Lessons from a Semester at Sea
A crew of teenagers sign up to learn what only the sea can teach.
By the fourth and final month, the students honed their leadership and teamwork skills and took over sailing and navigating the Harvey Gamage. Wyatt Richard of Minneapolis, Minnesota explains, “the crew are still there but you control the ship, the crew only says something if you are going to put the ship in danger.” Jon Dean of Dover, Massachusetts describes his first experience in command as “the most difficult task we have performed. It requires the knowledge of a mate, the reaction time of a rescue diver, the patience of a teacher, and the strength of a boxer. This challenge will bring the most out of us and inevitably take us to our limit for the last time.” The challenges of commanding a tall ship tax everything students have learned about sailing, effective leadership, and selfless teamwork.
The Ocean Classroom motto, “Ship, Shipmate, Self”, is the oft repeated recipe to happiness and success aboard the vessel. By prioritizing the ship first, shipmate second, and self last, students completed a successful voyage and bonded as crew. Ben Hudyard of Bozeman, Montana, the winner of the “Shipmate Award” relates, “we've become so close because we work and sweat together…we count on each other, we need each other, together we make the crew.”
The voyage changed students in ways they are still just beginning to understand. Standing on the bow of Harvey Gamage, on May 29th, graduation speaker Ben Voisine-Addis of Kennebunk, Maine, spoke to a tearful crowd. He asserts, “We are stronger, both physically and mentally and are more capable than ever before.” Ben planned to join the army after high school. He now feels Ocean Classroom changed his view on the future. “The program has completely changed me…a whole new world was opened to me and I’ve realized how many things I need to do before I sign my life away.”
After graduation, the Spring 2011 crew left for their respective homes, but they all notice fundamental, lasting personal changes. Reflecting back six months later, Ashley Charles notices an appreciation for simple pleasures, and writes, “being on Gamage gave me a heightened sense of being thankful for the simplest things, like having five minutes to yourself, or sitting in front of the air conditioner until the chills set in.” Theo Steinman of Portland, Maine notices a change in her priorities. “In every way, the boat life made my thought process more in check when I got home. I was able to see how people are so in their minds and stressed out by all their technology and personal worlds that they see as a really big deal. I feel like I… saw things more for what they really are.”
Many graduates also have a newfound awareness of the environment. Bahia Gordillo of Montréal and Sayulita, Mexico, writes, “I think that now I appreciate nature a lot more. When I see something beautiful, now I take a break from what I was doing to watch it and admire it." Theo embraced her love of the outdoors and recalls, “I slept outside on a hammock all summer.”
Other students developed new passions for academics. Milo Stanley, a home-schooled student, was inspired by the marine science class. He is now taking an upper level marine biology class at Bowdoin College. He writes, “it definitely changed my approach to school as something that, if I find the right topics and classes, I can be as interested in it as I am in boats.” Milo also notes, “If I look in a mirror, I can see that my hair is blonder.”
Spring 2011 students also notice that they have developed stronger leadership and teamwork skills. Danielle Woodward of Block Island, RI, reflects, “I no longer work on my own when I'm supposed to be working in groups; I've learned teamwork. It also helped me become more of a leader, something I never was before…It really made me grow up and accept my responsibilities.” Finding the ability to appreciate life and take on leadership roles are two major changes students see in themselves. However, Danielle notes that the most meaningful part of her voyage was her relationship with her shipmates; “I will never forget the friendships I made during those four months or what it is like to belong to a group that accepts you for who you really are. On the Harvey Gamage, these were the things that warmed me even in the coldest of watches.” Learning to appreciate life, lead, and work in a team are skills that students have transferred to land life. The friendships made with shipmates are lasting, and they will always be crew of the Harvey Gamage.
Ocean Classroom Foundation runs college and high school semester programs and short summer programs for youth. There is still space available for High School Discovery Semester Spring 2013, Spring 2013 college “SEAmester”, and Summer 2012 programs. For more information about Ocean Classroom visit their website at http://oceanclassroom.org. To join our new e-newsletter, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Want to support Ocean Classroom’s mission? Ocean Classroom has wish list of items to keep her schooners and programs running.