Last Day CMAC Boating Skills and Ecology Course 2020

CMAC Boating Skills and Ecology Course 2020 Wrap-up

The weather was beautiful last Friday, the final full day of the course. Armed with their newly learned skills, our students were ready to venture beyond their horizons. I learned long ago that our limits are never fully fixed. Once we stretch them past the familiar, beyond their “back yards,” we define new back yards. For these young mariners, their back yards now include the waters in and around Chicago and Lake Michigan.

lagoon_crew1 Upon arrival, we let our students know that we were going on an extended expedition. We headed to the far end of the lagoon, through the channel under Lake Shore Drive and out to the mouth of Jackson Harbor, and for the willing, out into Lake Michigan. The students turned to look in the direction of the underpass of Lake Shore Drive and inquire, “beyond there?” “Yes!”

Excitedly, the young mariners don their PFD’s and take to the boats; some in kayaks, some in rowing boats. Even the adult chaperones join us for this expedition. Within a few minutes, our home dock fades from view, and our gaze turns towards the big water.

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Each mariner gains a personal perspective on this journey. Some like “O” become waterbugs, darting back and forth in his kayak as if he were running around the playground. Others struggle with balancing the power between the arms in their growing young body. Each stroke brings new confidence and skill. One by one, we reach the harbor entrance, and the more adventurous mariners push their bows out to the unknown to have a look around at the wide-open horizon.

We return in time for lunch after which we commence an afternoon of fun competitions. Most notably, two-person teams row across the thoroughfare to the other dock, tie up their boat, hop in a kayak, and return, splashing and cheering the entire way.The teams dramatically complete the challenge within seconds of each other.

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Saturday is our final half-day; a chance for the mariners to display their new skills to parents and coaches. As the students arrive, we ask them to grab their PFD and go to the other dock to bring the boats over to the yacht club. We stay behind, allowing the young crews to manage on their own. Showing no trepidation, the mariners arrive at our docks and tie up their crafts.

As we gather to review what we have learned over the week, we ask each student what they learned. The answers come quickly… tying knots, water quality, rowing, kayaking, how to tie up a boat… etc.

It’s vital to help identify for these young mariners what they’ve accomplished in addition to what they’ve learned. I hint with a question, but before allowing them to answer, I explain that just six days ago, the students had never been in a boat before, and this morning, the adult instructors trusted you to go to the other dock, alone, and get in a boat and row it over here.

For a young person, testing horizons and the limits of their freedom is often hindered by an adult concerns and reservations. Today, these young students earned those new freedoms and a better understanding of a new environment.

On a personal note, I can hardly remember back to when I first rowed a boat, or the first time I sailed the Sunfish alone. The first time I crossed Lake Michigan is a bit clearer to me, but still, long enough ago that the details and thrill of that accomplishment are muted. While my back yard and playground have expanded to the entirety of the earth’s oceans, my time spent with these students returned me to the memories of the first time I rowed a boat, and the camp instructor who yelled at me for “windmilling” – a term I would soon learn meant flailing my oars.

Returning to that time in my life with these young people brought back a flood of joyful memories. When I began this story, I asked,”Have you got a minute?” So, have you? Remember your first accomplishment as a kid? Come back home and share it with the next generation. They need it now more than ever.

- Captain Dave

Day 3 & 4 – CMAC Boating Skills & Ecology Course

The Chicago Maritime Arts Center course continues with our young mariners now having learned knot-tying and rowing skills, and with those skills, their comfort on the water has soared. Learning about displacement by loading an aluminum foil boat with golf balls has taught them how and why boats float.

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Learning how to make face masks from our favorite T-shirts has taught them about self-reliance. With these newly acquired achievements, it was time to learn more about the watery world we play in and around.

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As we gather on Day Three, the students eagerly practice their rope skills. Steve’s display of rope tricks yesterday, has the young mariners’ intent on learning the magic of “throwing” a figure-eight knot. After each student meets the challenge of tying a bowline, we talk about “water” and the expedition we will take today. Our journey will be to row out to the buoy on the far side of the Jackson Park lagoon and then down to the end of the furthest docks to collect water samples for testing.

