Maine Maritime’s Bowdoin returning to the Arctic

The following is the text of a press release issued by Maine Maritime Academy:
(CASTINE, Maine) — Maine Maritime Academy’s schooner [ ]Bowdoin will sail to the Arctic Circle this
summer, recalling the vessel’s historic roots in Arctic exploration
research while providing a unique setting for traditional sail
Students sailing aboard the Bowdoin to the Arctic will retrace the
vessel’s historic routes while learning the fundamentals of ocean
voyaging, from pre-voyage planning and provisioning, to hands-on
and navigation.
The intrepid trip north is a familiar venture for Maine Maritime
Soon after acquiring the vessel in 1988, the college sponsored two
seafaring adventures to the Arctic, the vessel’s first voyages to the
North since the 1950s. Inspired by a nostalgic look to the vessel’s
cold-weather design and construction and its historic role as an
educational platform for students, MMA planned sail training trips that
took students to Nain, Labrador, in 1990, and 150 miles north of the
Arctic Circle to Disko Island, Greenland, in 1991 aboard the Bowdoin.
Another trip to the Arctic was completed in 1994.
Built in 1921 at the Hodgdon Brothers Shipyard in East Boothbay, now [ ]Hodgdon Yachts, Inc., the Bowdoin made
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
28 degrees north of the Arctic Circle, and wintered over four times in
region while frozen in ice. MacMillan became internationally known for
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
In keeping with the vessel’s student-centered history, this year’s
will provide a unique opportunity for 13 students to experience
hands-on sailing, to a remote corner of the world. Students will also
experience the necessary preparatory work leading up to such a
and challenging voyage. The twelve-week course is scheduled to begin
May 5
in port in Castine, with the vessel tentatively scheduled to get
on June 1 for a 60-day voyage. According to Captain Rick Miller, this
year’s sail training cruise will retrace courses and revisit
made by previous Bowdoin trips north.
This year’s voyage plan will also utilize traditional schedules and
routing to successfully navigate the frigid waters and ice hazards.
Bowdoin will venture as far north as Jacobshaven, Greenland, a small
village located southeast of Disko Island at approximately70 degrees
latitude. Other traditional Bowdoin port visits are planned for the
of Nuuk and Sismiut in Greenland.
With plans in place to set sail no later than June 1, Miller hopes to
underway earlier if the boat and crew are ready, possibly May 29. Once
underway, he plans a one-week voyage to St. John’s, Newfoundland.
departure from St. John’s, the Bowdoin will sail due east. “This
will take
us across ‘ice berg alley’  and into clear water,” said Miller.
we’ll sail north along the 50th west meridian.” Upon reaching
and viewing the Jacobshaven Glacier, Bowdoin will make a southerly
crossing the Davis Strait to the coast of Labrador. This crossing plan
will rely heavily on the crew’s assessment of ice flow conditions in
area at the time. Conditions permitting, Battle Harbour, a restored
century fishing village located on a small island in the Labrador Sea
be the next port on the itinerary. The village is accessible only by
and air from mid-June through late September.
After transiting the Strait of Belle Isle from Labrador to
Bowdoin will sail the Gulf of St. Lawrence and make a traditional
via the Bras d’Or Lakes. An alternate route would take the schooner
of Cape Breton and involve a stop in Louisburg. Crew members are also
investigating the possibility of a stop at Sable Island, a narrow,
crescent-shaped sand bar island located at the edge of the continental
shelf. The island is located at the intersection of the Labrador
and the northern extremes of the Gulf Stream. The island is widely
for its natural beauty and for the presence of feral horses. The
is due to return to Castine on Saturday, July 31.
The course, entitled Auxiliary Sail – Ocean Voyaging, is a more
version of a regular experiential learning opportunity offered at MMA
summer. This year’s training cruise also contrasts from other ones in
it was initiated and planned by students. Student-based, from
to execution, Miller said that the ambitious schedule and itinerary has
been brought about by the vision, enthusiasm, and persistence of
students who first approached him with the idea nearly one year ago.
“Recent trips have ventured to the Canadian maritime provinces and as
south as Virginia, but this group wanted to see the Bowdoin re-sail her
past,” he said. “I supported their idea by reminding them that a
focus of
their learning at MMA is experiential. I encouraged them to look at
idea as a way to begin to discover how to make things happen, how to
propose a solution rather than a problem, and take responsibility for
one’s own learning. In typical Maine Maritime Academy fashion, they
just that and they should be very proud of their voyage plan. It’s a
significant accomplishment with many more to follow.”
The sail training course serves as an introduction to the overall
maintenance and operations of a large, traditional sailing vessel.
Sponsored annually by Maine Maritime Academy’s William F. Thompson
of Marine Transportation in support of an academic concentration in
Training, the course is designed for students with little or no prior
sailing or boating experience. The program begins the first week in May
with nautical activities based at the college’s waterfront
Students enrolled in the course participate in painting, rigging,
cleaning, engineering, voyage planning, and provisioning. Students also
work with the vessel’s professional steward in a rotating schedule.
learn to cook and prepare the day’s meals, clean the food preparation
area, and conduct provisioning and menu planning for the voyage.
Miller noted that this year’s preparatory month in port will
continue to
focus on routine maintenance but will also include the installation of
additional and refitted equipment in anticipation of weather challenges
during the voyage.  For example, Bowdoin’s regular tender and rescue
a rigid hull inflatable (RHI) boat, will be replaced with a new RHI.
Donated by the Cruising Club of America’s Bonnell Cove Foundation,
the new
boat is slightly larger than the previous one and is outfitted with a
more powerful outboard motor. Also, Bowdoin will sail with a new main
this season, a cooperative effort of Hodgdon Yachts, Inc., and students
enrolled in the college’s small vessel operations program. Hodgdon
crafted and donated an unfinished laminated boom, and students will
complete the turning and finishing process next month on campus as part
a small craft construction class.
As in past years, students will live in Maine Maritime Academy
dormitory-style housing as an introduction to living in semi-close
quarters. Beginning in late May, students will begin living aboard the
vessel in preparation for the northern sail training expedition. Once
underway, cruising experiences will include watchstanding, navigation
techniques, underway maintenance, and seamanship. All activities will
place under the direction of professionally licensed seafarers.
The historic schooner’s port visits also serve to inform the public
Maine Maritime Academy and enables the Bowdoin, the official vessel of
State of Maine, to offer outreach on traditional sail training
the seafaring heritage of Maine, and the value of experiential
MMA’s schooner Bowdoin will continue a very busy [ ]summer schedule following
completion of the Arctic training cruise.  As the flagship of the
college’s small vessel operations (SVO) program and a traditional
ambassador for the college and the state, the Bowdoin is scheduled to
offer multiple sail training experiences for MMA students. On August 2,
the Bowdoin will embark on another sail training trip, this time
to Nova Scotia, Canada. The trip will provide a platform for a senior
student capstone project under sail. A third sail training trip will be
offered later in the summer due to an increased popularity of the
college’s program. The trip will sail to Nova Scotia, Canada, from
16 to August 29.
The Bowdoin, a national historic landmark and Maine’s official
supported the educational initiatives of Mystic Seaport in Connecticut
the Outward Bound School in Maine vessel following withdrawal from
service. The schooner was later acquired by the Schooner Bowdoin
Association. Maine Maritime Academy leased the vessel in 1988 and
her outright a year later.
By Professional Mariner Staff