Friday, January 16, 2015

Poetry on Adventuress: High School Students Step Aboard to Write

In December, English classes from Port Townsend High School came aboard Adventuress to take inspiration for their writing. After exploring the ship to collect a list of eye-catching objects, students cycled through four groups as they worked to develop their objects and impressions towards a poem.

On deck with crew member Aimee, students sat against the rails with notebooks in their laps, expanding on the objects they had observed.  Many had a keen eye for the unique details of a ship that serves as a floating dockside classroom, a functioning historic vessel, and a home for winter crew.  One student’s list of objects included this motley assortment: “deck prism, fire extinguisher, lotsa coffee, brass insignia, Flash mug in Captain’s cabin.”

Although it was a time of quiet reflection, there were many questions about the particular language of the ship.  The unfamiliarity of the environment forced students to touch the objects that they wished to have explained–from cleats and futtocks to worm gears and king spokes. Later, cozy in the deckhouse, they were asked to select one of their objects and write a poem from its point of view.  To provide them with inspiration, crew member Lenny offered a series of thoughtful and humorous questions: “What did your object eat for breakfast?  What is it proud of?  What does it wish for?”

Chris Piersons English students sing “Acres of Clams.”
Groups continued below deck, first to learn about ballads and chanteys from guitar-wielding crew member Chris and then to meet with Gaia in the main cabin and continue to write and reflect.  At the end of their time aboard Adventuress, students gathered in a circle above deck to share the writing that they had produced: a Seussian poem about Adventuress, a poetic description of a sailor preparing to tack, a rap performed by a young man named Jordan with beatbox assistance from English teacher Chris Pierson, and a group sing-a-long of chantey favorite “Acres of Clams.”

Not only was a great deal of material produced, but many students noted the creative freedom of writing in an unfamiliar and history-rich space.  Says Koby, “Well, school feels more like a chore and we’re forced to be there.  I’m there to survive and get to the end of the day.  Here is different.  I’m still learning, but I feel like I’m here to actually do things.”  Asked about whether he feels differently about Port Townsend’s maritime history after coming aboard, he says, “You hear about it a lot, but you don’t actually know…[coming aboard] you feel less like a tourist.  Fewer generalized statements.  You get to actually have the experience.”  His classmate Elijah, who also sailed on Adventuress for the Marine Trades program last fall, echoes this idea of creative freedom, saying, “I feel a lot more at ease creatively and intellectually…headspace is a lot different here than in the classroom.”  Or, in McKinley’s concise words: “surrounded by walls it’s hard to have a free mind.”  

Friday, January 9, 2015

The Difference Adventuress Makes: Rob Upson

Rob Upson was transitioning out of a career in environmental chemistry when he came across Adventuress in Seattle. As so often happens, Rob fell in love with the ship. After several week-long stints as a volunteer, he came aboard to work in the galley in the winter of ’97 and as an educator/deckhand in the spring and summer of ’98. Of his time on Adventuress, he says, “I didn’t learn to sail on Adventuress, but I learned to be a sailor… [it was] such a formative moment in my life.”

Although initially reluctant to get involved in teaching, Rob felt galvanized by his time aboard Adventuress. He recalls that he “learned a lot about how people learn” on Adventuress. After leaving Adventuress, Rob went on to get his Masters in Teaching, teach science and math to high school students, and coach the award-winning Antilles Sailing Team. Because of his role as an educator on and off the ship, Rob says, “Adventuress affected not just me. I definitely would say it affected a lot of people.”

DeWitt's painting of Adventuress
hangs in Rob Upson's home.
Rob’s wife is related to well-known America’s Cup painter Jim DeWitt. Several years ago, after noticing that Jim painted mostly racing yachts, Rob suggested a painting of Adventuress. Rob now has a gorgeous painting of Adventuress hanging in his home. Thanks to Rob–and the link he provided to Jim DeWitt–Sound Experience reached out to Jim, who recently created two stunning paintings of Adventuress. Jim, an accomplished painter and sailor from the San Francisco Bay Area, has generously agreed to donate a portion of the proceeds from the paintings to Sound Experience. To find out more about purchasing one of the paintings, you can contact Pam at 510-236-1401 or

Although Rob now lives in the Virgin Islands, he continues to give generously to Sound Experience. He loves that the ship, which functions as a self-contained environment, teaches stewardship by acting as a metaphor for the planet. Despite his distance from Puget Sound, Rob supports Sound Experience because, “No matter where I am, I know it’s one of the best non-profits I’ve come across in terms of programming.” 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Difference Your $29 Makes–Aelf on the Fantastic Voyage 3-Day

In August, four students from the Community Boat Project, a local boat-building partnership for teenagers from nearby Chimacum, received scholarships to come aboard Adventuress for our Fantastic Voyage 3-Day program in the San Juan Islands. On a recent afternoon in the boat shop located at the Northwest School of Wooden Boat Building, with the weather halfway between sun and rain, fifteen-year-old Aelf spoke about her experience aboard Adventuress

Backing the main with participants
from the Fantastic Voyage 3-Day.