We begin our introduction to ecology by gaining an understanding of the phrase “ecosystem.” I take time to explain what the word “system” means – that many parts of our environment work in harmony, and as parts work or don’t work, their interactions change the system.

One of our instructors, Jay, asks the students where the oxygen they breathe comes from, and they eagerly respond, “the trees and grass.” Jay questions, “How do the trees and grass get the oxygen?” The students answer, “They make it.” I explain that trees are nature’s best means to collect and store solar energy. Sunlight is absorbed by the leaves, while water and soil provide the nutrients that enable the tree to grow. Oxygen is one of the by-products; the wood, to build our boats, is another.

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When asked, “Where does the water come from? “Lakes and rivers… and rain!” are shouted replies. “Where does the rain come from?” “Clouds and storms,” come back the response. After answers to a few more questions, we have identified our surrounding ecosystem. Sunlight hits the ocean, plankton in the ocean photosynthesizes oxygen and evaporation creates clouds. Clouds roll over land, condense and the moisture falls as rain. Rain washes the soil, quenches the trees and plants and allows them to grow and make oxygen. The water runs off the land into the rivers and lakes and then flows back to the ocean. This circle of life is a “system” – our “ecosystem.” We explain that when humans disrupt the system with bad actions, we change the system and change the environment, Our young scientists already understand the problems attendant to climate change.

After identifying parts of the ecosystem around the harbor, we board our boats and head out on our expedition to collect the water samples we will then test after lunch. The excitement of going farther afield in the boats is enhanced by the additional aim of learning more about water.

After a fine lunch, Jay dives into water sampling. We set up each student with a test kit while Steve tabulates the findings. After dipping test strips in tubes of water from the buoy, the farthest away dock, the closest dock and the tap, the young scientists conclude the water we sampled is very similar to tap water. But why you wouldn’t drink the water in the lagoon is made abundantly clear — we aren’t testing for bacteria, only acidity, hardness, and iron in the water. We explain how water, captured by the Chicago Water System from Lake Michigan, is filtered and treated to make it safe for human consumption before it flows in pipes to your house.

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It’s inspiring that these young minds have developed an understanding of boats, knots and the ecosystem in which they thrive, all in just a few days.

I’ll be back wIth more soon. Again, if you want to help us at Chicago Maritime Arts Center, here is the link… https://www.chicagomaritime.org/donate-1

PREVIOUS REPORT: Day 1 – CMAC Boating Skills & Ecology Program

All the best,
- Dave

Spirit of a Dream Website 

Day 1 – CMAC Boating Skills & Ecology Program

Day 1, Chicago Maritime Arts Center Boating Skills and Ecology Program

The first day of the Chicago Maritime Arts Center Boating Skills and Ecology class got underway on a beautiful morning at the South Shore Yacht Club on the inner lagoon at Jackson Park in Chicago. Amidst the changes brought on by Covid-19, we introduced ourselves to the students and coaches with a thermometer and mask instead of the customary handshake.

With the students scattered at a density of two per picnic table, we begin with lengths of rope and a sample board of various knots worth learning to tie. Starting with the simple figure-eight knot, the would-be young mariners learn the difference between an overhand knot and a figure-eight knot. Do you know the difference? I’ve come to label their knots as “figure-four’s” (an overhand knot), “you’ve got it” (the real figure-eight knot), or a “figure-twelve” (three wraps). Frustration ultimately gives way to laughter and the feeling of accomplishment.

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BTW, here’s a link to a great site that shows animations of different knots … https://www.animatedknots.com/

We move on from the figure-eight to a square knot (like tying your shoes) and then to the feared Bowline Knot, the most useful knot in the world. This knot frustrates the most patient mariner until one moment, they “get” it. Knowing just when to lend an experienced hand to guide smaller hands can be challenging. Though many odd-looking variations will blossom from their efforts, over the next five days, the young mariners will become proficient at tying the bowline. Almost as proficient as asking the question…”Can we get in the boats now?”

