The Lettie G. Howard
The 2015 sailing season continued to grow and improve upon Lettie’s unique capabilities as an educational platform. Professional crew and educators facilitated and supported hands-on learning experiences in all aspects of sailing the ship and ensured proper instruction in both the maintenance and operation of a traditional wooden vessel. This intensive, hands-on style of sail training was continued with the addition this year of formal classes taught in navigation, sail theory, rules of the road, knot tying, and other skills designed to improve cognition and reasoning, as well as introduce students to the professional maritime world. Already, the 2015 season has had both more days sailing (44 this year compared to 34 last year) and more students participating (282 individuals compared to 166 individuals) than in 2014. The Museum has also increased the capacity of the vessel to carry 13 students on long trips (up from 10), and 34 for day trips (up from 29), which will help the numbers of students engaged continue to grow. This ability to increase our capacity is thanks in no small part to Rik van Hemmen's analysis of our stability data. What follows is an overview of the programming conducted this season with Harbor School and MAST students as well as recommendations for how to continue improving upon the program offered aboard.
For our first trip of the season, Lettie made a trip with 7 Harbor School Students and 3 NYHS staff members to the Clearwater Festival at Croton-on-Hudson. This trip challenged the students to develop their own opinions about the ecological impact of the power station at Indian Point, and the potential ramifications on the area’s wildlife. Following up on prior classroom work reading The Riverkeepers by John Cronin and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. the students went ashore to interview festival attendees. In addition to this shore-based curriculum, the students participated in every aspect of operating the vessel, from setting sail and ship handling as well as formal classes taught by crew in learning knots, navigation, and sail theory.
Tall Ships Challenge
This year reintroduced a component that is essential to realizing the full potential of trips aboard the Lettie G. Howard: offshore voyaging. The first of these trips was to Philadelphia/Camden to participate in Tall Ships America’s Tall Ships Challenge, where Tall Ships from all over the world came to help educate the public about the various programs, missions, and experiences to be had under traditional sail. Lettie G. Howard was there as an ambassador for both the South Street Seaport Museum and The New York Harbor School, teaching the public about the types of programs offered by the vessel. On the voyage there and back, two different groups of Harbor School students stood watches while underway, learned and used both coastwise and offshore navigation, and stood turns at the helm. Several Harbor School seniors who had been involved with Lettie throughout their high school careers reported that the experience of taking the ship on an actual voyage was something they had wanted to do since they first stepped aboard the vessel years ago. This is an achievement that can be repeated with new students each year.
Indock this year was exceptional. Despite some challenges in recruiting students, the program reached 60 incoming freshmen, introducing them to the incredible types of experiences they will have at Harbor School. Every student who came aboard steered the ship, handled sails, learned ship handling and sail theory, and went aloft or out on the head rig. In an outstanding display of well-developed teamwork aboard, the students sailed off the anchor most mornings, a difficult but rewarding maneuver for students to perform. Three days aboard provided an excellent introduction to the opportunities Lettie has to offer. Perhaps the only shortcoming of these three days trips is that all aboard wished they’d been longer. Every student we had aboard was ready for more. We are working with Principal Chertiko at Harbor School to offer extended programs next year, so that students can get the most of their time on board, and have an experience unrivaled in the New York education system.
Gloucester Schooner Race
The highlight of this summer’s programming was far and away Lettie’s trip to Gloucester to participate in the Schooner Race. Four Harbor School and four MAST academy students boarded the ship in New York City and set sail for Gloucester, MA. Leaving under the Verrazano Bridge and heading out to sea was an experience none of the students will soon forget. In addition to standing watches and running the ship while at sea, the students were able to participate in a program we call the Daily Almanac, which is something we can only really do once students fall into the rhythm of life at sea, and which greatly enhances their knowledge and respect for the sea and the environment around them. Each watch is given a different responsibility every day and they are required to spend the day finding answers and creating a report that they then present to the ships company. One watch is assigned to create a weather report for the week ahead, learning how to find the reports on the radio and discovering on their own the best way to record the information. They also use the various resources aboard to choose a weather phenomenon and present it to their peers along with their report. Another watch is tasked with creating an engineering report, recording the state of the main engines and generator, and measuring how much fuel and water we’ve used and how much longer our stores will last. This group also picks one piece of equipment on the ship to learn about and present their findings at the end of the day. The third watch is in charge of navigation, presenting the ship’s current position, distance traveled in the past 24 hours, distance to destination, and calculating the time of noon, sunrise, and sunset using the Nautical Almanac. The navigation watch also presents a report on a marine creature they have observed. Every day, each watch gets a new task and the students begin to learn how to find all of this information without any help from the crew. While underway we spent an entire day off Stellwagen Bank, an amazing area for whale watching (we saw several pilot whales, two ocean sunfish, and dozens of dolphins) and had the students practice sail handling and setting the Fisherman stays’l and Main Gaff tops’l in preparation for the race.
Once we arrived in Gloucester, the students engaged in programming related to Gloucester history and the role of fisheries in the economy. They visited the Maritime Center, toured other ships, and learned about the area’s history and the importance of vessels like Lettie to communities all over the East coast.
The race itself was incredible, with Lettie finishing a respectable 3rd, but the most satisfying thing about it from a crew/educator standpoint, was watching the students, who stepped aboard knowing nothing about sailing a schooner, teach the museum volunteers we had aboard for the race how to properly tack the ship and set and handle the sails.
Plans for 2016
· Increase the length of the at least some of the trips to a week or more.
· Working with NYHS and MAST Academy, aggressively market these programs for next summer. Our increase in capacity allows for us to engage more students in a more meaningful way then before by having them aboard for longer periods.
· During the school year, engage NYHS Vessel Ops, MST, and MAST students aboard Lettie to learn about the ship and maintenance and take a larger role learning how to operate the ship underway. This could occur after school, during breaks, or as a part of NYHS educational trips.
· Seek additional funding and revenue to allow Lettie to operate as a dynamic educational platform for both schools.