Tackling the question of her favorite moment, Aelf confessed to having several. There was the evening shore hike when crew members and participants walked back with their headlamps off, interrupting the silence only for the call of “rock” or “root” to repeat down the line. There was the last day of the trip, when Aelf’s team in the “Schooner Olympics” had to work together to figure out how to set and strike the jib without help from the crew. And there was time spent relaxing in the bowsprit net, which Aelf sees as a representation of community. Because of the nature of the net, “Every move you make affects everyone else.”

Aelf is deeply committed to this idea of interconnectedness. She thinks of someday majoring in ecology, which she describes as “the study of connections between things . . . if you damage one thing you affect the whole web, but the whole can be hard to see.” She lists potential ecology-related careers and ends by envisioning what a job on Adventuress would look like: “Work on a boat and show other kids how the world is connected.”

Aelf describes Adventuress as “a combination of old nautical maritime society and new science mingling together to make a new and exciting experience for youth.”  She believes that coming aboard is important because “young people are starting to look at the paths that are ahead . . . so many paths.” Adventuress gives them a sense of one possible path that “might imprint on them for the rest of their lives”–a path that integrates science, community, tradition, and environmental awareness.  

Asked why people should give to 29 Dollars, 29 Days: Getting Kids on the Boat, Aelf replied that “it opens up the field to people who actually care and who might not have the money… there are students like me who live below the poverty line and who might not get a chance to come aboard.”  

Friday, October 31st is the last official day to give to 29 Dollars, 29 Days: Getting Kids on the Boat. Your $29–the cost for one child or teen to come aboard with his or her school or youth group for a day program–truly makes a difference to our region’s young people.  Click here to donate today!  

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Difference Your $29 Makes–A Story from New Start High School

During the month of October, we’re fundraising for our 29 Dollars, 29 Days: Getting Kids on the Boat campaign. Why $29? It’s the cost for one student to come aboard with their school or youth group for a day program. Every dollar raised through this month-long campaign will go directly to scholarship children and teens throughout the Puget Sound region. Click here to donate today.

This month–to celebrate and illuminate the impact of your $29–we’re sharing stories about Adventuress’ power to transform lives. Today’s story comes from Kelsie Maney, a teacher at New Start High School. Many students attend New Start because they have been underserved at comprehensive high schools and are behind in credits. For the past several years, New Start students have come aboard Adventuress each spring for a 3-day overnight. Kelsie recalls the particular impact that the trip had on one of her students:  

“When Julia first started at New Start she had freshmen credits even though she was 16 years old. Julia comes from a family that has been devastated by gang related crimes and other challenges that too often affect urban young people, which caused her to lose huge pieces of her education as well as parts of herself, including her confidence. She also saw little future in academics for herself when she started at New Start...

New Start students work with crew member 
Thom Young to develop a plan to strike the foresail.
 “Last spring Julia went through a transformative experience aboard Adventuress. She felt accepted, gained self-awareness, and found solace in nature that she could not find in the city. She felt a new sense of purpose and even considers the possibility of working in the maritime field for her future career. Her sense of responsibility to the environment also completely changed.  She now proudly advocates for keeping the environment cleaner and tells people to be more responsible with what they buy and how they use resources. Most importantly, I have seen Julia want to be more of a citizen in her community. She takes on more community involvement and tries to work with other people at school to encourage a stronger school connection.

“Stories like Julia’s are very common after students step off of Adventuress. They take so much away with them from the chance to reflect, develop socially, and learn from caring crew members. I highly recommend donating to 29,29 because so many of the students that learn aboard Adventuress have no other way to find the sorts of transformations that happen on the Sound.  With little means to escape the city, the need for meditation in nature is huge for these students. By making the decision to support students in going to sea, you help them see a brighter future for themselves. This is a fantastic gift not just for individual students, but for their families and for the community as a whole.” 

Thank you, Kelsie, for sharing your students’ stories! And thank you, Sound Experience community members, for giving to 29,29!  

