they are tiny,' " she said. "For 12 people to cross an ocean in that? No thank you!"
Despite her aversion to sailing, Goodwich became fascinated with the race, says her husband, Kenneth Goodwich, who volunteered to serve as ship's doctor yesterday. (He treated one case of the flu and a couple of queasy stomachs.)
She learned the names of the boat captains, he said. She told him that racers are so fanatical about saving weight that they cut their toothbrushes and flatware in half, and carried only two pair of underwear. She learned that the sailors only get about four hours of sleep a night, and sometimes collapse before they can get to their cramped bunks.
She had students tie their hands with tape, to show them how hard it is to work in the numbing cold of the Southern Ocean. She put up a map at the back of the classroom, to track each leg of the race.
"She just had an interest in it from a scientific point of view," Mr. Goodwich said.
Yesterday, the biggest challenge of organizers was keeping scores of students from going bonkers on board ship, even a 695-foot ship that towers more than 10 stories above the water. ** There were lectures, exhibits and videos.
Finally, after 1 p.m., everyone was topside for the start of the race.
"Which ones are the racing boats?" demanded Danielle Sandler, 11. "Where are the boats?""
"I just heard a gun!" another girl shouted.
"All right guys, yes, they have started," Goodwich said.
"Chessie's in the lead," a boy shouted.
"No, she isn't," another boy said.
The boats moved slowly in the gentle breezes.
"Why don't they turn on fans?" asked Jon Demchick, 12.
"Turn on a fan?" Goodwich feined shock. "That's not legal!"
Forty-five minutes later, most of Goodwich's class sat in the shade, bored and fidgety. An adult cracked that the race was even slower than the Kentucky Derby.
Despite calm seas and two anti-nausea tablets, Goodwich felt a little queasy. Her husband will still have to keep waiting for that cruise, she said.
But, just because she hates the water, doesn't mean that she hasn't learned to love sailing.
In fact, in the year 2000, she has already dreamed up the perfect theme for a team teaching approach. "The America's Cup," she said, with a smile.
Pub Date: 5/04/98