Lowell's Boat Shop to co-host teen sailing program

Courtesy photo/Amanda AvitabileA view from the stern of the Maine-based tall ship Harvey Gamage.

AMESBURY — A new program from Lowell’s Boat Shop is offering teens the chance at a weeklong educational maritime adventure along the New England coast aboard a tall ship.

The Seafaring and Sailing Program for Teens is a collaboration among Lowell’s Boat Shop, Maritime Gloucester, Tall Ships Maine and Ocean Passages that will take a group of 20 teens on a journey from Gloucester to Portland, Maine, aboard the Harvey Gamage, a 131-foot wooden schooner, from July 7-12.

Graham McKay, director and boatbuilder for Lowell’s Boat Shop, will captain the vessel during the trip, which — weather permitting — would begin with a whale-watching stop on Stellwagen Bank before making an overnight passage to the Maine coast to explore remote islands before docking in Portland. 

Along the way, participants will work side by side with a professional crew that also includes co-Captain Amanda Madeira of Maritime Gloucester to learn seamanship, sail handling and leadership skills. 

“It might be an ambitious schedule,” McKay said. “It all depends entirely on what the wind wants to do and what the weather does.”

The trip will be coming full circle for McKay, whose love affair with sailing began on similar trips out of Newburyport aboard the Spirit of Massachusetts in the early 1990s when he was in the seventh and eighth grades.

It was on those early voyages that McKay learned he had a knack for sailing, and set him on a new course toward a life steering and building watercraft. 

“That’s really how I got bitten by the maritime bug,” he said. “To me, it was an entirely new experience to go out, live in a small space with people I didn’t necessarily know. I think it was the first time I left my home waterway, and it sort of opened my eyes to the wider world.”

McKay volunteered on the Spirit of Massachusetts each summer throughout high school, and spent several years working for the Ocean Classroom Foundation before becoming a captain at age 29.

Since the program ended several years ago, McKay said he has hoped to reinstate similar youth opportunities to those that gave him his start in the seafaring world. 

So when he was approached by Tall Ships Portland about captaining a voyage for teens on the Harvey Gamage this summer, McKay was thrilled — especially considering the scarcity of such programs in this area.

“Unfortunately, a lot of these opportunities to sail aboard a tall ship have dried up,” McKay said. “Looking back, this was something that had an incredible effect on my own life. Nowadays, kids don’t get outside like they used to, and I think this is an opportunity to show them an entirely new experience and to get them away from their screens for a week.”

McKay said last week that about 10 of the ship’s 20 spots were still available.

The program is academically accredited by Falmouth High School in Falmouth, Maine. Participants will receive a letter of elective credit that should be valid as a transfer credit on their high school transcript.

There will be a fee of $1,100 per person that includes three meals per day, fuel, crew, docking fees and other costs.

A limited number of scholarships are available from the Molin Foundation and the Institution For Savings in Newburyport.

For more information on the program, visit http://lowellsboatshop.com, call 978-834-0050 or email dorothy@lowellsboatshop.com.

Staff writer Jack Shea can be reached via email at jshea@newburyportnews.com or by phone at 978-961-3154. Follow him on Twitter @iamjackshea.