"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines.

Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." -Mark Twain

Ocean Classroom Fall 2009

>> Tuesday, September 29, 2009

It has been one full week since 22 students from Proctor Academy joined the Westward and set sail from Boston, MA.  In many ways the days have flown by, yet the positive chemistry of this crew tricks the mind into feeling as if we have always been.  

After departing Boston we sailed north to Gloucester, MA.  Our first port stop provided us with a complete 5 star day.  As the morning sun baked the air students took their first small boat run ashore.  Landing at the beach we all swayed with the rhythm of the sea, confirming our newly acquired sea legs.
The day's events began with a hands on science class discussing tide pools ecology followed by lunch and yoga kick ball in the park.  Our day continued with an action packed visit to the Gloucester Fish Auction.  During our behind the scenes tour we were fortunate to meet Rob, a NOAA fisheries biologist, who was happy to show the students how to remove ear bones from a halibut which he later uses to age the fish in his lab.  As we were preparing to leave our luck continued as a fishing boat captain dropped by and passionately ranted about fishing policy and how it has changed in the thirty years he has been in the business.
Waving goodbye to Gloucester's rocky shore and rusty boats we hauled up our anchor and reefed the main sail, preparing to sail towards Provincetown.  The Westward rolled and pitched in the waves and many of the students lined the leeward rail.  Fortunately, this was the perfect place to view the charismatic megafauna that frequent Stellwagen bank, including breaching humpback whales and a sunbathing mola mola.
September 29, 2009
Westward arrived in Mystic Seaport around 16:00 on a Sunday afternoon.  Our passage had been rainy and gray.  The drizzle stopped and the skies began to clear as we tied up to Chubbs Wharf next to the LA Dunton, an original Gloucester fishing schooner built in the 1920s.  
That evening after dinner, all the students and much of the crew piled into the Treworgy Planetarium.  In the clear simulated night sky, we learned to find Orion and the navigational stars that will help us find our way to the Caribbean.  
The next day we explored the rich grounds of the Mystic Seaport Museum of America and the Sea.  We have been studying the history of New England fisheries in history class.  Students saw this history come to life in the seaport.  We saw a cod splitting and drying demonstration.  Afterwards, we investigated the 19th century seaport village.  Students explored the various shore based maritime industries that contributed to fishing and global trade.  Students learned about the ropewalk building, blacksmith shop, cooperage, printing press, navigational aids shop, and sail maker.  They also learned about the role of women in the community.  We relaxed in the afternoon at a private concert by internationally renown shantyman Don Sinetti.  We finished our seaport excursion with a visit to the beautiful replica of the tops'l schooner Amistad.  Aboard, crew told us about the daring slave rebellion that occurred in 1839 and the long fight in the US court system for the freedom of the Africans.  The night ended with a viewing of the film Around Cape Horn, narrated by Irving Johnson.  The film includes some of the only original footage of a tall ship (The Peaking, which can now be visited in NYC) rounding Cape Horn.  
We had the amazing opportunity to row whale boats the next morning around the Mystic River. We had read the account of the whaleship Essex, and now we understood first hand how challenging it is to row a whaleboat.  It was difficult in calm waters and we can only imagine how tiring it would be in the seas of the open ocean while trying to harpoon a whale.  Later in the day, we visited the Charles W. Morgan, the last remaining original wooden whaling ship.
Built in the 1840s and sailing well into the 20th Century, the Morgan sailed all over the globe hunting the ever decreasing whale population.  We spent the rest of the day studying the vast museum collections.  We also had the opportunity midday to visit the town of Mystic where some of us decided to try Mystic Pizza, which gained fame in the Julia Roberts film by the same name.  
September Thirtieth, Two Thousand and Nine
Now we begin our passage to the Chesapeake Bay.  Like Masefield we feel the sea fever and, although our time ashore has been well spent, cannot resist the wind's song and long to feel the wheel's kick and hear the white sails shaking.  Now the students are ready to sail through the night and dance to the rhythm of shipboard life.


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