Personal – I spent my high school years on a tall ship called Tabor Boy and launched The Tabor Boy Project, a website/living history project/social network, about that experience. So as a product of a long established, successful sail training program, I passionately believe in the power to transform young lives.
Professional – I was the executive director of the American Sail Training Association from 2001 to 2008. During that period I had the opportunity to work with hundreds of different sail training vessels and tall ships from around the world.
Professional/Personal – When speaking with the public or media at big tall ships events, I was invariably asked which was my favorite. As ASTA executive director, the only answer could be that “Like parents love their children, I love them all equally.” (politically correct) However, each sail training vessel and tall ship is unique in its own way and back on April 2, 2008, I wrote “I had the great fortune to spend my 4 years of high school sailing on a tall ship. If there was one educational sailing experience I could be jealous of, this (Class Afloat on Concordia) would be it.” By the way, I still feel that way today.
Leadership – Over the years, I had the opportunity to work with Class Afloat’s founder Terry Davies and believe that it would be difficult to find another educational leader more professional and caring about young people and more knowledgeable about ships. Similarly, my experience working with various captains and crew members of the Concordia was always very positive. Leadership defines the success of a program and Terry Davies charted a proper course for Class Afloat.
Reference – Today modern technology and media allow information to be distributed fast, far and wide. Unfortunately, accuracy isn’t always one of the characteristics but that might be a fair trade under many circumstances. Over time, inaccurate reports are generally weeded out and tossed aside. I’ve attempted to collect as many of the stories told to and by the media as possible. Going back later and trying to find this kind of information would be a gargantuan task. Doing it in real time is slightly easier. This is the web and many of these links will die but overall the post can serve as a pretty comprehensive reference for anyone interested in learning more about the casualty.
Lessons to Be Learned – The Concordia sinking is a sad story with a happy ending. And while it’s very early days in the investigation, it presents a great opportunity to try to figure out what happened without the usual high emotion that surrounds an incident involving casualties or fatalities. In some respects, this is similar to the Miracle on the Hudson. As Sergeant Joe Friday used to say, “All we want are the facts” and there are more than 64 individual stories that can be told today but which over time will consolidate into one overall narrative from which we will hopefully learn some valuable lessons for the future.
Up to this post, I’ve avoided editorializing, analyzing or making any judgement about what actually happened on the Concordia on February 17, 2010. I think that I’ll continue to leave the technical analysis to the professional investigators and others with more direct experience and knowledge about these things. I will continue to collect links about the sinking but anticipate (and hope) the pace of stories slows down so that I can get back to Sea-Fever’s regularly scheduled programming. I will also try to interpret/translate some of the technical findings so that non mariners can get a better understanding of the issues. I believe my Tabor Boy and ASTA experiences leave me well suited to the task. Finally, I will continue to champion sail training because I believe more than ever that there is no greater teaching platform than the tall ship and or campus than the sea.
I will continue to update this post with articles about the sinking of the Concordia. There’s a lot of duplicate content out there so I’ll do my best to curate the best, most relevant. While I am a huge fan of the Class Afloat program you may see posts with different opinions since I think examining this incident from different perspectives can be valuable and instructive. Thanks for visiting and please feel free to leave your thoughts in a comment below.
Updated Feb. 19, 2010 – 10:00 PM EST There is still so little information available about what happened but the following story at least let’s us know that some communication has occurred with the captains of both the Concordia and the rescuing ship and that there are no serious injuries. The rest at this point is all speculation and conjecture. One thing that we do know for sure is that going to sea has always been and will always be fraught with risk and that’s one of the reasons why the experience can be so powerful.
I’ve posted aboutConcordia’s amazing program in the past and know the former owner and several of the captains and crew from my American Sail Training Association days. If you are not familiar with the Concordia or Class Afloat, please take a few minutes to watch this video about their amazing life forming programs for young students.
During a time when so many sail training vessels and tall ships are experiencing challenges, this is even more sad news. Concordia was a wonderful ship that did great work over the years and she will be sorely missed.
Think sailing a tall ship is challenging? That’s nothing compared to building one. Think building one is difficult, that’s nothing compared to finding the trees, cutting them down, dragging them out of the jungle, loading them on another tall ship and sailing them halfway around the world. Tall ships sailors never do anything easy.
Grab a beer and some popcorn because this will be the best reality TV that you’ll watch this week.
The Tall Ship Education Academy, like many wonderful non profits, has been losing significant funding over the past year of economic turmoil. Because of this, our Board of Directors recently made the tough decision to suspend operations of the Tall Ship Education Academy for the next year or two.
During this suspension, we will not run our programs: Tall Ship Semester for Girls, Girls Summer at Sea or Women’s Challenge. We will become a fully volunteer organization and close our office at SF State.
