A Significant Loss for Sail Training, the sinking of the Irish Asgard II

Asgard II and the Eye of the Wind by Willie Waw on Flickr.com

The Old Blog Cabin reports that the Irish sail training vessel the Asgard II was lost in the Bay of Biscay today. Thankfully, all crew and trainees were picked up by a French Naval vessel and are reported safe. Here are links to the RTE News and Associated Press stories.

The Asgard II was featured in Standing Tall, Sail Training International’s video used to introduce young people to the adventure of sail training.


In 2000, she crossed the Atlantic as part of the Tall Ships 2000 fleet and was very popular wherever she visited in North America. She will be missed by the youth of Ireland and people from around the globe.

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Schooner Thomas Hoyne and Merlyn’s Pen

Schooner Thomas Hoyne by Peter Mello Aug 7 2008

Last night we returned from a short but great vacation with some friends in a cabin in the Adirondacks.

Today I traveled over to Newport to have lunch with a friend Paul Morse who is the owner of the beautiful little schooner Thomas Hoyne. He invited his friend, Jim Stahl, who is the founder of a terrific teen writing program called Merlyn’s Pen. From their website:

SINCE 1985, Merlyn’s Pen has produced and supported school programs that promote creativity, critical thinking and writing, and self-acceptance. Its most public service since 2001 has been the New Library of Young Adult Writing, which showcases compelling works of fiction and nonfiction authored by America’s teens, grades 6-12. All the works in the New Library appeared first in Merlyn’s Pen: The National of Student Writing, published between 1985 and 2001. The models and standards displayed in the New Library give heart to beginning writers; to advanced teen writers, the Library is an online resource of successful models to explore, engage, and emulate.

This summer Merlyn’s Pen introduced a new maritime themed program called Down to the Sea with Pen and Paper. From all accounts this sold out program aboard Ocean Classroom Foundation’s schooner Harvey Gamage was a smashing success in it’s launch year. Nandini Jayakrishna of The Providence Journal Bulletin wrote a great piece entitled Week’s sail a voyage of discovery for teen writers.

“A lot of time spent writing is spent not writing,” he (Stahl) said. “In terms of hours of day, they were doing more sailing than writing, [but] that’s the writer’s way –– gathering experience that informs those brief inspired moments when the pen is actually on paper.”

Stahl’s already hard at work in creating next year’s program. Better hurry before that one fills up too!

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NY Harbor School: Making Waves in Education

It’s a proud accomplishment for any academic institution to make the front page of the NY Times. For me it’s even more exciting when it one that uses maritime culture and heritage to change the lives of inner city youth and it’s even better when I know some of the people involved.


Today’s NY Times (June 26, 2008 ) has a great front page article by Sara Rimer about the Urban Assembly’s New York Harbor School entitled Taking Lessons, and Confidence, From the Water. It’s a must read for anyone interested or involved in maritime education. Here’s a link to my previous post, The Privilege of Sailing, that I did on the Harbor School along with co-founder Murray Fisher adding a comment.


Outcomes are what matters in programs like this and here’s some interesting facts from the article:

The Harbor School has 390 students in grades 9 to 12, 70 percent Latino and 30 percent black, with many from the Caribbean. Last year’s graduation rate was 63 percent, Mr. Fisher said, nearly triple the rate of the old Bushwick High School, which once occupied the same building. The citywide average is about 50 percent.

But more importantly the voices and pictures bring this success story to life. Please don’t miss the audio clips or slide show! If you only have time to do one thing today, please listen to student Jennifer Mendez and teacher Melissa Franco and you will get a better understanding about the power of the sea to teach and change lives!

Yes, she, Jennifer Mendez, 15, the girl from Brooklyn who used to be afraid of the water and everything related to it — fish, boats, bugs — was steering the Lettie up the river, along the Upper West Side. The captain of the ship, Denise Meagher, was standing by. But with her hand on the wheel, Jennifer felt as if she were the captain, responsible for the ship and everyone on it — the crew, her ninth-grade classmates and their science teachers, Roy Arrezo and Ann Fraioli.

A little later, Jennifer would write in her class journal, “I feel as if I can do anything.” Even, she confided, make the honor roll.

“I feel so privileged to learn about the water,” Jennifer wrote in her journal. “The Hudson River is like an ancestor of our past, and if we listen to it, it just might tell tales.”


Congratulations to the Murray Fisher and Nathan Dudley and all of the professional and volunteer leadership of the Harbor School for creating something special for New York City youth and for a well deserved acknowledgement on the front page of the NY Times! Also, congratulations to all of the Harbor School students who work so hard to make this unique program a success! Like sailing a tall ship, you’re all in the same boat so keep up the great work!

Photo credit: Ruby Washington / NY Times

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Voice Your Choice for Rocking the Boat

top2_enviro_vte_4  I just got an email from one of my favorite maritime / environmental / youth development nonprofits, Rocking the Boat. I’ve previously posted about them here and here.

The email was about an opportunity they have to win a grant from Patagonia, one of the coolest, most environmentally conscious and socially responsible organizations on the planet. The program is called Voice Your Choice and this is from their website:

Activism takes many forms, but you can cast a vote at your neighborhood Patagonia store this summer as one way to get involved in local environmental issues, show support for your favorite environmental group or just warm up for the November elections.

