Thursday, January 28, 2016

Young Hands, Old Boat: High School Students Get Hands-On Experience aboard Adventuress

For an hour-and-a-half each Tuesday and Thursday, Port Townsend High School students in Kelley Watson’s Maritime Manufacturing class get a rare opportunity: the chance to stand up, stretch their limbs, and take part in hands-on learning in their high school woodshop and aboard the 103-year-old schooner Adventuress. Since the beginning of the school year, they’ve developed their hand tool and woodworking skills as they’ve tackled a range of assignments; students spoke proudly about projects that ranged from making a dovetailed box to building a table to restoring a set of century-old saws.

The winter cover on Adventuress allows the ship to serve as
 a "floating dockside classroom" for over 300 local students.
This winter, the eleven students in Watson’s class also have the chance to help with maintenance work aboard Adventuress, from sanding booms to assisting with the construction of the winter cover that allows Adventuress to serve as a “floating dockside classroom” for over 300 local students in grades 1-12. Watson’s students first came aboard in December when Adventuress was on the hard in Boat Haven, and since then have helped with maintenance projects while the ship has been moored at Point Hudson Marina. Additionally, members of Adventuress’ winter crew regularly visit the woodshop classroom to help with ongoing projects. Says teacher Kelley Watson, “It’s such a valuable experience… A lot of these students have never been on a boat before.”

Students work to disassemble and clean blocks.
On a recent Tuesday morning, the shop was buzzing with activity: half of the students sanded Adventuress’ foreboom in preparation for a fresh coat of varnish while the other half worked to clean some of the roughly 80 blocks that are used aboard Adventuress.  Two students, Bella and Zach, took a break from the hubbub to reflect on what time aboard Adventuress means to them.

Seventeen-year-old Zach says, “It’s the only hands-on class I have, which is something I really learn by.  It’s much more involvement than sitting in a chair all day.”  He’s been aboard three times this winter, and the sheer massiveness of Adventuress—both the size of the ship and the scope of her history—has left him with a lasting impression: “It was cool the feeling of how old it is.  It has such an interesting history. It’s really so big, you just get this sense of excitement...  Your mind just fills up with thoughts of what happens on the boat when people are sailing.  What does it sound like? What does it look like?”  He also values the mentorship of winter crew, three of whom were guiding projects in the shop that day: “It’s been an honor to work with people on Adventuress, people who are experts.  It’s cool to be around them, to look up to them.” 

Sanding the foreboom.
Another student, sixteen-year-old Bella, has discovered in interest in restoration work—she was the one who restored the century-old saws.  Reflecting on the value of this type of work, Bella says, “It’s already made, it’s already there, but getting it back to its glory days, restoring it, that’s really important… These types of things need to be restored. They’re part of our history that we need to keep.”  Given that Adventuress is a National Historic Landmark whose entire hull was recently restored as part of a five year project that ended in April of 2014, time aboard the ship fits perfectly with Bella’s passions.  She echoes Zach’s sentiment about the value of hands-on work: “This is by far one of my favorite classes. I love to learn hands on. It gets through my brain more.”  She especially values the opportunity to experience firsthand the beauty and complexity of the ship: “In high school you don’t get a lot of field trips. You don’t get to go out and do things like this… It’s so important to actually look at how beautiful the little details really are [aboard Adventuress]. You can’t get that from a textbook or a website.”

Watson has several other shop classes that are spending regular time aboard Adventuress this winter, along with students of many different ages from Port Townsend schools and the surrounding areas.  We hope you’ll follow along as we share fun and inspiring stories from our work this winter—and we hope you’ll step aboard when the sailing season begins in March!  Sound Experience offers overnight trips for teens, families, and adults, a Membership program that allows free sailing on over twenty Public Sails each year, and many other opportunities to join our welcoming and enthusiastic community.

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