With the anticipation of getting into the boats heating up, our next section was boating and dock safety. On a docks tour, we teach the students why swimming in and around the docks is dangerous — not only from the risk of electrocution from bad wiring but from the many obstacles in the area. We show the mariners the many ways to help someone in the water without endangering yourself and how to get out of the water if you were to fall in. We ask the students to be observant and identify ladders, swim platforms, and life rings as they walk onto a dock. Part of being a prepared mariner is knowing where swim ladders are, which boats have swim platforms that can help a struggling swimmer, or where life rings or even water hoses are that you might throw to help a swimmer back to safety.

After a lunch of deli sandwiches and the endless checking of cell phones, the much-anticipated chance to get in and explore the boats has come.

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Painstakingly, we emphasize how to get into a boat properly. Centering your weight and balance as you gently crouch, spin around, and sit down. As instructors, we’re aware none of our words mean much until one of the students flips into the water. But, this is how kids learn — learning best by doing.

Screen Shot 2020-09-02 at 7.52.12 PMHere is a VIDEO of one of young mariners, Nathan, teaching Coach Travis how to tie a Bowline.

One by one, the kids board the small rowing boats, and we set them free from the dock, into what soon resembles nothing so much as a bumper car carnival ride, The new mariners’ departure from the dock swiftly segues into a spider dance on the water… oar’s flailing, boats spinning and nobody making much headway. Fortunately, the South Shore Yacht Club’s docking area is small, and the wind helps to keep our small Bevin Skiffs in the “corral.” But, by the end of the afternoon, the wails of frustration and “I can’t do this” slowly turn to giggles of accomplishment as the young mariners begin to coordinate the swing of their arms with the boat’s motion.

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The day ends in a pile of tossed life jackets, quick fist bumps and exaggerated leg and arm movements as the new mariners walk down the dock.

Should you be so inclined  you can help us find a land base, sponsor a student or help cover our operating costs right HERE.. https://www.chicagomaritime.org/donate-1

Until next time, stay well… and enjoy the summer while it’s still here.

- Dave

 

Have You Got a Minute?

Considering the strange circumstances of these past months instigating paradigm shifts in our lives, I hope all of you are doing well. Remarkably, I’ve not been on the water this summer other than to make repairs to a boat at the dock. Probably a first in fifty years. But that ok. It’s safe to say, I’ve had my fair share and plenty more of sailing.

Of the disruptions to our normal lives, the one that concerns me the most is young people and their opportunities to learn during this COVID era. As we ramped up the Atlantic Cup Kids Education Program earlier this year, COVID stepped in and knocked us back off our feet. While we bolstered our online learning presence, and I did virtual classroom visits, it became evident that educating kids would take more ingenuity from all of us. Through our efforts, we still interacted with over 2000 students on our educational portal and in our virtual classroom visits.

So, have you got a minute? I hope your answer is yes, and I hope too that you’ll be up for sharing some of your expertise with a kid.

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I know that may sound daunting. I know you aren’t a teacher, but neither am I. Maybe, you don’t even know many kids, I’m single, and don’t have any children. I get that. But our  distance from young people, doesn’t help them much, nor does it challenge us to step up and lead. One of the lessons I’ve learned from COVID is that we all have a responsibility to our community. In that sense, the mysterious “they” is actually us.

logoThis week, I helped to lead a course on Ecology and Boating Skills for The Chicago Maritime Arts Center. CMAC works with young people from all diversities, inspiring them by building a small boat, learning to row it, gaining confidence, and developing an appreciation for learning and being within our natural world. Many of the students we work with know the Chicago River and Lake Michigan exist, but access for them is not easy.

So, what do we do at CMAC? Our mainstay course teaches students to build a small, ten-foot Bevin boat with their hands and minds. When the building is complete, they paint the boat, name it, launch it in the harbor and learn to row on the water. COVID is not making this easy, but we’ve pivoted, and this week, I’m one of three instructors leading our Boating Skills and Ecology course for fourteen students at the South Shore and Jackson Park Yacht Clubs. We use COVID Protocols to keep the kids outdoors and at a safe distance with masks where they will learn about boats, ropes and knots, water quality, the environment of the River and Lake Michigan and, learn to row one of the previously built boats.

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It’s going to be a great time, and as you all know, I get personal joy and a real sense of fulfillment from working with young students. I can’t explain how inspired I feel when I see a reluctant student gain the confidence to proudly row across the harbor, venture out, and wondering what other opportunities they can grab from life.

