Learning the Ropes

Training young men and women in maritime skills would seem to be a natural and logical endeavor on an Island seven miles out to sea.

Yet while the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School has offered courses in culinary arts, horticulture, automobile service and repair and carpentry, the school has not offered comparable maritime courses.

That will change this fall, thanks to an inspired partnership involving the school, Island waterfront businesses and government agencies such as the Steamship Authority and the United States Coast Guard.

Leading the way is a nonprofit organization, Sail Martha’s Vineyard, long dedicated to providing sailing experiences to Island youths who otherwise might not get the chance.

Brock Callen, program director for Sail Martha’s Vineyard, perceptively sees that a maritime training program will benefit not only its students, but the wider Island community.

“This training will give these kids the tools they need to go out into the work force after high school, with skills that are relevant to the Vineyard, relevant to the waterfront community and relevant to going into future maritime studies,” Mr. Callen said.

In an economy already growing tighter, the program in its first year offers the further benefit of not costing the Vineyard taxpayer a penny. The Steamship Authority and maritime industry partners, including Martha’s Vineyard Shipyard and Gannon and Benjamin, are contributing two-thirds of the program’s cost in its first year. Sail Martha’s Vineyard, with the help of a grant from the Permanent Endowment Fund for Martha’s Vineyard, is providing the rest.

Tapping a deep historical Island root while offering young Islanders specialized job skills, the new maritime program represents the creativity and pragmatism that characterizes the best of the Vineyard.