Chilmark students sail, study aboard Alabama

Chilmark School students haul on a halyard aboard the Black Dog schooner Alabama during a week at sea. Left to right: Adam Miller, Finley Monahan, Brooks Carroll, Tegan Fenner, Imogen Taylor, and Isabella Thorpe. — Photo courtesy of the Chilmark S

A group of 17 Chilmark School fourth- and fifth-graders spent their first full week of school far from their classrooms, out at sea, sailing aboard the Black Dog’s schooner Alabama. Despite the distance from their school building, the students still did school work and kept journals, in addition to taking part in shipboard duties.

They swabbed the deck, helped cook meals and wash dishes, raised the sails, and learned to tie knots and coil the lines, all the while building teamwork skills, head of school Susan Stevens told The Times in an email.

“One activity was to write a message and put it in a bottle and throw it overboard off of Provincetown,” Ms. Stevens said. “These messages are being found and various people are writing to our students to let us know where they found the bottles.”

In their messages students described Martha’s Vineyard and what makes it special, shared their adventures on the ship and their itinerary, and asked for the bottles’ finders to write them back. Three bottles have been found so far at Sandy Neck Beach, Ms. Stevens said on Tuesday.

The students boarded the Alabama on Monday, September 9, with technology teacher Rebecca Barca-Tinus, school nurse Janice Brown, and two students’ fathers. They sailed to Tarpaulin Cove where they spent the first night, and on Tuesday sailed to Marion. Wednesday’s sail took them through the Cape Cod canal and to Boston Harbor, where Alabama docked at Fan Pier.

On Thursday the group sailed for 11 hours to Provincetown. On Friday, it was back through the Cape Cod Canal to tie up overnight in Marion. They returned to Vineyard Haven the next morning.

The sailing trip is an annual tradition for Chilmark School fourth- and fifth-graders during the first week of school. This year’s trip marked the 20th anniversary of the school’s Outing Program.