I’m going to put out more blog posts as we go along, so you can live vicariously in this fun-filled, hands-on learning world. Of course, if you’d like to help us out, you’re welcome to contact us at CMAC

Otherwise, you’re on your own… to do what feels inspiring to you, by way of mentoring kids. With our schools stifled in providing ordinary education, much less experiential learning, it’s our chance to step in and help out.

CMC_LeadSo, if you’ve got that spare minute, spend it with a young person. Invite them to learn about your car, your garden, your tools, your kitchen, or give them a copy of your favorite book and help shape their lives. We all have to gravitate from infusion learning, where we put students in a room and infuse them with information to desired learning, where we create, stimulate, and fulfill a person’s desire to learn—teaching them the lifelong skills of learning to learn. Even if you don’t think you are showing that young person anything, know they are listening to your words, how you speak, how you react, how you solve problems, and how to act responsibly.

Take that minute, and spend it generously!

Many thanks!

- Dave

P.S. BTW, if you happen to be looking for some great summer reading, I would be remiss if I did not recommend Spirit of a Dream

Dave’s Atlantic Cup Kid’s Online Learning Plan…

Hello my friends.

Well, what can I say? I know we have all faced many challenges in our lifetimes… but this one is a doozy. I’ve enjoyed my share of challenges–sailing around the world, sleeping on an island alone in Penobscot Bay, building big complicated houses. There have also been challenges that weren’t so much fun, and yet somehow, we get through them. My good friend Tim Kent, in an email the other day reflecting on this time, said: “I tell new, young sailors facing their first storm, I’ve never seen a storm that didn’t end.” Those are wise words. This challenge will come to an end too.

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In the meantime, while we are vigilant and staying safe, I’m focusing on what I can do to help. Once again, it’s time to think about our YOUTH and how we can help keep them healthy, learning and growing. After all, they are our future.

I wrote a piece a while back for 11th Hour Racing entitled,If I Knew Then What I Know Now.” Give it a read, if you like. I see this as a time for all of us to share, with those younger than us, giving to them “what we know now,” during their “then.”

To that end, I want to remind you, your friends, and the teachers, mentors, and parents, that one of the pillars of The Atlantic Cup Race is KID’S EDUCATION. On the Atlantic Cup Kids site, yours truly, as Captain Dave, hosts a treasure trove of educational materials on subjects like Math, Geometry, Wildlife of the Ocean, Glaciers, etc. There are teaching aids there as well; Worksheets, Explorer Guides, as well as cool video interviews with some of my sailing friends about this beautiful world and the ocean. And, we’ll be adding new items every week there.

For those who need more resources for teaching and reading, here are a couple of options. The first is to start the Bodacious Dream Circumnavigation journey over again, beginning with the first blog and read that with your students every day, as you follow my progress around the globe.

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The second option (and one of my favorites)  is to grab a copy of my book, Spirit of a Dream and sit down with your kids at the end of the day and enjoy reading a chapter to them.  I wrote the book, especially in the hope that young people would enjoy it too.

And if at any time, QUESTIONS arise that you or they might want to ask of Captain Dave or his sidekick, Franklin D’Ball, please email me at Dave@atlanticcup.org.

I hope you can keep learning through these challenging times. I know I will be. And for those of you waiting for the next book, this time off will hopefully give me the chance to finish it. Stay tuned!

- Captain Dave & Franklin

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Spring Reading & Atlantic Cup Fun

Hello everyone! … Spring is on the calendar even if it’s not in the air yet. Amazing it’s April 6th and it’s too cold to work on boats in the Midwest. I have to say in my earlier years, I recall sailing Geronimo down the coast with a beard of ice hanging off the bow pulpit.

crw_225x300So, while avoiding boat work this weekend, you might enjoy reading the April issue of Cruising World. There’s a familiar face on the front cover and an article by the very same writer on the inside. The article tells the story of last fall’s sail across the pond (the Atlantic Ocean) aboard he 33-foot sailboat Hope to Ireland, Scotland, Norway and Sweden. It’s fun, and I think you’ll enjoy it and the photos. Bruce Carter took most the images, and there are some great shots. I bought a few copies of the magazine at the local Barnes and Noble, so I know you can find it there if someone hasn’t bought them all up yet!! You can also find them at some West Marine Stores and get it online at this link.

