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Historic schooner visits for school programs, public sails

Adventuress Capt. MB Armstrong directs Emma Mittendorf at the helm during a spring 2009 trip with Geneva Elementary School.
Adventuress Capt. MB Armstrong directs Emma Mittendorf at the helm during a spring 2009 trip with Geneva Elementary School.

The Adventuress, a century-old schooner that’s now a floating classroom and a National Park Service landmark, visits Bellingham this spring for public sails, overnight journeys, and educational programs for children and teens.

“This year, we’re doing a lot out of Bellingham,” said Catherine Collins, executive director at Sound Experience in Port Townsend, a nonprofit dedicated to environmental stewardship and education about Puget Sound waters.

Zoe Ballering, membership and public programs coordinator, said passengers get to experience a slice of maritime life and scientific research aboard the 133-foot twin-masted schooner, which boasts a storied past.

“It’s a very experiential program,” she said. “They have the chance to participate in sailing the ship under the guidance of the crew and captain. People come away from Adventuress knowing more about the Puget Sound and wanting to make changes. It’s an unusual way of seeing our waterways.”

Passengers will help raise the sails and sometimes get a turn at the wheel. While Adventuress is under way, the crew teaches lessons in measuring the pH of local waters and take water samples to collect plankton.

“Sometimes you can even see the tiny plankton floating in the water,” Ballering said. “We look at them under a microscope and have them identify what they are seeing.”

“There’s such a supportive community that’s formed aboard the ship” — especially with overnight transits, she said. “It’s an amazing experience.”

Launched in 1913 in Maine, Adventuress sailed as part of an Arctic expedition in search of a bowhead whale specimen for the American Museum of Natural History, according to historical information at the Sound Experience website.

After its maiden voyage, Adventuress became a San Francisco Bay pilot craft and patrolled coastal waters for the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II. Adventuress was left to rot in Sausalito,

Calif., but was sold and moved to Seattle in the 1950s.

In the 1960s, the ship became part of a nonprofit sailing group and eventually Girl Scout troops became involved, along with volunteers who helped restore and maintain the ship.

“Most of our programs are through schools, either locally, and we have them come from as far away as Montana,” said Amy Kovaks, Sound Experience education coordinator.

Public sails from Squalicum Harbor will be from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday, May 1; 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, May 21, and 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday, May 22.

Passage is $55 for adults and $25 for children. Sound Experience members sail free, and receive discounted tickets for guests. Sound Experience membership is $65 a year for an individual and $95 a year for a household and members sail free. Membership prices will go up in April.

There’s a member transit from Seattle to Bellingham on April 23-24, and Adventuress will be moored at Squalicum Harbor for Sound Studies programs the end of April and much of May. Several dates remain open for groups, and some free dockside tours might be added, Ballering said.

For details, go to or contact Amy Kovaks, Sound Experience education coordinator, at amy@soundexp or 360-379-0438, ext. 2.

Limited scholarships are available; look for the application under the “Sail with us” portion of the website.