As the 131-foot two-masted gaff-rigged topsail schooner Harvey Gamage sailed back into Portland Harbor June 2 for the first time in many months, Dylan Frank and Tobias “Toby” Conover of Islesboro returned home from the successful completion of a 2,500-nautical-mile sailing expedition and high school academic program at sea.

Dylan and Toby, both of Islesboro Central School, joined 10 trainees, Capt. David Goldman, and eight professional crew members on the Sailing Ships Maine Spring Semester at Sea program in Charleston, South Carolina, on March 12. The trainees and professional crew first voyaged southward to St. Augustine, Florida and then headed northward along the Eastern Seaboard, stopping in ports and harbors along the way to reprovision the ship and to study maritime history on shore expeditions.

This fully accredited semester program offers math and nautical science, environmental history, maritime literature, marine science, creative writing, and physical education.

Toby said, “It all started back in January. Dylan came to me and said “Yo, we should do this together.” I responded “Bet!” and we both signed up for the semester at sea program. Over that 10-week period my time on Harvey Gamage has taught me lots of things, but I’m only going to talk about three of them: how to trust others, how to respect others, and how to live in a tight community.”

Dylan said, “Sail handling, I love it! It’s the most fun when we’re all hands, and you can hear the Captain from back aft yell 'Hands to set the mainsail.' We all go running to the halyards and start hauling away. It’s also fun when a bunch of us get on one line, we call it a meat line, and we all work together to get the job done.”

The theme of Harvey Gamage’s voyage is “global citizenship.” A global citizen is someone who understands and is aware of the wider world and their place in it. They take an active role in their community and work with others to make our planet more peaceful, sustainable and just.

Once Capt. Pamela Coughlin adapted UNOLs guidelines, matched or exceeding CDC COVID guidelines, to tall ship operations, Sailing Ships Maine was able to return Schooner Harvey Gamage to operations, the first sail training vessel to do so nationally during the pandemic.

Upon their return to Maine, the crew plans to prepare for one- to four-week high school summer programs, and a 10-week fall semester at sea program with high school students from around the U.S. Then it will host Proctor Academy’s Ocean Classroom programs with a new eight-week winter program at sea voyaging from Jan. 5 in Charleston, and finishing eight weeks later in Mobile, Alabama.

President of Sailing Ships Maine Alex Agnew said, “Our mission for nearly a decade has been to provide access to the ocean to any high school student where they can earn or recover academic credits. And now we see many of those students aspiring to the high-paying careers in the maritime trades.”

Coughlin said, “It took months of work-planning all of the quarantining, testing, and monitoring to make educational voyages like this happen over the past year. Every member of the crew — including the trainees — has had an opportunity to feel the joy of coming together as a cohort or pod that allows them to work together on a tall ship in the same way that people have for centuries. We took an extremely cautious approach and it worked.”

About Sailing Ships Maine

Sailing Ships Maine is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that delivers experiential learning programs at sea and creates life-changing opportunities for teens of all abilities and income levels to discover the ocean environment, expand leadership skills, and consider further maritime training. Sailing Ships Maine believes that the experience of sailing on board a tall ship as part of the crew changes teens' perspectives and helps them develop leadership and teamwork skills. Since their founding in 2015, they have sent more than 500 students to sea in partnership with 16 schools and youth groups. For more information or to register for programs: at sailingshipsmaine.org/.

About SSV Schooner Harvey Gamage

SSV Harvey Gamage, the iconic 131-foot tall ship, sets 5,000 square feet of sail and has 33 bunks on board, a professional crew of 9, carries three small boats and is certified by the U.S. Coast Guard as both a passenger vessel and a sail training vessel. Currently operated by Sailing Ships Maine, this vessel is certificated to sail waters inland, near coastal, and upon the Oceans. Harvey Gamage has been offering high school educational programming for most of its 47-year history. Thousands of people around the world count themselves as alumni of her educational voyages. For more information: sailingshipsmaine.org.