I hope reading that article will tide you over until the much-anticipated release of my book, Spirit of a Dream. Spirit of a Dream is in the process of being published at the moment, and we hope it hits the shelves by the end of summer. Stay tuned for continuing updates on the release date.

Also, stay tuned for Atlantic Cup Kids updates. I’m presently talking with multiple classrooms in Portland, Maine. It is so much fun inspiring the imagination of students. Today I learned about Needle Fish from the students at Hall Elementary School.

Stay the course – spring is coming. I’ll fill you in on what’s happening in the next update. If you can’t wait, you can always follow us at www.atlanticcup.org

- Dave

Atlantic Cup Kids Wrap-Up!

new_logo_300The Atlantic Cup! What a great way to start off the summer! The race was a great event, the competition was fierce and the camaraderie as always, the best. You can learn more about the race, review the results and see great photos and videos on The Atlantic Cup website. And while racing was the main event, my focus was on the Atlantic Cup Kids Program - and what a great time we had! While it was my first time coordinating the program and much of my days were spent pondering variables and fretting over possible disasters, when the actual events happened, they were just amazing. As one visitor remarked to me, “This is ‘epic!’ – and it was!

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I spent the beginning of the year making arrangements, contacting teachers in our three cities to explain our program and visiting classes of kids to talk about the ocean, sustainability and to excite them about the Atlantic Cup and our Kids Program. When it came time for the first actual Kids Day event in Charleston, SC, I was grateful that we had strong plans in place, because that morning, there were nearly 600 students from over 10 schools who came to visit us! It was tremendous sharing the various learning activities and watching the kids take their first steps onto a boat – many of them for the first time ever! John Miller did an amazing job of coordinating and arranging for the students from the Charleston School System to attend – exceeding our limit of 400 students by 50 percent! John explained that no sooner did he open it up for attendance, then he had 600 students sign up… and he had to close down enrollment.

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Many thanks to our great staff and our volunteers and the support from 11th Hour Racing,  all of whom rose to the occasion. We had five learning stations— 1) “Whale Blubber and Plankton” run by Sailors for the Seas, 2) “Sustainability” with Brian Funke, 3) “How Boats Float” by Meredith “Megatron” Caroll, 4) “Knot Tying” and 5) “The Ultimate Adventure” - where kids were able to visit one of the boats and talk with the skippers.

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When the day was over and we paused to consider the level of success, it became clear to me that no matter how anxious I was about getting everything right, the sight of so many laughing, inquisitive kids was all the proof I was looking for. Check out our Photo Albums on our Atlantic Cup Kids Facebook Page Photos Page.

As the boats raced into the Brooklyn Marina, so did the Kids program. Brooklyn presented us with something of a challenge. The Marina we had expected to be operating out of was not yet finished with construction, and so we had to move into facilities that prevented us from allowing kids to actually get on the boats. But in spite of that disappointment, the great Atlantic Cup staff, 11th Hour Racing, the skippers and our volunteers once again put together a great program. Hundreds of fourth graders showed up, even recognizing me as Captain Dave and peppering me with questions. We finished the day giving a group of high school students a better understanding about the inner workings of the marine industry, and where within it, they might pursue vocational opportunities.

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Portland, Maine was the last stop of the Atlantic Cup Race and where we had another few hundred kids attend the program. One of the most inspiring parts of the Portland event, were the third grade students from Ocean Avenue School who after spending a semester in an “Expeditionary Learning” program studying lobsters, created an entire station of their own to share their acquired knowledge with us and all the other students. It was very inspiring to watch students teaching other students! 

On Day 2 and Day 3 in Portland, while the boats competed on the inshore courses of beautiful Casco Bay, we set up an entire area of the race village dedicated to kids and learning. Here we saw many kids, along with their parents, taking advantage of the interactive learning opportunities, trying their own hand at knot tying, picking up whalebones, learning about sea mammals and the ocean. When all was said and done, over 1000 students took advantage of the 2016 Atlantic Cup Kids Program. And at the end of the race at the Awards Ceremony aboard the replica old Spanish Galleon named El Galeon, we presented the Kids Favorite award to the crew of Talanta.

