FUEL launches boat donation program

Donated boats will advance a new ocean-capable schooner and teen programming.

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FUEL's model in progress.

The Foundation for Underway Experiential Learning (FUEL) has launched a boat donation program with Block Island Marine Funding. Proceeds from boat donations will fund tall ship education programs for Cape and Islands youth and an ocean-capable schooner to be built of steel. 

FUEL executive director Capt.Ian Ridgeway told The Times the donation program may be unprecedented on the Vineyard and is designed to be turnkey-simple. 

Due to the CARES Act, 2020 is a very advantageous time to donate a boat, Capt. Ridgeway said. He pointed out the CARES Act permits people to deduct 100 percent of their adjusted gross income for charitable donations. Capt. Ridgeway said a vessel must first be appraised by a professional third party in order for an owner to get the tax benefit. 

The new boat donation program is geared to help FUEL raise $7 million over the next two years for its “Build The Ship” campaign. $4.5 million is budgeted for ship construction and $500,000 is earmarked for education program development costs. 

The educational programs FUEL is developing aim to improve teen mental health through maritime experience. 

“Driven by the fact that young adults are struggling with depression, anxiety, substance misuse, and suicide at alarming rates, especially on the Cape and Islands, FUEL is developing a cutting-edge program with the assistance of national experts to bring learners out of the traditional classroom to the deck and rig of a new ocean-voyaging tall ship,” a release states. “For centuries, learning in such an environment led to courage, leadership, and determination. Once again, this experience will be especially meaningful for young people who have experienced trauma, social and emotional challenges, or learning disabilities.”

“Helping our young people by bringing them to sea will have a profound positive impact on our island community,” Capt. Bob Douglas, said through a release. Douglas is a FUEL advisor, founder of The Black Dog, and owner of the tall ships, Shenandoah and Alabama. The Shenandoah and Alabama “have dutifully served generations of children including every fifth grade student on Martha’s Vineyard,” a release states, “and these vessels will continue in their important roles.”

“Captain Douglas has long envisioned a modern version of Shenandoah to challenge older children in handling a ship at sea,” Ridgeway and FUEL program director Capt. Casey Blum said in a joint statement. “He designed the ideal vessel and has donated these plans to FUEL in order to sail across oceans with semester-long programs during the school year, and sail locally in the summer months with students from the Cape and Islands.” The most exciting part of this project is the objective of voyaging around the shores of Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket and the Elizabeth Islands with local teens who have never experienced these precious places from the ocean.”

Capt. Ridgeway noted “proceeds from “high value boats” may qualify for naming opportunities onboard the new ship. Nevertheless, he stressed “all donors will be recognized for their support.”

For more information on donating a vessel to FUEL, contact Capt. Ridgeway at ian@buildtheship.org or David Guertin at david@buildtheship.org