Maine Maritime Academy schooner Bowdoin featured in Canadian celebration of arctic exploration

CASTINE, Maine, USA — Maine Maritime Academy’s  (MMA) schooner Bowdoin will sail to Newfoundland and Labrador this summer as a traveling ambassador for Celebrating Bartlett 2009, an upcoming Canadian recognition of Arctic exploration. Celebrating Bartlett 2009 will mark the 100th anniversary of Admiral Robert Peary’s expedition to the top of the world in his renowned North Pole trek of 1909, and the extraordinary contributing role of Canadian national hero, Captain Bob Bartlett. The schooner Bowdoin, an Arctic expeditionary vessel of the same era, will serve as a working example of the type of schooner sailed by Bartlett while carrying the celebration throughout the Provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador.

        In a press conference held in early January in Newfoundland, The Honorable Clyde Jackman, Newfoundland’s Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation, announced that the schooner Bowdoin will visit 12 communities in Newfoundland and Labrador as part of the celebration in conjunction with its annual sail training activities. The Bowdoin will serve as host vessel while conducting two annual at-sea training cruises for student enrolled in the college’s Small Vessel Operations program. These required training programs will be conducted in association with the festival. One course will take place during the voyage to the area, while another will take place during port visits and during the journey home to Castine.

        Details of the ports program and the Bowdoin’s visit were provided by the Historic Sites Association (HSA) of Newfoundland and Labrador, the agency organizing a series of corresponding activities and events aimed at highlighting and celebrating the life and legacy of the Canadian Arctic explorer and mariner, Captain Bob Bartlett of Brigus, Newfoundland. “The visit of the Bowdoin, and all the associated activities, will bring the Bartlett celebrations to regions throughout Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Minister Jackman. “It will also serve to showcase this province – and Captain Bob Bartlett’s remarkable story – to the rest of the country and, indeed, to the world.”

“Captain Bob Bartlett embodies the spirit of determination, perseverance and independence that defines the Newfoundland and Labrador character,” Minister Jackman added. “The Provincial Government is proud to have committed $400,000.00 to support the Bartlett celebrations, and the Historic Sites Association’s efforts to preserve and honor the Bartlett legacy.”

Edward Roberts, Chair of the Celebrating Bartlett 2009 Steering Committee, said organizers felt it was important to have a working Bartlett-era schooner as a focal point in the touring program. “We are very excited about the ports program we have in place for this summer,” said Roberts. “It is indeed a great privilege to have the schooner Bowdoin sailing around the province and enabling Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to see first-hand the type of schooner which Bartlett sailed for many years to the Far North.”

Captain John Worth, small vessel master at MMA and coordinator of this year’s Bowdoin itinerary, attended the Friday afternoon press conference which drew print and broadcast media coverage from throughout the area, including the Canadian Broadcast Corporation. “We are honored to have been approached to serve the people of Canada in this celebration of national pride and accomplishment,†he said. “It is our hope that through our participation we strengthen relationships between our state and our northern neighbors. We are also reminded of our commonalities which exist in a deep appreciation of the sea, tradition, and leadership.â€

Worth explained that Canadian organizers approached the college in 2007 and requested the Bowdoin’s participation in the upcoming event. Bartlett’s original sail vessel, the Effie Morrissey, now known as the Ernestina, was scheduled to be out of service during the festival due to an extensive refurbishment in nearby Boothbay Harbor, Maine. “The invitation alone was a true honor for this small college, but the understanding and cooperation of our Canadian neighbors has really made this a happy reality. They fully respected our primary obligation, to ensure sea-time aboard the Bowdoin for our degree-seeking students,†he said. “With some creative planning and the cooperation of the organizers, we have been able to craft a sail training plan which meets our student needs, provides them with outstanding sailing opportunities, and embraces the festival plans. The best part is that our participation won’t incur any costs for Maine Maritime Academy beyond those standard to our annual training cruises.†        

According to Worth, Bowdoin will be prepared in port as it usually is by students enrolled in the spring sail training cruise course. Eventually, the group will sail the vessel to St. John’s, Newfoundland, for the beginning of the port series. The course serves as an introduction to the overall maintenance and operations of a large, traditional sailing vessel. Sponsored by MMA’s William F. Thompson School of Marine Transportation in support of an academic concentration in Sail Training, the course is designed for students with little or no prior sailing or boating experience. The program will begin the first week in June with nautical activities based at the college’s waterfront facilities. The 12 students enrolled in the course will participate in painting, rigging, cleaning, engineering, voyage planning, and provisioning. Students will also work with the vessel’s professional steward in a rotating schedule. They will learn to cook and prepare the day’s meals, clean the food preparation area, and conduct provisioning and menu planning for the voyage.