Friday, January 25, 2013

Update on the Ship's Wheel – and a Journey to New Bedford

Catherine and her father, Dave Collins

By Catherine Collins, Executive Director

Tens of thousands of hands have held Adventuress’ wheel, steering her with a level of concentration generally reserved for surgeons, fighter pilots and the like. It is rare moments that imprint on our lives. Standing in the stern at Adventuress' wheel, we are fully present in our role; we are keenly aware that the ship's well-being, and indeed, the safety of all aboard, is in our hands.  

The loss of Adventuress’ wheel last October hit us hard.  In the grand scheme of things - where injustices such as poverty and disease threaten human lives every day - well…it is just a wheel. But it was our wheel – and its theft in Olympia left, in popular vernacular, “a wheel-shaped hole in our hearts.” 
Stolen wheel and historic hub

The community’s care and concern has been overwhelming. Everywhere we go our staff, captains, crew and board members are asked what we plan to do.  So I’m pleased at this time to share an update, as well as a brief story about a journey I took to New Bedford over the holidays.

Adventuress' wheel, last “built out” a decade ago by Portland craftsman Pat Vineyard, was special.  It was likely only the second or third time that the wood in the wheel had been replaced. However, it was the hub that was the greatest loss. We believe it was the original – at the center of the wheel on board when her original owner John Borden steered Adventuress north toward the Arctic in 1913. 

Owner John Borden in 1913

That original wheel came from the Edson Manufacturing Company, an entrepreneurial then Boston-based business that made top-of-the-line ships wheels.  Adventuress’ designer B.B. Crowninshield’s office would have been down the road from Edson. One can easily imagine that he visited the company himself, perhaps ensuring that the wheel would be the perfect visual (as well as functional) accessory for the exquisite new yacht he was designing.

Remarkably, Edson still operates (now called Edson International – and even more so remains a premier go-to company for custom wheels.  Like Edson back in the day, the company is entrepreneurial, finding solutions to vexing problems facing boaters and marine operators.  Most impressive to me, and reflecting our environmental mission at Sound Experience, Edson also manufactures a piece of equipment designed to free marine mammals that are tangled in fishing gear and other marine debris.

Hank Keene and Rick Cowen with a custom Edson Wheel
Edson International is now owned by the Keene brothers, Hank and Will, the second generation of Keenes to own the company. I went back east over the holidays this winter, and journeyed to New Bedford where Hank Keene and Rick Cowen, who oversees sales, graciously hosted my father and me.  In one of those “small waterfront” things, it turns out that my father knew Rick from his yacht racing circles in Buzzards Bay, so my dad made for the ideal research assistant.

My hope was that we might fittingly replace Adventuress’ lost wheel with another Edson wheel.  Why?  It just made sense to me as the ship enters her second century of service. It would be a full-circle story that Edson could tell too, given that that Adventuress is possibly the oldest ship in the world still sailing with original Edson steering gear. Cool, right?

We had an incredible visit.  Hank and Rick could not have been more gracious hosts.  We saw the catalogue of wheels that 100 years ago Borden must have looked at. Except for not being in color, you’d swear the custom wheels today are exactly the same as a century ago.  Just gorgeous.

Early 20th Century Catalogue on file at Edson

So what did we decide? Well, they say that timing is everything. And I believe that.  We had a budget and the 42” custom wheel was about 3 times the cost of what we could afford right now. Edson was exceedingly generous in offering a significant discount, offering too to machine our shaft at no cost to bring the fitting up to industry standard.  They went out of their way to try to make it work.  Ultimately though, it would cost about $5,000 for a new Edson custom wheel. It would also take about 10 weeks, and including needing to adapt our current wheel shaft, we would not have it in time for the launch of Adventuress' centennial season in March, admittedly a motivator.  The bottom line is that while we’d love to have the “icing on the cake” for Adventuress’ 100th this year, other financial priorities come into play – such as the unexpected need for a new mast and completion of a suite of new sails.

We've not given up the idea, however.  It is our hope that when the last plank on the final phase of the Centennial Restoration Project is complete - estimated for March 2014 - we might consider raising the funds for a beautiful and historically relevant new Edson wheel. For now though, we have some $400,000 in capital funds to raise between now and November 2013 to complete the rebuild of the starboard lower frames - and finish Adventuress' centennial restoration.  

If we're successful, when the "whisky plank" is put on the starboard side next year, we may revisit an Edson wheel.  It could be our gift to the future for the generations of young hands to come who will take the wheel, steer the ship and sail as they did hundreds of years ago. That would be sweet.

