Friday, May 1, 2015

Why GiveBIG? 5th Grade Teachers Speak About the Impact of Our Programs

Tuesday, May 5th is GiveBIG—a one day event in which contributions to nonprofits in the Puget Sound area are "stretched" through the generosity of the Seattle Foundation. In even bigger news, all gifts to Sound Experience up to the first $5,000 will be matched by an anonymous donor. On Tuesday, anything you give will have an even bigger impact on furthering Sound Experience's mission to educate, inspire, and empower an inclusive community to make a difference for the future of our marine environment. Read on to find out about the types of programs and experiences that your GiveBIG donation will support:

In March, Wendee Schoonover, Jaime Durst, and Cassie Quirino brought 5th graders from Scenic Hill Elementary School aboard Adventuress for two Sound Studies programs. Located in the Kent School District, Scenic Hill serves a diverse population of whom 80% receive free and reduced lunch. A full scholarship from Sound Experience made it possible for students to come aboard for what Jaime describes as “the gift of a lifetime and a memory-maker.”

While still on land—even before the magic of raising the sails and singing chanteys—it was clear to the three teachers from Scenic Hill that Adventuress offered their students a new opportunity to interact with the environment in which they live. As evidence, only one boy in a group of forty students raised his hand when Jaime asked who had spent time aboard any type of boat—let alone a 102-year-old schooner. Says Jaime, “Most of our students have lived in Puget Sound their whole lives, but never had an experience like this.”

Wendee recalls dividing into Watch Groups and brainstorming names for each Watch with students and crew members: “We had team spirit going right off the bat.” She also appreciates the thought and planning that went into Watch Group rotations such as a plankton trawl, a lesson on marine debris, and an interactive demonstration of mechanical advantage. Says Wendee, “[The rotations were] so perfectly handled and timed so well. It was great for 5th graders and great for adults. The crew made it look really easy.” In fact, students were so engaged in shipboard activities that they were on their best behavior. Says Jaime, “Normally when you have that many kids together, you have behavior issues. We had almost no behavior issues because everyone wanted to participate so much.”

All three teachers agree on the positive impact of their time aboard. Even weeks after the trip, Cassie notices that her students still bring it up: “They still talk about it today. Obviously it made an impact in their lives… if they hadn’t been given this opportunity, they wouldn’t have the chance in their lifetime. They’ll never forget this.”

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Hands-on Learning with Port Townsend High School's Maritime Studies Class

As part of the Maritime Discovery Schools Initiative, students from Kelley Watson’s Maritime Studies class at Port Townsend High School have come aboard Adventuress during the winter months to develop their maintenance and maritime skills. Each Wednesday, the ship transforms into a bustling dockside classroom full of students absorbed in hands-on learning opportunities and a multitude of projects related to the upkeep of a 102-year-old schooner.

Mechanic Walt Trisdale teaches about Adventuress' engine
Throughout the winter, four students have worked with mechanic Walt Trisdale to help realign the engine shaft. Today, before Walt arrives, crew member Chris guides them as they tighten hard-to-reach bolts. Wearing clear plastic safety goggles, students Ellis and Cameron lift up the galley soles and reach so deep inside the boat that their arms disappear as they lie on the floor. Although their task serves a practical purpose, it also functions as an unexpected team-building exercise–Ellis holds the bolt while Cameron, unable to see his hands, reaches in to place the nut.

On deck, a group of students interested in carpentry assists with the final steps in the placement of a “sister”–a beam designed to support one of the historic joists in the fo’c’sle. On deck, the fasteners holding the sister beam in place have been plugged with bungs. Now, the students take turns using a chisel to make the bungs flush with the deck. Gabe narrates the process, then points at older bungs on deck that are so well-disguised that they’re hard to see, using these as an example of what he and his classmates hope to achieve. Of working on Adventuress, he says, “We wouldn’t be able to learn this on campus.” He especially values the opportunity to engage in hands-on learning outside of a traditional classroom: “I’m really an active person. I really like doing things, more than just writing or taking a test.”

Crew Member Nikki helps a student measure his ditty bag.
Another group of students work with crew members Nikki and Gaia to cut and stitch ditty bags–a type of cloth bag that sailors often use to hold small articles and tools.  After carefully measuring on cloth spread across the deck, the students cut out their ditty bags and then begin marking the placement of their stitches. While this goes on, Atlas sits in the deckhouse with an alternate project: using a fid to interweave strands of rope, forming a loop in a piece of line. She learned about splicing a few months ago aboard Adventuress, and since then an interest in ropework and bosunry has completely absorbed her.

Crew Member Aimee gives advice on splicing.
Atlas loves that her time aboard Adventuress connects her to Port Townsend’s maritime history and to the possibility of a career in the maritime industry. This summer, she hopes to work for a company that runs whale-watching boats out of Port Townsend, and she believes that her time aboard Adventuress will give her an advantage: “Saying that I’ve been working on this hundred-year-old schooner looks good. If I was just in a class about boats I would have less credibility.”  Summing up her time aboard Adventuress, she says, “I know that not a lot of people get this opportunity… I tell friends in other parts of the country, ‘Oh, it’s Wednesday, I’m headed to the boat,’ and they can’t believe it... I can go straight from school, walk fifteen minutes, and be able to apply my skills in a useful way.  There’s no substitute for experience.”  

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!