        Once underway, cruising experiences will include watchstanding, navigation techniques, underway maintenance, and seamanship. This year’s voyage plan includes stops in Halifax, Sable Island, Prince Edward Island, Cape Breton, Isle de la Madeleine, St. Pierre, and Miquelon.

        Once in Newfoundland, the vessel will continue sailing to festival events for two weeks. “What many may not realize is that the Bowdoin is a real celebrity in the area and has made many strong alliances,†said Worth. “Prior to the busy port visit schedule, not only will we will be able to finalize all arrangements with our hosts, but we will have the opportunity to rekindle some long-standing friendships in the area. For instance, Dave Griffiths of the Search and Rescue division of the Canadian Coast Guard, has been a devoted friend to the college. When he’s not traveling to Maine to teach cold water survival and emergency medicine, he’s assisting us each time we’re in port in the area. With seafaring, it’s not just a job, it’s a lifestyle, and the friendships run deep.â€

        At the conclusion of the first trip and upon arrival in St. Anthony, activities will include reprovisioning the boat, a change of professional crew members and students, and several day sails for special guests of the celebration. “We’ll begin festival hopping with a whole new student crew, those upper class students completing their capstone traditional sail experience. What a dramatic sailing schedule they will have to round out their college careers.â€

        In July and August, the Bowdoin will visit Brigus, St. John’s, Old Perlican, Bonavista, Twillingate, St. Anthony, Battle Harbour, Cartwright, L’Anse au Loup, Port au Choix, Norris Point, and Corner Brook.  At each port, all vessel logistics and needs of the crew will be coordinated by HAS organizers. Traditional folk singers Jim Payne and Fergus O’Byrne will perform at each port while other festivities will include music, food, lectures, and educational programming. The Bowdoin will offer open boat hours during each port call, with students serving as hosts, educators, and tour guides. “Working with and welcoming the public is also a valuable learning experience for our students,†said Worth. “Many of them will go on to be responsible for the safety, well-being, education, and enjoyment of passengers while working in the at-sea hospitality industry. This is a tremendous opportunity to hone their skills while representing Maine Maritime Academy and the State of Maine.†             

        Built in 1921 at the Hodgdon Brothers Shipyard in East Boothbay, now Hodgdon Yachts, Inc. ( , the Bowdoin made 25 scientific expeditions to the Arctic Circle under the scientific and seafaring leadership of Adm. Donald MacMillan prior to the vessel’s withdrawal from Arctic service in 1954. During that time, Bowdoin sailed 28 degrees north of the Arctic Circle, and wintered over four times in the region while frozen in ice. MacMillan became internationally known for his explorations in the far north and received Hubbard Gold Medal of the National Geographic Society in 1953. He was also well-known for his inclusion of high school age students in his epic expeditions. MacMillan and Bartlett sailed together during their careers, but never together aboard Bowdoin. The vessel most recently returned to the Arctic during the 2008 season’s sail training cruise. All sail training activities take place under the direction of professionally licensed seafarers.

        The historic schooner’s summer expeditions and associated port visits are in keeping with the vessel’s overall mission to provide hands-on sail training and public outreach. Participation in the festival provides an international venue to inform the public about Maine Maritime Academy and enables the Bowdoin, the official vessel of the State of Maine, to offer education on traditional sail training techniques, the seafaring heritage of Maine, and the value of experiential learning.

        Celebrating Bartlett 2009 host agency, the Historic Sites Association (HSA) of Newfoundland and Labrador, is a volunteer, non-profit organization that works in partnership with Parks Canada. Its mandate is to protect, preserve and promote the province’s history and heritage. Complete details of the celebration can be viewed at

By Professional Mariner Staff