This year, we are celebrating the 10th anniversary of the very first Tall Ship Semester for Girls. As many of you know, the Tall Ship Education Academy began with a pilot project in 1998 run by Caitlin Schwarzman as part of her Masters Thesis at SF State University. Due to its success, Mercy High School supported Caitlin in expanding the one week pilot to a full semester program. In the spring of 1999, twelve girls explored the California and Mexico coast aboard the Californian. The next year, Nettie Kelly joined the 2nd Tall Ship Semester for Girls, as an instructor and the following year became the director of the program.
We are very proud of the work that we have done in providing a life-changing experience for over 125 girls. Our continued contact with these girls shows that they are confidently pursuing education, participating in their community and exploring the world. We will look to this core group of people to be a part of our research efforts in the near future, and as integral members of the next phase of this organization.
In ten years, the Tall Ship Semester for Girls has evolved into a Western Association of Schools and Colleges accredited non profit educational organization. We are recognized for providing powerful developmental experiences for Bay Area young women. We are truly a community based organization, depending on the support of individuals, organizations, foundations and institutions for our existence. The suspension of our programs is in some ways a symptom of the health of our community.
We want to thank you for your interest in and support of the Tall Ship Education Academy. We have done our work because you have been a part of our vision for girls’ education. We hope you will continue to play that vital role in our community.
Hopefully their suspension will be short-lived because this is exactly the type of program which we should be encouraging, promoting, supporting and celebrating. It’s where sail training can do it’s best work.
Tall ships in America got their start in Newport, RI back in 1973 when Barclay Warburton III, along with a group of like minded maritime enthusiasts including Bart Dunbar, also member of the current group, established a new nonprofit to advance the concept of sail training and organize the US Bicentennial Tall Ships Celebrations in 1976. The American Sail Training Association was founded and over the years has grown to become a national and international nonprofit whose mission is to “encourage character building through sail training, promote sail training to the North American public and support education under sail.” (I was the executive director of the ASTA from 2001 through 2006.)
Warburton and the ASTA founders actions were very important to the local community because up until 1973 Newport was a Navy town. However, in that year, the fleet left, the base was downsized significantly and Newport was left pondering a potentially dismal economic future. Tall Ships and the Americas Cup would end up saving the day by transforming the city into one of the sailing capital’s of the world and a maritime heritage tourism destination.
Fast forward 36 years and can the current group pull another miracle out of their duffle bag? Green writes:
As Rhode Island struggles with one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates, city and state officials hope that turning the hull into a tall ship will create jobs, attract tourists and spur interest in the state’s maritime history.
“Today cities realize they benefit from having a flagship for their community,” said Timothy Walker, who teaches maritime history at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. “It’s a way to be really visible and make an impression that can travel. It can literally fly the flag for a community.”
But not everyone is aboard with an optimistic assessment:
But Jeff Bolster, a professor of maritime history at the University of New Hampshire, said officials should not overestimate the economic contribution a ship project would make.
“A vessel of this scale is not going to be a huge help to the ailing economy,” Mr. Bolster said. “It has a modest operating budget, so it alone can’t solve the state’s fiscal problems in a major way.”
It will be all very interesting to watch. This is a very experienced group being led by Captain Richard Bailey who for years ran popular sail training programs aboard the HMS Roseuntil to she was sold to Fox to star in Master & Commander as the HMS Surprise. Today the Rose/Surprise is part of the San Diego Maritime Museum’s fleet of historic ships.
On the downside is that the Oliver Hazard Perry is a very large ship, second only to the USCGC Barque EAGLE in the United States. Ships this size are very costly to run and often difficult to fill. While nearly anyone who has sailed aboard a tall ship will vouch for it’s power in being a life changing experience, marketing the concept to wider public has always been challenging. The current projected cost of the project is $5 million and her scheduled launch is 2011, but I have yet to see a ship of this scale come in on budget and on time. Tall Ships Rhode Island has always been good at raising money and in this economy and for the foreseeable future, they have to really count on all of the contacts, connections and tricks they can pull out of their ditty bags.
This is a very exciting project for the City of Newport, the State of Rhode Island, the entire region and even the nation. While it seems pretty ambitious in scale, it’s no less so than what Barclay Warburton III pulled off in the early 1970’s. I bet he’s looking down and giving Tall Ships Rhode Island a big Huzzah for their efforts.
Spencer Ash, a junior at Tabor Academy who participates in the schools storied sail training program, created a recruitment video for the SSV Tabor Boy and put it up on YouTube over the weekend. It might not be as slick a production as SEA’s Pursue It! but it certainly speaks to you from the heart and is just as effective. I’m looking to see if I can sign up again!