The non-profit organization Oliver Hazard Perry Rhode Island (OHPRI) is hosting its first public education program aboard the 177-foot tall ship Gazela. Six Rhode Island teachers and professors are currently sailing on a five-day education-at-sea voyage to Newport from the ship’s homeport of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and they will arrive Thursday, July 5 just prior to the kick-off of the Ocean State Tall Ships Festival in Newport (July 6-9).
The purpose of the trip is to replicate the educational platform that Rhode Island’s official sailing education vessel, the SSV Oliver Hazard Perry, will provide when it is commissioned a year from now as a 196-foot long, 13 ½ story tall ship. The schools represented onboard are Salve Regina University (Newport), Paul Cuffee School (Providence), two from Chariho Regional School District (Southern Rhode Island), The Greene School (West Greenwich) and Toll Gate High School (Warwick).
“We are building ambassadors for our program by showing Rhode Island educators what OHPRI is doing, why we are doing it, and how they can be a part of it and lead it throughout the state,” said OHPRI’s Vice Chairman Perry Lewis (Middletown, R.I.), adding that the Gazela’s crew will be taught the ropes, literally, by Captain Richard Bailey (Wellfleet, Mass.), who commanded the HMS Rose when it sailed as the largest active wooden tall ship in the world and also will serve as captain of the SSV Oliver Hazard Perry.
“We hope to open their eyes to what the experience truly is,” said Bailey before the start of the trip, noting that there is an indescribable transformation from within that typically comes with time spent at sea. “They will work alongside the crew, just as students will, standing watch, handling the sails, even steering the ship. It can be arduous at times, but there are also glorious moments when they will see the most beautiful fish or birds or sunsets.”
On Thursday morning, before Gazela berths at Bowen’s Wharf on the Newport waterfront, Captain Bailey and his crew will sail the ship to North Kingstown so the educators can view the SSV Oliver Hazard Perry as it undergoes construction at Senesco Marine. OHPRI’s Educational Director Jessica Wurzbacher (Jamestown, R.I.) will have joined the ship off Newport for the sail up Narragansett Bay’s West Passage and will facilitate discussions on the future of the ship and the organization’s mission to support and enhance academic achievement in STEAM Courses: for science, mathematics, technology, engineering and the arts along with sail training, leadership development and career pathway exploration.
“The best thing about bringing these teachers onboard for an actual voyage is that none of them has ever been on a sailing expedition like this, and they will be able to get first-hand experience,” said Wurzbacher, who has been teaching in the field of Marine Biology and Oceanography for the past ten years, six of which were with Sea|Mester where she was Program Manager and Chief Scientist, teaching high school and college level programs while sailing over 40,000 nautical miles on the program’s two schooners (the 88-foot Ocean Star and the 110-foot Argo).
“These teachers are considering a spectrum of subject matters onboard, and after the voyage they will create a lesson plan based on what they would do if they brought their students onboard a tall ship for a week.”
For more visit www.ohpri.org