What do a wooden 131-foot gaff-rigged topsail schooner, eight teenagers from all over the U.S., and the Boothbay Region YMCA have in common? A desire to create transformational experiences through a partnership between two non-profits that serve young people. Sailing Ships Maine (SSM) creates life-changing opportunities for teens to discover the ocean and expand their leadership skills while encouraging them to consider further maritime training. After two weeks of dry-land training in Boothbay where they learned about navigation, chart reading, oceanography, and sail-making, maritime trainees set out on the Harvey Gamage, a 1973 schooner, and sailed for a month along the coast of the eastern United States. In 2020, the Harvey Gamage was the sole sail training schooner in the country able to operate with students. In 2019 alone, the Harvey Gamage hosted over 200 high school-aged students.
While on land, the eight students, two instructors, and several visiting scholars rented the loft and the house at Jackson House, owned by the BRYMCA. Jackson House, a unique property that abuts the Y’s Baldwin Center on Barters Island Road, is utilized as housing and conference space for groups. The house, which has recently been furnished and updated, is funded by donations from local supporters of the Y. The goal of the Y's Jackson House initiative is to encourage young people to participate in programs in the Boothbay region, with the hope they will stay and become part of the community. Bethany, one of the SSM trainees wrote, “Thank you for letting us stay in Jackson House! It has been a wonderful place to meet new friends, learn, and explore from.”
The Sailing Ships Maine crew hosted Bob Musil, the world’s expert on Rachel Carson. Carson, who summered on Southport, was inspired by the region during her lifetime. Bob and the students visited the Newagen Inn, Carson’s cottage, and Hendricks Head Beach to learn more about Carson and the influence that this area had on her work. Next fall is the 60th anniversary of Carson’s book, “Silent Spring.” Musil plans to partner with the Y to create a symposium to explore Carson's ideas and their impact on local environmental initiatives.
During their stay in Boothbay, the trainees also visited Mike Bartles, sail maker; traveled to the Maine Maritime Academy; performed a service project for the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens; and explored many tide pools and beaches to study marine life. As a final culmination of their training period, they traveled aboard boats chartered by Y trustee, Keith Canning, from Boothbay's launch site at Knickercane to the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath. “It was an epic boat trip,” said Amber, one of SSM’s teachers. “Thank you for organizing it and for Keith’s hospitality.”
When asked what they liked most about their training program in the Boothbay area, the students emphasized the skills they had learned, especially reading a chart. Their time together helped them make friends before embarking on the Harvey Gamage for their month-long sea journey. Logan, an SSM student, wrote, “We’ve made so many memories and enjoyed our time at the house extensively.” The land training at the Jackson House enabled the group to bond over their shared experiences learning the skills that would be crucial to their adventure at sea. The powerful partnership between SSM and the BRYMCA has resulted in memorable experiences and connections that will have life-long impact on the lives of these young people.