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We were all inspired by these amazing students and by their energetic teachers who helped us to make all this happen. Many of the students we talked with had never been on or even seen a boat before, and only knew about the ocean from school. We’re happy to say we’ve now touched the lives of over 1000 young people and likely helped change the way they will in the future regard their relationship to the oceans that sustain all our lives. 

knotty_300For me, I was most inspired by a young girl who I found looking sad and frustrated at the knot tying station. When I asked her how she was doing, she said she couldn’t tie knots. I asked her if she had tried and she shook her head and looking down said, “I can’t do it.” Together we started with the figure-eight knot. After she accomplished that, we tried the clove hitch and then moved onto the bowline. Each time she tied a knot, her smile grew bigger and more confident. When she finally pulled off the hardest one, the fisherman’s bend, we jubilantly high-fived each other… and I watched her walk away, ready to take on the world! I suspect one day she’ll be one of those who will patiently do the same thing for some other young kid. 

rope_pull_300Thanks to all of you who followed along and supported our adventures with the Atlantic Cup Kids Program. I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. As the season progresses here, we’ll find some new avenues to channel our energies and to showcase our educational programs. Stay tuned for more updates on that.

As always, our learning guides are available on BodaciousDreamExpeditions.com under the drop-down menu called “You Explore.” They are also available (in a slightly different format) on the http://atlanticcup.org/Kids page.

And if you haven’t done so already, please like our Atlantic Cup Kids Facebook page. This is useful for attracting sponsors, who can help us to advance our efforts. Who knows, one of those sponsors might be you! Besides that, you’ll see some really cool pics of kids (of all ages) having the time of their lives!

atckids_250And a special thank you to all who helped out… especially Sam, Anthony (AT), Meredith (Megatron), Julianna, Hugh, Jen, Brittany, Sarah, Jen, Billy, Susan, Michelle and Steve as well as all the skippers, teachers, administrators and the many volunteers who showed up and pitched in with such great enthusiasm. I’m sure I’m forgetting someone … so, thank you too! And big thanks to 11th Hour Racing for their help and support with The Atlantic Cup and our Atlantic Cup Kids Program.
Until later,
- Dave

P.S. If you know of a school which might enjoy a presentation by Captain Dave about his circumnavigation, the ocean, sustainability, sail-craft and other fun things, please contact me directly at… dave@atlanticcup.org

Atlantic Cup Update – Curious Kids & Racing Ships

I’m writing this from one of my favorite places in the world, the State of Maine! We had beautiful weather this week after a rainy weekend. Hey, it is June in Maine and it is just beautiful out here! And on top of that, today June 9th is our third and final Atlantic Cup Kids Day here in Portland. What a ride it’s been!

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The Atlantic Cup once again presented by 11th Hour Racing has been going great! The racing from Charleston ended with a very challenging finish in the light winds and strong currents of New York Harbor. The Spanish entrant, #123 Tales won the leg in a record-beating 72:48:03 finishing 90 minutes ahead of #145 Eärendil (74:21:43), followed 30 minutes later by the all-female team of #118 Oakcliff Racing, with Liz Shaw and Libby Greenhalgh racing my old boat, previously named Bodacious Dream. What a great showing for their first time sailing together!

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The race up from New York City (from the Brooklyn Marina more specifically,) to Portland gave the sailors a real workout. After rounding a virtual mark off Nantucket, they sailed downwind in heavy air – 25-30 knots reaching speeds of over 20 knots before the winds eased. Once again Tales II, followed by Eärendil crossed the finish line first.

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Equally exciting was watching the finish line from our makeshift race offices as three boats, #95 Talanta, #118 Oakcliff Racing and #128 Toothface entered the inner harbor and jockeyed for third place. In the final few yards, Toothface edged out the others to take third place. Now that was great racing!

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Over on Facebook on the Atlantic Cup Kids page, there is a live feed with me commentating on the finish, though our view was distant from the action. We’re not at the professional level yet, but hopefully we’re good enough for you to follow the closing action.

