The Ocean State’s Official Sailing School Vessel, Tall Ship Oliver Hazard Perry is changing lives every time she sails from her homeport of Newport, Rhode Island. With education-at-sea at the core of her mission, she provides innovative and empowering programs to promote personal and professional growth.

This spring, the 200-foot Perry sailed her inaugural ocean passages to Cuba and Bermuda. The voyages to Cuba were targeted towards high school and college students, and on her way back to Newport in April, Perry provided a special program for adventurous adults who wanted to learn the skills of offshore celestial navigation and meteorology. Next up was two back-to-back voyages for Midshipman candidates from Newport’s Naval Academy Prep School, followed by the most recent one-week voyage for a group of freshmen, sophomores and juniors who attend Newport’s Rogers High School.

“I loved going aloft and the experience of sailing not only on a Tall Ship but also with friends my age, being able to bond, share stories and just enjoy the trip with them,” said Rogers freshman Colin McCabe, age 15. McCabe explained that on the last night of trip, while the ship was in Potter’s Cove at rest, he and 21 others were in the rig stowing the sails. “I was 120 feet in the air for an hour and 45 minutes, on the front mast, working with the top two sails. It’s the highest climbing I’ve ever done in my life.”

Captain David Dawes said the sails were furled perfectly and it was a great effort by the students, epitomizing their teamwork, focus and good sportsmanship during weather that wasn’t perfect. “These kids are fantastic,” said Dawes, “and Newport is fortunate to have a high school like Rogers in its community.”

Other stops on the trip were Tarpaulin Cove in the Elizabeth Islands; Provincetown after a trip through the Cape Cod Canal; and Star Island off New Hampshire.

“We saw some cool things swimming in the ocean, like a basking shark,” said Scott Dickison, a Biology/Oceanography teacher who was one of three Rogers teachers aboard. “It’s quite something to see a ship like this get underway. It’s a lot of work, and we had a good group that really got involved.”

McCabe added that the basking shark is the second largest shark in the world. “The crew members taught us a lot. We learned so much, especially about Tall Ships, how the sails and lines work, and about charts and instruments. My watch on the second-to-last day was overnight and really foggy, so if you know how the instruments work, it’s good assistance.”

Freshman Angelina Leavitt, age 15, found out at the last minute there was still room for her on the trip. “I became close with so many people, and I really enjoyed night sailing. Mathilde (Tash) and I had the midnight-to-four shift, so we got to see all the stars. It was so pretty. We were all just talking, and everyone said they wish the trip was longer!”

Tash, age 17 and a junior at Rogers, said night sailing was indeed her favorite part of the trip but going aloft made her nervous so she didn’t pursue getting to the top of the rig. “I didn’t know anything about sailing. The crew definitely made the trip; we bonded with them so much.”

This summer Oliver Hazard Perry will offer more voyages in New England and the Canadian Maritimes, sailing to Lunenburg (Nova Scotia), Boston and Portland (Maine). She has berths available for July 5-11 (Newport to Newport), July 14-28 (Newport to Lunenburg to Boston), July 30 – August 5 (Boston – Portland), and August 8-20(Portland – Lunenburg – Newport).

SSV Oliver Hazard Perry is not a replica, but a modern, steel-hulled vessel purpose-built for training and education to the highest modern safety standards (accommodating 49 people overnight, including 17 professional crew). The first sea-going full-rigged Tall Ship to be built in America in over a hundred years, she is USCG-approved and all who participate in her sailing programs become part of the crew. No one is a passenger. Instead, everyone lives aboard and works side-by-side with professional crew to learn square-rig seamanship, including bracing the yards, steering the ship and even going aloft if they wish to do so.

Ryan Belmore is the Owner and Publisher of What's Up Newp. He was born and raised in Rhode Island and graduated from Coventry High School. He serves as Vice President of Fort Adams Trust and serves on the Board of Directors for Potter League for Animals. Ryan also is currently the Senior Editor - North America for Mountain News, publisher of OnTheSnow. Ryan is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers and North American Snowsports Journalists Association (NASJA).