Ten St. Croix Educational Complex students joined Captain Kevin Wells, Chief Mate Sarah Nevin and their crew on a sail around St. Croix Wednesday afternoon.
Cane Bay Cares supports the schooner Roseway at World Ocean School on the big island. Cane Bay Cares is Cane Bay Partners’ philanthropic arm, explained Sayeeda Carter, director of Operation Inspire, a program that has partnered with the Department of Education to provide after school services for SCEC and John H. Woodson Junior High School.
“Operation Inspire gives students two days a week of homework help for one hour and one hour of a project-based learning activity like the Ocean School,” Carter said.
The services utilize the teachers in the schools and students at the University of the Virgin Islands, she added. “It’s totally initiative, hands-on and a student-directed mix of the humanities and STEM.”
Capt. Wells greeted the students as they boarded the schooner, gave them safety instructions and invited them to move quickly to help the senior crew prepare for the sail.
He introduced them to the sails by name: mainsail, foresail, staysail and jib. All sails except the jib would be set for the day.
Student crew assisted and stationed themselves at both sides of the boat. A semester of learning the maritime “ropes” in the classroom enabled the students to show off their skills to the Roseway crew. They repeated maritime language, pulled on ropes to set the sails and kept their focus on other vessels nearby and those on the horizon.
“It’s hard work pulling those ropes. I didn’t know it would take so much energy,” said ninth grade student Sakura Flores. She said she would like to pursue marine biology after high school.
Wednesday’s sail was planned to give the student crew the experience of setting the sails, traversing the waters for a couple of miles and then taking down the sails upon return to the dock.
Gabriel Wynter and Alex Joseph, both tenth grade students, said they enjoyed the sail. Both also said it was hard work. Gabriel suggested that students should be told to bring gloves. “I would have enjoyed it more if my hands weren’t burning from pulling the ropes,” he said.
Alex said he felt it was an educational experience. “It’s a lot of hard work, but I would do the sail again,” he said.
Crewmember Nick Parker volunteers at the SCEC after school program. He helps students with homework and then introduces them to the maritime program. If students are interested in going into the field, Ocean School can assist them in finding a future in the industry. According to Parker, there are positions with companies like Caribbean Sea Adventures or the Tropical Shipping Company that would require someone with training and certification.
“We’re trying to give these young people an opportunity to explore the maritime field,” Parker said. “If they find interest and want to continue training in the field, they have a good chance of doing well.”
If students do well, they are allowed to volunteer and work during one of the schooner’s evening sails. This boosts their knowledge and also gives them credit toward certification, Parker said.
Victoria Smith, a tenth grader, said sailing is hard work. “I didn’t feel prepared for the physical side of the sail,” she said. “The classroom work introduced us to names that were familiar when I got onboard the Roseway. I was given instructions I could follow. I look at the crew and those women are phenomenal. I realize that it’s so hard because it’s my first time and it will be easier when I come back.” She said she would like to volunteer and sail again.
“If something is boring and hard, I would lose my interest. This is hard and interesting,” Victoria said. “It’s not only exercising your body, but it’s exercising your mind. You need to be alert. You learn a lot. I did hurt my hands on the ropes, but it was worth it.” Victoria wants to be a marine engineer after graduation and she also has an interest in becoming a U.S. Air Force engineer.
Stephanie Hanlon has been the communications and charitable giving manager at Cane Bay Partners for the past two years. After Hurricane Maria, Cane Bay Partners coordinated goods to St. Croix in a large-scale relief effort. Hanlon’s idea was to move from surviving to thriving, and Cane Bay Cares became a reality.
Woodson school was the pilot for the program, which now includes SCEC and will move to Pearl B. Larsen next.
“The project-based learning gives students a problem and teachers shift their teaching methods. The services include computer programming, engineering, sailing, robotics, protest through song, city planning and a growing list,” Hanlon said.
At the end of Wednesday’s sail, Parker spoke to the group and reminded students that working on the vessel could be valuable for advancing a career in the maritime industry. “You need to ask me first to make sure we have room for you. If Sarah passes you and says you’re A-OK to go, you guys are welcome to come aboard any sunset sail or any function we have aboard Roseway to come out as junior crew. We’ll give you a red shirt and you will earn sea time, which is valuable if you’re interested in a job in the maritime field,” Parker said.
Carter added that community service credits, necessary for graduation, can be earned from working as junior crew.
Capt. Wells thanked the students for “doing such an awesome job setting sails and going out in the waters for a crash course of a little over two hours.”
“You guys did a great job in helping us out and we hope to see you again. Thank you. Well done,” Wells told the students.
In November 2006, Roseway set sail on a passage to St. Croix where she spent the winter serving island students. She continues to winter on St. Croix as part of the World Ocean School. She summers primarily in Boston, providing educational programs and day sails for the public.