The inshore series begins this Friday the 10th. As far as Kids Days goes, we had a great success in Charleston with nearly 600 kids, Brooklyn brought us well over 100 kids and in Portland, we’re expecting at least 200 kids today – with many more expected for the Inshore Leg on Friday and Saturday at the race village in Ft. Allen Park.

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Among the exciting things in store for Kids Day will from Presumscott School’s 3rd grade students, who have been studying lobsters this semester and will be presenting their resulting program for us. I’ll have more on that soon. One interesting thing I just learned from these students is the Gulf of Maine is warming up faster than any other body of water in these latitudes.

el_galeon1Our office here on the Maine Wharf is in the middle of the working waterfront of Portland, Maine right next to a beautiful tall ship named El Galeón from Spain.

The waters surrounding us here are those of Casco Bay, and its estuary where the fresh rivers waters meet the ocean and its tides. The great interaction between the two bodies of water creates a rich and nutritious environment for sea life.

portland-head-lightI’ve prepared a work sheet on the Casco Bay region based on some great information from the very knowledgeable Abby Doane over at Friends of Casco Bay. It’s amazing how important the unique environments of each of the harbors we’ve sailed from are to the overall health of the ocean. Read my Education Guide about Casco Bay - which you can find RIGHT HERE!

So, as we move into the last phase of the Atlantic Cup, for which I’m a proud ambassador for 11th Hour Racing, I very much appreciate so many of you following along with us, learning with us and helping us move our activity-based learning agenda forward into the future. I only wish I could share with each of you the enthusiastic laughter and great questions from the kids who toured our race villages.

fan_fav1Stay tuned for another update after the end of racing on Saturday. It promises to be an exciting final leg. In the meantime, please take a minute to visit the Atlantic Cup Kids page and vote for your favorite team! We have a great trophy for the “Fan Favorite” to present at the awards presentation on Saturday.

And then head on over to our Atlantic Cup Kids Facebook page… and catch up on the posts and photos since the start of the race on May 28th. And while you’re there, LIKE us if you like … so you can stay in the loop moving forward!

Until later…
- Capt. Dave

Casco Bay Estuary/ Portland, Maine

heron casco bayPortland, Maine is surrounded by legendary Casco Bay, which marks both the finish line of the second leg of the Atlantic Cup Sailing Race which began in Brooklyn, NY – and also the site the final two days of inshore course racing.

Portland is Maine’s largest metropolitan area and home to 25% of the state’s population. Casco Bay, the water around Portland is an estuary, defined as the tidal mouth of a river where fresh water streams of rivers mix with tidal waters of the ocean. Three major rivers, the Fore River, Royal River and Presumscott River along with many smaller streams are the sources which feed fresh water into the Casco Bay Estuary.

casco2Bound by Cape Elizabeth, Cape Small and Half Way Rock, the entire watershed embraces 42 different local communities and is designated as one of 28 “Estuaries of National Significance.”

In 1631, the first English settlers arrived on the Portland Peninsula, which was called Machigonne by the indigenous peoples. 150 years later, George Washington commissioned the building of the Portland Lighthouse. To this day, the oldest lighthouse in Maine shines seaward 24 miles and guides sailors from all corners of the world, not the least of whom are the 2016 Atlantic Cup competitors who hail from Spain, Sweden, France, England and the United States.

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casco_est1Atlantic Cup sailors know intimately how important ocean health is and the Casco Bay region is a prime example of an amazing, healthy cycle of diversity that coexists with the Atlantic Ocean. It is home to over 850 species of marine life from microscopic plants and animals to migrating birds, seals and pilot whales.

Because of this, these waters are known as the “Nursery of the Sea” – where baby marine animals can find shelter and food in the nutrient rich waters. In the spring, over 50 islands in Casco Bay provide shelter to over 150 species of water birds and their newly hatched young. Is it any wonder that I love it so.

