Friday, June 24, 2016

Crew Member Natalie Rynne Goes from Girl at the Helm to Environmental Resources Engineer

When 19-year-old Natalie Rynne climbed aboard at the beginning of June for a month-long internship as a deckhand/educator, it was another step in a long, fruitful, and formative involvement with Adventuress. It’s a story that plays out so often on Adventuress, though the details vary in a hundred different ways: an introduction to the ship that results in a life-changing passion. For Natalie, the trip was Girls at the Helm (GATH), the year was 2012, and the result was an enduring interest in science. Says Natalie, “Girls at the Helm was my first experience on Adventuress, and that’s what got me really fired up to pursue environmental and marine sciences.”

Natalie comes from sailing stock; her grandfather, John Rynne, custom-built a 47’ gaff-rigged schooner that he handed down to her mother, Jeanne, before he passed away. Jeanne, a resident of Olympia, was involved with the South Sound Sailing Society, which holds an annual raffle at their Women’s Boating Seminar to fund scholarship spots on Girls at the Helm. In 2012, Natalie was one of two young women to receive the first set of scholarships. The Women’s Boating Seminar has generously sent girls on the trip every year since then. Most recently, five girls have received scholarships to join our August GATH.

Crew Member Natalie and her mother Jeanne,
a participant on our Women at the Helm program
At fifteen, explains Natalie, she wasn’t exactly interested in following her mother’s lead: “I kind of resisted what my mom had to say. I resisted getting into boating.” Despite this initial reluctance, her time aboard Adventuress had a profound effect on her future. Says Natalie, “I remember talking to Julie, a mentor from the University of Washington-Tacoma who specialized in microplastics. We were talking about plankton. That’s when a switch flipped in my head and I thought, ‘This is awesome.’ I realized over the course of the trip that if I went on to study something environmental or marine science related, there would be a 1,000 things that would interest me. And if one specific thing didn’t work out, or didn’t hold my attention, that would leave 999 other areas to explore.” (If mentor Julie Masura’s name sounds familiar, it’s because she joined the Sound Experience Board of Directors in April—another example of the lasting community relationships that are fostered on Adventuress.)

In September, Natalie will start her second year at Humboldt State University, where she is majoring in Environmental Resources Engineering (ERE), a field of study aimed at preparing engineers to tackle the complex and immediate issue of environmental resource problems. Humboldt has one of the oldest and most respected ERE programs in the country, and Girls at the Helm was central to Natalie’s choice of school. Says Natalie, “When I was writing my college applications, I thought back and realized how meaningful [Girls at the Helm] was for me… Adventuress is why I’m at Humboldt State University.”

In April of 2015, a few months before she would head down to Humboldt, Natalie had the chance to participate in the Evergreen State College program that took place aboard Adventuress. Natalie’s mother works at Evergreen, and spots on the trip were made available to staff and their families. After three years away from Adventuress, the Evergreen trip affirmed what Natalie first felt on GATH: “After being on the ship for a few days, I didn’t want to get off. It reconfirmed the spark that had been set on Girls at the Helm and made me confident that my choice to major in Environmental Resources Engineering was a good fit.”

The Evergreen trip also inspired Natalie to return this summer as crew. Says Natalie, “I wanted to be part of the community that made me feel so inspired." The experience has given Natalie yet another perspective on the ship and programs: “After these last few days as crew, what I value most about Adventuress is the community. None of this would be possible without such a strong community caring for the ship and Puget Sound. We support each other. When the Captain or Program Coordinator gives me feedback, they always phrase it as, ‘This is how you can improve.’ It’s an incredibly positive and uplifting environment.”

In June, Jeanne sailed on our 4-day Women at the Helm trip, and mother and daughter were united aboardone as a participant and one as a member of the crew. Later in June, Natalie also had the chance to return for Girls at the Helm as a member of the all-female crew, inspiring young women as she was once inspired. Says Natalie, Adventuress has done a lot for me. Being crew is a great way to return the favor.” 

Hoping to sail aboard Adventuress? Although our August Girls at the Helm trip is full, there are still many opportunities to step aboard. Grandparents and grandchildren are welcome on our Road Scholar Intergenerational Voyage, August 14-19 out of Cap Sante Marina in Anacortes. We also offer the Members Only Expedition, August 26-28, out of Anacortes. Open to Sound Experience Members, this trip is great for familieschildren 8 an up are welcome when accompanied by an adult.