To the editor:
“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.”
— Jacques Cousteau
Jacques Cousteau certainly knew what he was talking about when you think of how he literally lived his life photographing, exploring and studying just what is in our many oceans and how to conserve and preserve these precious habitats and the life they hold.
Our program, Coastal Discoveries, was born out of an idea tossed around the dinner table one very cold winter in 1988. As a family we all brought many different skills to that table — Bob had spent four years in the Coast Guard, worked on commercial gillnetters and draggers and operating charter boats. And I, the nature girl from Vermont, took to the sea like a fish to water — this was a world worth exploring. Our children Rob and Erica had joined us on many excursions afloat before they could even walk. We knew kids loved the ocean. We had experienced it firsthand with our kids and their friends as we took them fishing and whale watching (before that was the thing to do) and answered a multitude of questions about our watery surroundings.
With a mixture of excitement and trepidation, our family decided to jump right in and bring this idea to life. Coastal Discoveries was launched aboard the 42-foot Erica Lee. Information was sent to local schools, Nynex Corporation gave us some start-up money, and ads were placed. Then the phone rang. After that first mother called with an interest in the program, we knew we had to move forward. We turned into researchers, scientists, biologists and navigators as our program was developed.
Although Coastal Discoveries was born out of a need to continue to make a living on the sea, the reality is that since we started the program, we are amazed by what we learn each day as we leave our dock at the Black Cow Restaurant in Newburyport and cruise out through the mouth of the Merrimack.
Capt. Bob and his crew of four are joined daily by 24 children aboard our floating classroom. Yes, we do teach kids how to fish, haul lobster traps and row dories. Mixed in with all the “fun” stuff, we take every opportunity to share knowledge of our maritime history. Facts are thrown out to all as we watch whales, seals and dolphins.
The last ride back to the dock in Newburyport is a bittersweet moment for Bob and the crew as we look at the faces of the children whose lives we know we have touched and think back to the week spent exploring, teaching and opening their eyes to not only what can be done in our watery surroundings, but the importance of respecting this environment and the life it holds. As I reflect on the above quote by Jacques Cousteau, I like to think he would be proud of our accomplishments.
Lee Yeomans, Co-Director