A number of answers will probably come to the mind of our readers, but the correct answer the schooner Inland Seas. With its distinctive red sails and green hull, the schooner cuts an impressive figure under sail on Grand Traverse Bay and provides a tangible symbol of the dedication of the Inland Seas Education Association staff, board, and membership to the stewardship of the Great Lakes. "Protecting the Great Lakes through education," is the organization's motto, and that is exactly what they do.
The vessel represents the fruition of many peoples dreams of what the Inland Seas Education Association could be. As Executive Director and ship's Master Tom Kelly explained: "We have a vessel that people can see and recognize. I think that the Inland Seas makes us visible."
In order to get a better understanding of the ship, to catch up on my lagging participation in ISEA, and mostly, if the truth be known, just to sail on this beautiful vessel, I took a cruise with a about ten other volunteer instructors last week on the Inland Seas. In preface to a description of the vessel, a comment from Donna, a fellow instructor, is in order. Just before the Mate, Remy Champt commenced a tour of the vessel, Donna remarked: "Well, we're about to sail, I guess that means I won't be able to understand you." I'll try, in deference to kindred spirits, to go easy on the "nauticalese".
This would also be an opportune point to introduce the crew of the Inland Seas . Tom Kelly received his B.S. in Resource Management and his M.S. in Fisheries Biology from the University of Michigan. He has operated his own charter sailing business, authored numerous papers on aquatic research, and holds a U.S. Coast Guard Masters License for 100-ton sail and power vessels. Remy Champt is a native of Belgium who now lives in Traverse City. He has been a member of the Merchant Marine and has sailed on numerous ships of every sort. Remy is also an artist who has portrayed many Great Lakes vessels, including a rendering of the Inland Seas which appears above and is available as a print. Anne Kelly is ship's medical officer when she's aboard and also served for several years as the cook.
Don Gorski, though not an official crew member, was aboard as well. Don, a teacher in Elk Rapids for the past twenty years has designed and taught a Science and Sailing program for Northwestern Michigan College's summer Gifted and Talented program since 1984. He is ISEA's Education Coordinator and is an experienced sailor who can act as a much needed extra hand on deck.
The Inland Seas, also known as the Science Ship, was designed by C.W. Wittholz and built in Florida by Treworgy Yachts. Though designed along traditional lines, the vessel blends the best of the old and the new in its construction. The hull is steel, which allowed the builders at one point to actually cut a door in the bottom to allow electricians, plumbers, and carpenters easier access which could later be welded back. It has a schooner rig, which means that the main mast is furthest aft (to the rear of the ship) and a total sail area 1,739 square feet. The sails themselves are red dacron, red to evoke the days when canvas sails were preserved from the elements by a soaking in a solution of kerosene, pine tar, and tanbark from hemlock trees. Though the sails will not rot, sun and wear will eventually take their toll. Though the topmast, booms, and gaffs (the spars that hold the top of the sail) are spruce, the other two masts (the main mast and the foremast) are of hollow aluminum. When the wind is not enough, there is a quiet-running 130 horsepower John Deere diesel engine. The steel deck has a rubberized coating which seems to be much harder to slip and fall on than the traditional wooden deck (though, I heard, not impossible). The instrumentation of the vessel is quite modern and includes radar, LORAN, and Global Positioning System. Still, with all these modern conveniences, there remains the need to be able to read a map! There is a helm on the aft deck with a Luneberg style wheel (for you non-sailors, it looks much like the one on the S.S. Minnow of Gilligan's Island). The helm is fitted with hydraulic steering and there is a helm inside the pilot house as well. The top of the pilot house is covered with solr panels which keep the batteries charged when the engine isn't running.
The 11-foot inflatable dingy hangs from the stern. With its 18hp motor will serve as a tender for trips ashore, a rescue boat, and even as a tugboat for close maneuvering of the schooner. Special care has been paid to the emergency equipment such as the 75-foot inflatable emergency raft. Remy took a portion of the tour to explain the procedures for fire, abandon ship, and man overboard. Regarding a rumor of a man overboard situation in Suttons Bay, Tom explained that you can never have enough drills. Below decks is where one really begins to see the care and thought that have gone into the design of the Inland Seas. If you enter from the forward companionway (a ladder from the deck), you'll pass through the crew's quarters and through the "head" (nauticalese for "bathroom"). A door opens to the main cabin as well which serves multiple duty as an eating area, classroom, and sleeping area for eight students. There is also another head with a shower.
The lab is next with a long table for analysis of the numerous samples which the students collect. Above the table books, microscopes, and other instruments are stored. Four more student berths line the outboard wall, and spaced throughout the interior are a number of ports, light reflecting prisms, and a large skylight. At night the space is lighted by florescent lights, with an emergency flashlight in each compartment.