Each store will profile five groups that have done something extraordinary to help restore and protect the local environment. These groups have been our partners, helping us to further our stated mission to "build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm and use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis."

rocking-the-boat-logo-thumbRocking the Boat has some stiff competition in their neighborhood with Riverkeeper, Bronx River Alliance, Newtown Creek Alliance, and Solar One, all worthy organizations.

So if by chance you read this and live in their “neighborhood” which is New York City, stop by the Upper West Side Patagonia store and voice your choice!

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What I’ve been up to lately in Bermuda

37887aHere’s a link to another great article by Bermuda Sun senior writer Meredith Ebbin about the youth maritime education program that I’ve been working on for the past six months with Northeast Maritime Institute.

Course opens up waterways of the world for students (June 13, 2008 )

Here’s a link In case you missed Ms. Ebbins first article, Pilot programme to train young seaman (May 23, 2008 )

This is a very exciting project. Ten young men and one young woman, between the ages of 16 and 30, most of whom dropped out of Bermuda’s traditional education system, have embarked on an educational journey which will ultimately give them the knowledge, skills, experience, credentials and confidence to launch professional maritime careers at home or around the world.

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Educational Partner-Ships

I spent Sunday afternoon and had dinner with my good friend Caleb Pifer. ASTA board member Alix Thorne introduced us in 2002 while sailing aboard the tall ship Elissa in Galveston. As American Sail Training Association executive director I hired Cal as a high school student to be a summer intern the following year and several thereafter. After graduating from the University of Texas in Austin last year, Cal joined the Concordia, a tall ship owned and operated by Class Afloat, a Canadian educational nonprofit and most recently he joined sister organization, American Foundation for Education Under Sail Inc. as director of development of their Educational Partner-Ships program.

From Educational Partner-Ships website:

    Educational Partner-Ships is the world’s only provider of tall ship–based educational voyages that utilizes your personalized program.

    Unique in the field of education is the “prescriptive programming” of Educational Partner-Ships. With Educational Partner-Ships, each partnering school shares in design and delivery. It is a school’s guarantee that institutional or departmental goals remain at the forefront of program development. Let Educational Partner-Ships do the leg work that ensures that your program is truly your program.

    Drawing on over thirty years of travel-study experience at sea, Educational Partner-Ships creates and delivers unparalleled learning opportunities aboard a variety of traditionally rigged sailing vessels.

    These learning opportunities may include:

    • Twenty Day January or Summer Terms

    • Three Week Intercessional Class Offerings (Spring and Fall)

    • Semester Long Programs

This exciting program is designed for colleges and universities that are interested in giving their students a unique experiential based academic program. I look forward to following Educational Partner-Ships promising future.

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The Tabor Boy Project Rounds the 100 Member Mark

The Tabor Boy Project logo Nearly a year ago I launched a website called The Tabor Boy Project. From the Welcome Aboard:

For over 50 years, the schooner Tabor Boy has taken young Tabor Academy students to sea under sail. This remarkable ship has played a significant role in helping Tabor Academy transform adventurous teenagers into confident young adults.

The Tabor Boy Project is a living history project and social network by and for Tabor Boy sailors and supporters. While it will help create and preserve the rich stories that make up the schooner’s history, it will also connect shipmates that have been “lost” for years.

On April 1, 2008, The Tabor Boy Project welcomed it’s 100th member, a 2007 Tabor Academy graduate. Members span 6 decades: from the 1950’s to current students. There are hundreds of wonderful photographs and sea stories that tell this amazing ship’s history.

None of this would have been possible just a few short years ago. Photos that languished in shoe boxes in the back of alumni closets have experienced a new life on the website gallery and long lost shipmates have been able to reconnect through the member pages.

Web 2.0 social media tools allow us to build communities around common causes, interests and passions. They allow us to reconnect and have meaningful conversations about things that are important to us. They also allow us to collaborate to capture history, experience and knowledge in ways previously unimaginable. The Tabor Boy Project utilizes the Ning social networking platform which is powerful, flexible, easy to use and inexpensive.

I believe that the most important part of these types of projects is setting a strategy and having a few catalysts who can help build excitement. I was lucky to enlist 2 of my shipmates, Captain Bob Glover and Jamie Hutton (pictured below) from the beginning to jump aboard and work hard to spread the word. It’s all part of that teamwork ethic that was integral to the sail training experience and which has been a major part of each one of our lives since the days we first stepped aboard the Tabor Boy.

The Tabor Boy Project is an independent project and not something created, authorized or maintained by Tabor Academy. It’s content is generated by its members all of whom lives were touched by positive experiences at the School by the Sea and the schooner. Despite this, The Tabor Boy Project has been incredibly fortunate to have received interest and support from Tabor Academy leadership. Interim Development Director Kerry Saltonstall has been a huge advocate for The Project. We really appreciate and benefit from her frequent mentions in the Tabor Alumni and Friends e-newsletter Currents. Each time it appear, there is a nice uptick in new members. Thanks Kerry!

On April 14th, The Tabor Boy Project will celebrate it’s first anniversary. If you are reading this and have any connection what so ever to the schooner Tabor Boy, please join us. The Tabor Boy Project is a website for everyone who has ever sailed or who just is interested in the great work this ship (and school) has done to transform adventurous adolescents into young adults.


Related posts:

The Tabor Boy Project – Storytelling and Living History

Flash Back – 31 Years Ago Today

The Privilege of Sailing

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