Schooner Seaward has made her way around the windward mark, and can see the end of voyaging season. Coastal overnight trips between San Francisco and Monterey Bay have exposed 36 (and soon another 24) teens to the transformational experiences found through sailing a passage. Youth from all over California set sail, many for the first time, for a five day trip to explore the coast, discover the marine world, face challenges, and develop friendships.

Imagine a dozen youth between the ages of 12 and 16, strangers to each other, in a brand new and unusual environment. A few games help to loosen up shy personalities and lighten the tension. There’s no time for sitting on the side lines; every student quickly starts learning about the boat, how to get under way and under sail. During five days, students become familiar and confident with specific tasks assigned to them, jobs they’re held responsible and accountable for, like tending the port fore stay’sl sheet during a tack or hauling the jib downhaul during a strike. Duties are shared between watches and everyone onboard begins to understand what the phrase “Ship. Shipmate. Self.” means: first, take care of the ship so it can take care of you, then you support your shipmates because very little can be done well alone, and then self-care, so we can be our best for others and ourselves.

Many students undergo challenges, rise above, and find themselves better for it. Seasickness is an unfortunate and unpleasant part of the journey that for some of the youth seems overwhelming.  Yet by the end they can say “I experienced, I endured, I recovered, and am stronger than I thought.”

While they sail towards Half Moon Bay, Santa Cruz and Monterey, students engage in squid dissections (through our partner Camp SEA Lab), the “Schooner Olympics,” species identification, swim calls, tide-pooling, science deployments and skills checklists. They take time to be quiet and write in their journals, they create watch flags together and practice nautical arts such as scrimshaw using Tagua nuts instead of bone. Voyage Seaward is a place for discovery and creation, sailing and science.

Students provide feedback about their experience, and their responses are inspiring and rewarding, encouraging us as facilitators and teachers. When asked what the main things gained from participating in the voyage were, we get plenty of “how to sail” and “knowledge of marine life” but we also see “how to deal with homesickness,” “friendships!” “owning up to responsibilities,” “how to have work ethic and how to have perseverance” and “a love of sailing.” When asked about their favorite part, we see a lot of “whales, “wildlife,” “sailing really fast,” “good wind” but the majority include, “getting to know people,” and “making new friends.”

The great teacher Seaward and the diverse marine environment does much of the teaching, but our programs work because of our dedicated crew of mariners and educators. Their credentials are stout, but what really counts is that they’re “funny, friendly, supportive, understanding, welcoming, unique, enthusiastic, encouraging, just good to be around” and “perfect/amazing/awesome/the best,” as our teen sailors put it.

It takes many hands, many minds, and many hearts to make Call of the Sea successful.  We are reminded every day of this community that the love of the sea, sailing, ships, stewardship (and for some of us, of science!) has brought together.

In gratitude, Call of the Sea’s Education Team