Friday, November 20, 2015

Seabacs Scholarships a Student, Snags a School

This year, the Seabacs Boeing Employees Boat Club provided a $500 scholarship for a deserving young person from Fort Vancouver High School to sail aboard Adventuress for our 6-day Fantastic Voyage program. Pat Forbes, former Commodore and current Junior Past-Commodore, spoke about why Seabacs chose to so generously support Adventuress.

Seabacs' main purpose is for employees and associates of Boeing to boat together and enjoy the Sound. Says Pat, "We try to support the boating community as much as we can… When you can actually invest yourself in the community as a club, then you’ve really got something." 

Of introducing the scholarship idea to other Seabacs members, Pat says, "Everyone was really happy that we could support Adventuress in such a tangible way and give someone the opportunity to sail and gain experience on the water... Adventuress is so well known in the region. It’s an important program that you run." Pat describes the water as "a whole different world"—a place of calm and serenity. He firmly believes that "giving other people that experience is a responsibility we have as boaters." 

In fact, the impact of the Seabacs scholarship has expanded well beyond one person. Andrea Johnson, the travel coordinator at Fort Vancouver High School, recently spoke about the school's continuing relationship with Sound Experience. In April of 2016, a group of freshmen from Fort Vancouver H.S. will step aboard Adventuress for a 3-day program. In many ways, says Andrea, the Seabacs scholarship student has served as an Adventuress ambassador: "She loved it. She came back and she was totally beaming. It was a positive experience for her. She tells other students, 'Oh my gosh, you have to go on this trip.'" 

Andrea believes that time on Adventuress will be incredibly valuable to her students, who might otherwise not have the chance to go out on the water. She describes Fort Vancouver H.S. as a "vibrant place… There is nowhere on the planet like Fort Vancouver." Their 1500 students represent 30 countries and speak 40 languages. Says Andrea, "We have all the urban issues of poverty and unemployment, but the kids here are really kind, really accepting." 

As part of the school's new travel-focused curriculum, students will have the chance to step aboard Adventuress and deepen their understanding of the marine environment. Says Andrea, "We want to teach that, 'Yes, what we do in our homes in Vancouver affects Puget Sound, affects the Columbia River right next to us.'" Andrea mentions the Community School, whose 5th grade students have sailed on Adventuress for the past 16 years: "I tell my students, 'That's our goal: that we’ll be doing this for the next 16 years. And you are part of the inaugural year.'" 

Thank you, Seabacs, for bringing a young person aboard and helping to strengthen a relationship with Fort Vancouver High School that will allow many more students to sail on Adventuress! As part of our 29 Dollars, 29 Days: Getting Kids on the Boat campaign, we hope this story illustrates that a contribution of any amount can have a lasting impact on our region’s young people. To make your contribution to 29 Dollars, 29 Days through December 1st and help raise funds to scholarship deserving young people to sail on Adventuress, you can click here.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Young People from the Suquamish Tribe Step Aboard Adventuress

At the end of September, young people from the Suquamish Tribe stepped aboard Adventuress for a 3-day overnight program that combined Suquamish cultural activities with environmental education. Entering its second year, this collaboration with the Suquamish Tribe was originally conceived as a way of encouraging young people to pursue science learning with the hope that someday more Tribal scientists will manage Tribal fisheries and maritime resources.  

Our view from Adventuress as participants paddle away.
On the last day of the program, with Adventuress anchored in the waters of Port Madison Bay, students rotated through a special set of “orbits”: climbing in the rigging and canoeing in a traditional dugout canoe. Uniting his time aboard Adventuress with time in a canoe was very important to Jayden, who says, “My spirit is in a canoe… When I go in the canoe I don’t get tired. I use my energy to the fullest. I think it’s a great opportunity because I’m representing the Tribe.” 

Although most of the participants knew each other before the trip, many reported that their favorite memories centered around bonding as a group. Says Jayden, “I loved when we were all working together. Not everyone gets to have the experience of cooperating and working as a team.” Kaylayla echoes this sentiment, saying, “I learned that I can work with a big group of people… We can all work together and be strong.” Cody remembers Anchor Watch with Crew Member Axcelle and a small group of friends: “It was really fun, just sitting out there making sure that everyone was safe.”  

Young people from the Suquamish Tribe test the pH
of Puget Sound water as part of a lesson on ocean acidification.
While climbing the rigging, participants had a unique perspective of their home—a 360 degree view of Agate Pass, Mount Rainier in the distance, and The House of Awakened Culture on the nearby shore, where people bustled in and out as they prepared a feast and presentation for Suquamish community members and Sound Experience crew. Of going aloft, Simonne says, “It was scary, the ropes were moving back and forth, but I touched the top… It was pretty, because I could see really, really far. It was quiet and peaceful. If there was somewhere to sit, I would stay forever.”

Simonne and nearly all of the other participants had previous experience on the water crabbing and fishing. Many spoke about how different it was to live on a tall ship. Says Jayden, “We’re not fishing, no pots or fishing rods, more lines, more people.” Still, Jayden points out that many maritime skills carry over between vessels: “It’s great to have the experience of tying knots here so that I can use them for fishing.”

At the end of the program, as Suquamish community members and Adventuress crew gathered to share a delicious meal, it was hard not to feel that it was an especially successful trip. Says Cody, “We saw at least one or two [whales] everyday… It was pretty much like they were following us.” Later, after a presentation of traditional dances and games, the enormous doors of the House of Awakened Culture were thrown open. The lunar eclipse was taking place, and the moon was red above the water.

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.”