The galley (kitchen) attracted the most of my interest. Formerly a cook by trade, I could appreciate the compact yet functional design of a kitchen which needs to be able to feed up to 40 people. Two stoves, one diesel and one propane, a water system which stores all the "grey" (used) water from heads, washing, and shower, two 200-gallon freshwater tanks, ample cupboard space, and even a restaurant style pass through window opening onto the lab to speed up the delivery of hot food.
Farther aft below decks is the engine compartment, and farther still is the captain's cabin. Remy informed us that the only heater aboard is in the captain's cabin. Draw your own conclusions.
There is of course, much more, but that is a basic sketch of the layout of the schooner. More important is what the Inland Seas actually does. It is a floating classroom, and though the students don't sit at desks or act much like the traditional conception of "students," they are learning a vast amount. For the first several years, the schooners Malabar, out of Traverse City and Manitou, out of Northport were the "classroom" and Grand Traverse Bay and Lake Michigan the subject matter. This remains the case, but now students (and teachers) have a classroom built specifically for the purpose of their studies.
It is the studies that are the heart of the mission of the Inland Seas. You can't get more "hands-on" than the students on the schooner without running away to join the Merchant Marine. They raise and lower the sails, collect and analyze samples of sediment, water, and aquatic plant and animal life, use scientific equipment, everything from an anometer (to measure wind speed) to a video microscope, learn about the interrelationships of the organisms and the lake as well as something of the culture and history of our region. In the course of performing these experiments and tasks, students learn (if unwittingly) math (through measurements, navigational problems, and temperature conversion), ecology, cooperation and elementary physics through the raising and lowering of the heavy sails, and a host of other lessons that would take much longer and perhaps have less impact in the traditional classroom.
Tom says that the program is meant to get kids excited about science and the Great Lakes, but that it is really "all about inspiring kids to come away with some kind of inspiration to have a dream of their own." It is difficult to convey the impact that a setting like this can have upon young students, especially those from large cities. Many have never been on a sailing vessel (or boat of any kind) in their life and fewer still have been granted the respect to aid in the operation of such a fine vessel. With the arrival of the Inland Seas , these programs are now able to last longer and to serve a larger group.
While ISEA's strongest focus is upon students of fifth and sixth grade level, there are also be programs for junior high and high school students, including two and five day trips. The five day sail fulfills
College level courses are planned as well, with a greater emphasis on research and methodology. The vessel also provides sail training for first year cadets at the Great Lakes Maritime Academy in Traverse City. Teachers are not left out, with courses from one to five days designed to aid them in the understanding and teaching about the Great Lakes. Other adults can benefit from courses like he two day overnight in coastal piloting and electronic navigation. One other possible educational program that is intriguing to Tom is for the Science Ship to visit as many of the Remedial Action Plan (RAP) sites as possible in the Great Lakes watershed. RAP sites are areas of serious environmental degradation, and there are 43 in the Great Lakes. The hope is that the ship could offer programs, information, and assistance to local groups working to clean up these hazards. They would provide an excellent opportunity for study by students and research. This possibility is especially exciting because it demonstrates that the Inland Seas is more that just a school, it is also a research vessel. It might also be a way for the various small groups concerned with the health of the Great Lakes to coordinate their efforts.Information on any of these programs can be obtained by calling ISEA at 271-3077.
As we cruised, I thought about what it would have been like to be aboard for the sail from the shipyard in Florida two years ago, to feel the ocean swell under the ship and know that although it would be cruising the Great Lakes primarily, it could be at home in nearly any body of water; to be gathered in Toronto with 19 other tall ships; and what it would be like to sleep upon the waves after a hard day of sailing, teaching, and learning.
After Donna and I had furled the jib (learn by doing is ever the watchword aboard an ISEA vessel), she remarked to Pete about the job we had done: "How come our sail looks so ugly?"
It did look a little untidy, to tell the truth, but Pete replied carelessly: "It's a schooner, not a yacht."
Perhaps that's the charm of the Inland Seas . Though it is in some ways as modern as the boats that race from Chicago to Mackinaw, there is a sense aboard this ship of something different. A mission, a purpose, as if somewhere amidst the steel hull, dacron sails, and modern equipment that there are timbers creaking and sails cracking and voices from long ago calling on anyone who hears to remember, to respect the Lakes, to serve. "This is what it's all about," Tom said, as we were underway with all sails up. Looking around at the white sails of the Malabar in the distance, the deep blue of the water, with a fine ship running on the wind, I could not help but agree.Contributions to ISEA are tax deductible, and volunteers are always welcomed. Training sessions and lecture series are offered in the winter as well. For more information on any Inland Seas program, call, write or visit online:
Inland Seas Education Association
P.O. Box 218
Suttons Bay, MI 49682