Maritime class explores new horizons

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Left, Otto Osmers and Cody Caseau work on marine mapping during a maritime class. —Lizzie Dourian

By Curtis Fisher

Many of the students of the Regional High School can boast of their various ties to the ocean and maritime life, but some students are taking this tie one step further and are enrolling in one of the Maritime Science classes offered at the high school. The classes cover topics from maritime transportation systems to maritime history, as well as an overview of shipbuilding and repair careers.

The school currently offers the maritime science classes to freshmen as a part of the CTE exploratory class and to upperclassmen for a more in-depth study. The Maritime Science classes for upperclassmen are designed to provide a bridge from school to employment in the maritime industry. Brock Callen, executive director of Sail MV, teaches the Maritime Science courses. “This is a desperate industry looking for properly trained people, and skills are important,” he said. “What we’re doing here is teaching practical skills and knowledge—skills that students can use in their lives, careers, and beyond.”

Students have gotten the opportunity to work with organizations such as the Steamship Authority, the Boston Pilots Association, Northeast Maritime in Fair Haven, Life Raft Survival Equipment, the United States Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod in Mashpee, the International Yacht Restoration School in Newport, RI, and Hall Spars in Bristol, RI.

Currently, one Maritime Science class is working on building a boat. They have made trips to the Gannon & Benjamin Marine Railway in Vineyard Haven to watch boats being taken apart, and they have also made a trip to the Vineyard Haven Harbor to understand how boats are launched. Students work on the ship every other day and learn a wide variety of ship building skills. Senior August Pizzano said, “[Mr. Callen] brings materials in from the lumber yard, and we rip the planks, clean them, and steam them.”

The classes offer many opportunities for students to go on field trips and learn outside of the classroom. Classes have also made trips to R&W Rope in New Bedford and Life Raft and Survival Equipment in Tiverton, RI.

The class also got the chance to experience what life may be like on a boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean through a virtual tour when Mr. Callen live streamed his recent voyage on the research vessel R/V Falkor. Using a multibeam echosounder and sonar, the Falkor crew were able to map previously unknown undersea topography in the Pacific Ocean. Throughout the process, students had the opportunity to talk with the crew onboard, including the captain, head cook, a journalist, and even a cartoonist. Recorded segments of the live stream are available on the MVRHS library website. Along with live streaming, Mr. Callen also kept a daily vlog of his journey.

Students also learn about the history of Maritime Sciences. Freshman Taylor Trudell said, “I like the history aspect. We got to look at logbooks from the 1840s, and I learned about the history of whaling ships.” The students have been asked to write their own fictional logbook entry recording the life of a sailor on one of these ships.

Junior Otto Osmers said, “The class has taught me about how the ocean works, about cartography, and about safety equipment. I’ve used the navigational skills I’ve learned on my own boat.”

Maritime Science is an opportunity for students to not just learn about, but to experience the ocean, historical records, and maritime-based systems that directly affect them as Island residents and provide a background for future work in the industry.