Maritime education is an incredibly powerful educational tool. While it does not necessarily have to be a path to maritime employment, it is always an effective path to provide Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, Philosophy, History, Language and Arts (STEMPHLA) education.
The Lettie G. Howard project has a straightforward focus: Provide students with a tool to learn as quickly and effectively as possible by bringing them aboard a very significant vessel in one of the world’s most stimulating maritime settings.
I recently joined the Lettie for a weekend cruise and was one of 21 souls aboard.
On my trip the vessel complement consisted of:
Two volunteer Masters
Two paid hands
Two volunteer hands
One high school instructor
Two recent high school graduates
Two experienced Harbor School students
Eight novice Harbor School and MAST high school students
One student sailing ship galley cook and educational observer (me)
One one year old toddler
Each and everyone aboard was both a trainer and a trainee. An instructor learns to be effective in a novel setting and to more effectively assess her students, while even the newest newbie aboard a vessel will still be a member of the crew and, even at the most basic level, will provide training support to his fellow newbies.
To provide a full report on the educational benefits of the 48 hour cruise would require a document that would take at least 48 hours to read.
The density of the educational benefits is related to the power of shipboard multitasking.
It is difficult to provide an accounting but this is a start:
21 students of the search for the real meaning of life
15 students in search of professional improvement
9 students in search of their first big sailboat experience
21 people simply enjoying a great weekend in one of the greatest ports on earth
21 people enjoying each other in all our social and background weirdness and variety
7 Students increasing their time for USCG license upgrades
More than 100 individual boat experiences (Time on Seastreak New York, Seastreak Martha’s Vinyard, Indy 7, Lettie, Privateer, Amistad, Lettie tender)
17 students resume building for better schooling or professional improvement
7 Education methodology researchers
8 Students first time to the main and foremast tops.
8 students starting from being rank beginners to starting on the course to able and fearless hands.
10 students learning that hard work is hard, but not necessarily unpleasant
15 people realizing that New York City is not just a city, it is a vast and powerful training ground that can best be accessed by water.
1 Empirical researcher of small craft/large crew/small galley procedures (me)
Multiply this by 48 hours (since aboard a traditional sailing vessel even what little sleep one gets is a learning experience) and very easily a 21 person 48 hour cruise results in close to a total of a thousand class room equivalent learning hours for the 21 souls.
In order to further support this notion I will resort to a sort of shorthand and will try to fill in the blanks with photos.
A typical MAST (or in slightly different form; Harbor School) first time student perspective:
Friday 1450 hours: board the Seastreak New York in Highlands, NJ
Practice ship terms on ferry
Enjoy great views of New York
Disembark at foot of Wall street.
Hump gear to South Seaport
Board Indy 7
Meet some of the crew
Cross East River in Indy 7
Learn a little about Indy 7
Board Lettie in Brooklyn
Take a quick peek at Amistad tied up alongside
Meet rest of crew
Receive watch assignment
Receive initial orientation and safety instruction
Get ready for being underway at night
Enjoy great views of New York Harbor
Dinner clean up
Take in sail
Anchor at West 79th street boat basin in the Hudson River
Anchor does not set, so haul anchor and re-anchor
Receive watch standing instructions
Stand anchor watch
Sleep a little
Wash up a little
Be really intimidated by the marine toilet
Figure out how to stay dry and keep away from deck leaks
Clean up breakfast
Rig the tender over the side
Go to shore
Walk to Museum of Natural History in foul weather gear
Dry up a little in the museum
Take tender back to Lettie
Clean up lunch
Take down awning
Take turn at wheel
Take trip to bowsprit
Keep cook happy by getting his camera from his bunk
Take photos of the Lettie under sail
Enjoy great view of New York and New Jersey
Take down sail
Anchor at Bay Ridge Flats
Check out commercial traffic anchored nearby
Figure out a way to stay warm
Clean up dinner
Sing songs in forecastle
Get a little sleep
Try to get warm in morning
Watch sunrise in New York harbor
Still be intimidated by the marine head
Clean up breakfast
Deck washing and cleaning
Fisherman stow of all sails
Under power through the buttermilk channel to meet up with Amistad
Take turn at wheel
Change in plans
Hold position at Atlantic Basin
Avoid other traffic in the channel
Berth at Atlantic Basin
First trip up to the main mast top
Transfer gear to Privateer
Learn a little about Privateer
Under power with Privateer to Amistad
Visit Amistad and learn aboard her history
Take a quick peek at Baylander
Meet more Harbor School students
Board tender and transfer to Privateer
Cross East River on Privateer
Drop off at Seastreak berth at foot of Wall Street
Board Seastreak Martha’s Vineyard
Sort of nod off on trip back to Highlands
Sunday 1640 hours, parent pick-up in Highlands, NJ
Every step above has some level of learning in some of the STEMPHLA categories, and the learning is immersive and direct with a lasting effect that feeds and supports class room learning.
It is the nature of maritime that everybody aboard has their own perspective, but you always have to function within the crew structure. Saturday afternoon the generator failed and one Harbor School grad and two Harbor School able hands worked together and fixed it with minimal involvement by the Master and mates who were adjusting the itinerary due to weather issues. The loss of the generator affected me as cook because for a few hours I could not meet requests for coffee with the equipment that was aboard. Meanwhile I was trying to figure out how to cook large quantities of rice and was cheerfully shown a simple approach by a Harbor School student who had experience cooking large quantities of rice for her family at home.
Cooking rice this way was not the only thing I learned aboard, it was simply one of many things I did not expect to learn. And that is what happens when you board a ship; you learn things that you did not expect to learn, but they are the things that will help you make the world your oyster.