MMA schooner to help mark Arctic journey

Posted June 03, 2009, at 5:48 p.m.
Last modified March 20, 2011, at 6:38 a.m.

CASTINE, Maine — The professional and student crew of the schooner Bowdoin began preparations recently for a series of summer sail-training expeditions. The cruises will take the Bowdoin to Newfoundland and Labrador, where the historic schooner will serve as a traveling ambassador for Celebrating Bartlett 2009, a Canadian recognition of Arctic exploration.

Celebrating Bartlett 2009 will mark the 100th anniversary of Adm. Robert Peary’s expedition to the top of the world in his North Pole trek of 1909 — and the contributing role of Canadian Capt. Bob Bartlett.

The schooner Bowdoin, an Arctic expeditionary vessel of the same era, will serve as a working example of the type of schooner sailed by Bartlett while carrying the celebration throughout the Provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador. The schooner is scheduled to set sail for Newfoundland at noon June 9.

In a press conference held in Newfoundland, Clyde Jackman, Newfoundland’s minister of tourism, culture and recreation, announced that the schooner will visit 12 communities in Newfoundland and Labrador as part of the celebration in conjunction with sail training activities.

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The Bowdoin will serve as host vessel while conducting four at-sea training cruises for students enrolled in the college’s small vessel operations program. One course will take place during the voyage to the area, the other three during port visits and the journey home to Castine.

According to Captain John Worth, small vessel master at MMA and coordinator of Bowdoin itinerary, Canadian organizers approached the college in 2007 to seek the Bowdoin’s participation in the event. Bartlett’s original sail vessel, the Effie Morrissey, now known as the Ernestina, was scheduled to be out of service during the festival due to refurbishment in Boothbay Harbor.

“With some creative planning and the cooperation of the organizers, we have been able to craft a sail-training plan which meets our student needs, provides them with outstanding sailing opportunities and embraces the festival plans,” Worth said.

Students enrolled in the training cruise course will carry out extensive preparations in port. The group will sail the vessel to St. John’s, Newfoundland, for the beginning of the port series.

The course serves as an introduction to the overall maintenance and operations of a large, traditional sailing vessel.

Sponsored by MMA’s William F. Thompson School of Marine Transportation in support of an academic concentration in sail training, the course is designed for students with little or no prior sailing or boating experience.

The program began May 18 with nautical activities based at the college’s waterfront facilities. The 12 students participate in painting, rigging, cleaning, engineering, voyage planning and provisioning. Students also will work with the vessel’s professional steward in a rotating schedule.

Cruising experiences will include watch standing, navigation techniques, under way maintenance and seamanship.

The voyage plan includes stops in Halifax, Sable Island, Prince Edward Island, Cape Breton Island, Isle de la Madeleine, St. Pierre and Miquelon.

In Newfoundland, the vessel will continue sailing to festival events for two weeks.

At the conclusion of the first trip and on arrival in St. Anthony, activities will include a change of professional crewmembers and students, reprovisioning the boat and several day sails for special guests of the celebration.

In July and August, the Bowdoin will visit Brigus, St. John’s, Old Perlican, Bonavista, Twillingate, St. Anthony, Battle Harbour, Cartwright, L’Anse au Loup, Port au Choix, Norris Point and Corner Brook.

At each port, vessel logistics and needs of the crew will be coordinated by festival organizers. Traditional folk singers Jim Payne and Fergus O’Byrne will perform at each port while other festivities will include music, food, lectures and educational programming.

The Bowdoin will offer open boat hours during each port call, with students as hosts, educators and tour guides.

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