Sails and masts from Bermuda rose high over Vineyard Haven harbor this past weekend. The 89-foot, three-masted schooner Spirit of Bermuda made its first visit to the Island, a collaboration involving two nonprofit organizations, Sail Martha’s Vineyard and Boston MedFlight.
The 2-year-old vessel’s inaugural visit was significant for a number of reasons.
The Bermuda Sloop Foundation that built the ship shares a similar purpose to the Island’s own Sail Martha’s Vineyard. Both organizations are committed to introducing young people to the maritime heritage of their Island. The mission of the Spirit of Bermuda is to take young teenagers out to sea for a memorable experience linked to their cultural history.
In the same fashion, the principal purpose of Sail Martha’s Vineyard is to give Island youngsters time on the water through free sailing instruction. Were it not for these two organizations, children might grow up on these Islands without the opportunity to get out on the water.
“The sloop Spirit of Bermuda is a sister organization to Sail Martha’s Vineyard,” said Brock Callen, program director for Sail Martha’s Vineyard. “They are doing what we are trying to do. They do it differently. They put kids out on the high seas in a big boat. That would be something we would aspire to do in the long-term future.”
“In Bermuda when a vessel is referred to as a sloop, that has nothing to do with her rig. The Spirit of Bermuda is a schooner,” Mr. Callen said.
Sail Martha’s Vineyard offers free sailing instruction to youngsters during the summer. This summer, 290 Vineyard youngsters ages eight through 16 are going through sailing instruction programs at Sailing Camp Park in Oak Bluffs. They are learning all levels of sailing instruction. The best of them are learning how to compete. As they get older and more experienced, the program raises the bar a little higher every year.
This fall, Sail Martha’s Vineyard and a collaboration of other organizations are underwriting the first academic program at the high school for students who may want to go on to the maritime trades.
As for the Spirit of Bermuda, second mate Peter Simons said they left Bermuda on Monday, July 21 and arrived in New Bedford on Friday, July 25. They came to the Vineyard that evening just in time for the sunset.
At times Mr. Simons serves as captain, but on this trip he came as a second mate. He said the sailing program is all about teaching kids how to sail and work as teams.
The Spirit of Bermuda has 27 berths. Unlike most high-priced yachts of her size and nature, she is entirely a maritime school for youngsters, mostly in their teens. Students study while at sea and get a full education together with ship handling.
The idea for the vessel began when people in the community recognized native Bermuda youngsters weren’t getting out on the water, Mr. Simons said. A spirited group of people pulled resources together to put together a program, a positive experience for youngsters who might otherwise grow up with not a day at sea, though they live on an Island. The program might also inspire some to consider working in the local maritime trades.
“Poor kids in our Island didn’t get out on the water,” Mr. Simons said.
The maritime school started in 1995. The organization’s vessel, the Spirit of Bermuda, was designed based on ships built from 1810 to 1840s that traveled in Bermudian waters. Built in Rockport, Me., the vessel was launched in 2006.
Kristen Greene, 15, has been with the vessel 1 1/2 years. Of the vessel and his travels, he said: “It is very cool. With the sail training we [receive], I’ve met a lot of people.”
He added he was delighted to come to the Vineyard. When he grew up, he said he wanted to be a marine engineer. “The idea started here,” he said.
Mr. Callen said: “You only have to step aboard this great ship, meet the captain, the officers, the first mate and meet the crew to realize how important providing this kind of experience is to these kids. What they are doing is a great program.”
Out of this ship’s visit, two Islands have come together, Mr. Callen said. “We will continue to have conversations, stay in touch, because there is more that we can do than we’ve been doing,” he said.
Mr. Callen said the visit by the vessel is part of another key ingredient to the Sail Martha’s Vineyard experience.
“When the founders of Sail Martha’s Vineyard first met years ago, one of the key missions was to attract foreign sailing vessels to the Vineyard. We used to do a better job,” he said.
On Saturday evening, the sloop lent its presence to a fund-raising event held at Tisbury Wharf by Boston MedFlight, an organization that provides critical care air transportation across New England to Boston’s hospitals. Sandy Weedon of Boston MedFlight said that the fundraiser was highly successful.
This past Monday, the vessel left the Vineyard and went to Mystic Seaport Museum in Mystic, Conn.
Caleb Gray and Solvig Fayre, members of the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School sailing team, were given the opportunity of departing with the sloop yesterday morning from Mystic. The two are on a educational cruise to Bermuda.
More information about Sail Martha’s Vineyard is available at sailmv.com. More information about the Spirit of Bermuda is available at bermudasloop.org.