Winter crew volunteer Alea prepping new wheel
In the meantime, the wheel you will find on Adventuress in the coming year is a beautiful antique wheel made available to us for $850 by a local maritime antiques dealer.  A coalition of community members in Olympia is working to raise the funds to purchase it.  This is the same wheel loaned to us the day after our wheel was stolen in Olympia last fall.  The dealer found the wheel last year on a buying trip back east.  Fittingly, it was built in Maine – close to where our beloved ship was launched a century ago.  And he allowed us to machine the hole at that time to an unusual 1 ½ inches to fit our wheel shaft.  We’re exceedingly grateful to him for making it easy for us to have a lovely antique ship's wheel for Adventuress’ centennial sailing season. 

Will we give up the search for Adventuress’ historic wheel?  Never. If it's one thing we believe in, it's the goodness of people to do the right thing.  We'll remain hopeful and vigilant - and we'll never stop looking.  We're grateful too for all of your incredible calls and emails.  Like us, we know you will keep looking in the hope that one day our beloved historic wheel will be returned.

In this extraordinary year for our century old National Historic Landmark ship, we hope you’ll join us aboard for a program, a public sail, or one of our many events in the coming year to celebrate a Adventuress' 100 years as a working vessel.  Tell us your story, and why she matters to you.  We can't wait to sail with you! 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

From Summer Camp To Soul's Mirror

A teen shares why her senior photos weren't "complete" without Adventuress

Wind rustling hair until it is one large knot. Waves crashing against the hull, rocking you gently. Scents of biscuits and sweet potato stew wafting up from the kitchen. And hands holding firmly to a jib sheet, waiting for the call to pass it.

It is a scene I could never have imagined myself in two years ago. Sailing was just one of those things other people claim as a hobby. Not me. But when my mother stumbled across the Adventuress online and suggested the summer camp, I somehow instinctively knew how much I would love it. Within minutes, I was excited enough about the camp to be willing to pay for it all myself. And my instincts didn't let me down.

Kyra S.
It’s impossible to describe the feeling of sailing on the Adventuress to someone who has never done it before. The perfect freedom of the open water around verdant islands can’t be matched. There is a certain magic in working together with people you barely know to move something a hundred times your weight. Any worries you pick up in your outside life stay on the dock when you climb aboard, and life is wonderfully simple and full of laughter and satisfying hard work. People you would not otherwise talk to thrice become your best friends in a week, with bonds that would usually take a year to form.

 I went back the next summer, and it was not for lack of other options. It was because, when I left the Adventuress in Friday Harbor, I left a part of my soul with it. I couldn't imagine having a better week my second time, because the first was so perfect. it can’t be doubted that I did, enough that I teared up during closing remarks.

Sailing can’t be a large part of my life with my busy schedule, but that makes my time on the Adventuress even more special. In just two short weeks, the Adventuress and her crew slid their way into the deepest hollows of my heart, and thinking about the schooner fills me with a craving for more. That is why I am certain to go back for an apprenticeship next year. And that is why, when I found a photographer who would take senior pictures wherever you wanted, the thought of taking senior pictures onboard the Adventuress filled me with an uncontainable excitement. 

She is a beautiful boat with a beautiful mission, and in the last two years she has become my second home. It is only natural that I would select her as the background to the portraits intended to be, if you are in a profound mood, a reflection of my heart and soul. I can’t imagine my senior photos being complete without the Adventuress.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Girls at the Helm 2012

By Elizabeth Becker, Program Catalyst

 As we pulled up to the dock in Friday Harbor after four days aboard Adventuress, it was hard to imagine that only a short few days ago we were mostly strangers, many venturing out on a tall ship for the first time and feeling that mix of excitement and nervousness that accompanies a new adventure. As we handed sleeping bags and duffles down the ladder and on to shore, we were reluctant to follow, knowing that when we stepped off, we would be leaving behind a ship full of new friends.

The Girls at the Helm voyage, now it is third year, celebrates the legacy of Ernestine “Erni” Bennett and Dorothy Rogers, two “adventurous” women who brought their daughters and their Girl Scout troops out on Adventuress in 1962 and would go on to steer the ship and programs for more than twenty years. At a time when girls and women were not always welcome aboard tall ships, Erni and Dorothy ensured that girls had the opportunity to take part in the life-changing experience of taking the helm, setting sail, and learning from one another, and the two women proved to be exceptional mentors and role models.