For most of the 1800’s and 1900’s, there have been environmental pressures on the Casco Bay Region. Industries found the flowing rivers convenient for disposing their waste. Chemicals used for tanning horse hides to make leather, lead used in the canneries and metal foundries and the spillage of coal and gasoline all found their way into the water and still remain to this day in the soils of the river beds. Today, nitrates from farm fertilizers, storm water runoff, sewage and ocean acidification continue to pose threats to the health of the estuary.

Casco_300x78Fortunately, effective education initiatives and conscientious citizenship such as that practiced by the “BayKeepers” – who are part of an incredible group called “The Friends of Casco Bay.” Check out their site to learn more how they are working to tackle these challenges and help us all be better stewards of our environment.

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The beautiful Maine coast with its deep forests of spruce, pine, fir and many deciduous trees has long been a haven for summer visitors. The many island and granite shorelines provide beautiful landscapes for lobster dinners and clam bakes. Swift tides ranging from 12 feet to 30 feet constantly flush and wear away at the granite shoreline, cleansing the waters, and yet the ever-present pressure imposed by mankind continues to challenge the ocean’s natural ability to renew itself.

The Atlantic Cup Race, presented by 11th Hour Racing expends a significant effort to maintain a carbon neutral footprint through its recycling and sustainability practices, making it second to no one in the world of yacht racing and professional sports. Check out this video from 2013, when the whole sustainability issue in racing was first introduced.

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We hope if you are there for the inshore leg of the race, that you will take notice of the powerful and beautiful Casco Bay that surrounds you.

Ocean Learning Unbound!

dave_acWe’re in the thick of it now! With so much to do for the Atlantic Cup Kids program, time has really been flying by quickly. The start of The Atlantic Cup Race is less than 10 days away and our first group of students will be visiting the race village in Charleston, SC a week from now! In Charleston alone, we have scheduled over 500 students to visit the race village and boats! That’s an epic leap forward!

In early May, I visited six schools in Charleston to inspire and to be inspired by hundreds of kids. I talked to 15 different classes over two days! It was great to see how much they already knew about weather, oceans and science - and how insightful their questions for me were.

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Carolina Dreamer Project on Display at the Science Fair

One class in particular, Amy McMahon’s, had done something extraordinary. On May 17, 2015, they launched a small unmanned boat named Carolina Dreamer (to the right in the above photo) out across the Atlantic. Each day along the way, the students tracked its progress on satellites, checked the weather along the course and did many of the same calculations I did while sailing Bodacious Dream around the world. At a certain point, they lost contact with the boat, until it was spotted on February 10, 2016 off the coast of Wales, retrieved and sent back to Charleston. Now that was an inspiring tale, which you can read about right HERE!

In response to the enthusiasm and curiosity I’ve encountered around the ocean and boats, I’ve pulled together some thoughts on what is required on the design and budding side that enables racing boats to sail the way they do… with a focus on the physics, chemistry, math and engineering that goes into getting a boat into competitive shape for a race like the Atlantic Cup.

merf_owen3To help me with this, I engaged my friend Merf Owena noted naval architect and the designer of two of the boats in the Atlantic Cup to talk about his life and how he came to be a racing yacht designer.

:: Check out the story called “How Boats Sail” as well as “An Interview with Merf Owen – Naval Architect” at their respective links.

A number of the high school students who will visit us in the race village in Brooklyn/NYC and Portland, ME have already expressed their interest in pursuing careers in the marine industry. It’s really an eye-opener when you realize just how many different disciplines are involved in the design, building, maintaining and sailing of modern boats – from engineers and builders to shippers, accountants, business managers and computer specialists. Reading Merf’s interview you’ll see the interesting path he took to becoming one of the best. He also shares what subjects he feels students who want to ready themselves for marine careers should pay closest attention to in school.

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So, stay tuned. It will be a busy month ahead! And if you haven’t done so yet, please LIKE our Atlantic Cup Kid’s Page on Facebook. Also check out Carolina Dreamer’s (Educational Passages) Facebook Page and LIKE it for those amazing kids.

Also if you go to the Atlantic Cup Kid’s Page, you can VOTE for your favorite boat and team in this year’s race, where The Atlantic Cup Kids will be presenting the trophy for the Fan Favorite!

More to come! Heading to Charleston early next week!

- Dave (along with a host of friends & students!)