"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines.

Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." -Mark Twain

Reflections from the 40th Annual Tall Ships America Conference

>> February 26, 2013

From Abi Iverson

What happens when you bring together 200 tall ship sailors for a five-day event at the Bayfront Sheraton in Erie, PA? While this sounds like the start to a good joke and possibly an even better party, you might find that the answer to this question is not what you have in mind…

I have had the sincere pleasure of attending the Tall Ships America Conference for the second year in a row.  While both conferences embodied the most professional family reunion, or more accurately, the most familial professional reunion, I have ever attended, this year was particularly special to me because this conference represented the past, present, and future of the Maritime Industry as influenced by professional sail training.

As a long-time educator and relatively new mariner, I attended the Tall Ships Conference in order to develop my teaching strategies and expand both ship-board and land-based curricula. I immersed myself in a two-day rigging workshop to bolster my understanding of the intricate physics problems that could be taught beyond mechanical advantage and sail theory and to unwind the mysteries of wire splicing (you can check out Kim Carver’s video to get a glimpse of this workshop!).  Through sessions like “Stem Programs Ready to Go!” and  “Hot Topics in Marine Science”, I was inspired to develop new programs that reach out to our local schools and communities.  I discussed ways in which Ocean Classroom can collaborate with the Rozalia Project and Sea Education Association (SEA) to enhance our own programs while involving our students in the global effort to preserve, protect, and restore our oceans and waterways--as early as this fall, we will be working with the Rozalia Project to collect and analyze marine debris during our GAP TERM, and we look forward to collecting some sargassum to support SEA’s research as well.  In the days of tumultuous and seemingly unpredictable natural disasters, I will forever make a point to attend Joe Sienkiewicz’s presentations, as he explains weather, which I find truly difficult to teach, in an extraordinarily accessible way.  I am always partial to sea stories, and what better forum to receive them, than in one that brings together the wisest “old” men and women of sea to share their stories with the intention of growing as an industry to provide experiences that are equally progressive and traditional, safe and audacious, explorational and introspective.

My personal highlight from this past conference was watching students from the New York Harbor School interact with the conference attendees.  These students embodied the empowerment that can come from experience on the water.  Ocean Classroom has had the great pleasure of offering programming to the Harbor School over the past three years through extended programs onboard the Spirit of Massachusetts and an annual full-ride scholarship for the Ocean Classroom High School Semester.  New York Harbor School student Paola Suazo will have enough sea-time when she completes this OCF Spring Semester to qualify for 100-Ton Mate’s license.  She currently holds a Launch Operators ticket.  You can learn more about this amazing school by watching this video.

You can find more information about this year’s conference at this link.  I am grateful to be a part of this community and so very excited for the promise of its future!


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