In that spirit, the Girls at the Helm voyage brings inspiring women mentors aboard to share their knowledge and passion for the projects in which they’re involved and for life in general. As we did on the first three trips, we were privileged to host a great team of mentors:

Julie shares what we found in our manta net sample
Julie Masura is research scientist at the University of Washington in Tacoma and the Center for Urban Waters. She brought along a “manta net” which we deployed to collect samples for microplastics analysis. With concern growing about the possible harmful effects of these tiny particles on marine life, Julie has taken on the task of collecting background data all around Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands. The net she brought aboard will “live” on Adventuress and be used as often as possible to provide additional data for Julie’s ongoing research.

A bonus was having Julie’s intern Abby Ahlert along to tell us about her work on even smaller bits of plastics in the marine environment (bits too small to be captured by the manta net). A sophomore at the University of Maryland, Abby also shared advice with the participants on finding internship opportunities.

Jennifer Hempelmann is a molecular geneticist who works at NOAA's Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle. Her claim to fame is being a scientist who studies orca scat (affectionately referred to as orca poop). Jen asked the girls to analyze sequences of DNA found in actual scat samples collected from around the Salish Sea, with the goal of learning more about the feeding habits of Southern Resident orcas in our region. As we analyzed the results, we discussed ways in which food sources are impacted by human activities.

Jen leads an exercise in analyzing DNA sequencing data

We were extremely fortunate to have mentors Kristen Thompson and Nancy Richardson join us for the third time. Kristen, who works to advocate for people with disabilities, taught us about compassionate communication and gave us insights into the challenges faced in both giving and receiving information when speech or physical movement is impaired. Kristen, who grew up in the Pacific Northwest, believes so strongly in Girls at the Helm that she came all the way from Florida to join us.

Nancy first sailed on Adventuress 40 years ago with her troop of Mariner Girl Scouts and has been in love with the ship ever since. She’s gone on to sail on 85 different tall ships all over the world (except for the Indian Ocean, where she plans to sail next year) and works with the Los Angeles Maritime Institute to bring kids out on the brigantines Irving Johnson and Exy Johnson. She shared tales of her adventures, encouraged girls to explore and discover, and reminded us that no matter which ship you’re on, it’s your shipmates that matter.

Making this year’s trip extra special was our all-female crew. We welcomed Captain Korie Griffith back aboard after a three-year hiatus and were delighted when her two-year-old son Owen made a surprise appearance at the dock when we returned to Friday Harbor. Chief Mate Rachel Slattery, Program Coordinator Amy Kovacs, and Engineer Katie Giuliano--all veterans of previous Girls at the Helm programs--brought expertise and fun to the trip and all agreed that this program is one of their favorites. In addition to keeping everything running smoothly, all of the crew members did a stellar job of serving as great teachers and role models (and donned their fair share of costumes, as well).

The participants were an awesome group of 12- to 15-year-old young women from around Puget Sound and from as far away as Virginia and Pennsylvania. They brought great enthusiasm and energy to the ship and jumped right in to learn as much as possible from the mentors and crew. A highlight for all aboard was getting to know one other through our one-on-one “interviews” where we asked each other questions (like “Who or what inspires you?” and “How would you like to make the world a better place?”) and shared what we learned with the whole group during evening programs.

We couldn’t have asked for a better group of shipmates and I think all would agree that the only complaint was having to return to shore too soon.

ANCHOR WATCH POEM by Emma and Colleen

Calm and quiet, cool and still
we sit in silence and soon will

be following the other’s path
keeping her safe at last

till we hit Friday Harbor we will haul and heel
and haul and heel, haul away all

but now, now we are one
with the stars and the moon and the deep, dark sea

so we sail away into the horizon to make our own story

2012 Girls at the Helm...What an amazing group!
 P.S. During our last night’s anchor watch, we asked everyone to share their highlights of the trip. Here’s what they said:

  Climbing the rigging
  Meeting new friends
  Getting to know each other
  Going out on Ayashe
  Night watch
  Meal skits
  Having the opportunity to sail!
  Party Piece
  Hauling lines to see the sails go up
  Going out on the bowsprit
  Ice cream party
  Getting to learn awesome new stuff
  Learning neat stuff about other girls and seeing how many similar goals we share
  Cooking with Ani
  Laughing and singing
  Learning from amazing teachers
  Fan-cay pay-unnnts!
  Engine stuff with Katie and climbing the rigging
  Three Amigos (with a sassy first mate)
  At the helm
  Our last night together
  Meeting all the other participants, crew, and captain
  Servings of Cheesy Mac
  Having hot tea on cold evenings and being with all these amazing people
  Ten cookies!!!
  The amazing mentors
  Whale poop

See more photos of our 2012 GATH trip here:  2012 Girls at the Helm photos