“I’d like to be teenager again, for just six days”, I said to myself last Sunday. After the long drive from Tacoma to the Everett Marina, I stood once again on the deck of Adventuress, a 95-year-old wooden schooner and sighed. I’m getting to know her and getting attached. The passing of the previous night’s wind and rain storm, made the partly sunny sky feel like a gift. Sea lions poked curious faces up out of the water, and gulls circled above, as if watching our preparations to leave.
My own curly hair made a good wind gauge, tossed by the fresh salt air. I welcomed the mess. It meant enough of a breeze to cause the canvas to tremble and swell like a living thing, as we hoisted the heavy mainsail through team effort. Sunday marked the last of the season’s three-hour public sails on Adventuress, owned and operated by the non-profit Sound Experience. I’m proud to be a member and felt happy to be back on board. If I were a teenager though, by Thursday I’d be starting a possibly life-changing six day voyage.
On September 27th, twenty-five lucky girls from Pierce County between the ages of twelve and eighteen began taking part in a totally free program called Adventuress Self & Sound. The crew of Adventuress, usually made up of both men and women, is all female for this program, and will lead these girls through a ten-day-long journey toward a new concept of themselves and their environment.
That first weekend they had an orientation, enjoyed fun activities, spent the night on board, and then began learning the basics of sailing and navigation. They’ll return to the schooner on Oct. 9th, for the second part, to spend six amazing days voyaging from Seattle to Tacoma, getting the chance to actually sail a tall ship, explore Puget Sound, and study the environment and the threats facing it. They’ll rest each night in a cozy cove, being rocked to sleep by the waves. Along with the fun and education come other lessons, life lessons, such as teamwork, responsibility, concern for others and for the world we all share. The folks at Sound Experience like to point out that living on board in close quarters, in this self-contained world, symbolizes life on our planet, where resources are limited and what we do affects everyone else.
Sound Experience welcomes anyone interested in getting to know Puget Sound through sailing on Adventuress. It’s their belief that people take better care of something they love, and to many who come aboard it’s their first time to be that intimately connected with the salt water environment and the rich variety of life dependent upon it. But Sound Experience has a tradition of emphasizing youth outreach, and appreciates the partnership of two other organizations in making Self & Sound happen. A most generous grant from the American Sail Training Association (ASTA), through their Youth Adventure initiative, covers the costs, including all food and gear. Girl Scouts of Western Washington is also helping to support the program in several ways, including van transportation. Later in October, Girls Scouts will drive the participants up to Port Townsend, the home of Adventuress, for the third and final portion. The girls will gather for a last sail and overnight on board, followed by a celebration with parents to mark their accomplishments. When it’s over, they can look back on their own personal “Voyage of Discovery,” not only of Puget Sound, but also of themselves and what they are capable of.
I too was a teenager when I began to learn a little about sailing. I loved it intensely, but as time went on, life’s circumstances didn’t include many chances to do more. During last summer’s Tall Ships Tacoma event, I sailed again for the first time in a decade.* I hadn’t forgotten the feeling. It’s all about freedom. It’s all about getting down to the basics: water, wind, air, sunlight, a sturdy and faithful vessel (hopefully wooden), and your own true self. It’s about learning who you are and what it’s like to feel the power of wind running down a line and right into you, through you, hurling you forward with exhilarating speed. It’s about feeling ALIVE. I wish every young person could have the chance to experience this kind of “high”. They’d never seek any other.
There are many reasons I wouldn’t want to go back to my teen years, bittersweet as they were. But if I’d been able to participate in something like the Adventuress Self & Sound program I might have gained the confidence to live more fully, more faithfully to my true self, than I did for many years. Through the efforts of Executive Director Catherine Collins, and others in Sound Experience, the generous grant from ASTA, the help of the Girl Scouts, and The News Tribune’s John Henrikson, whose article in Tacoma’s leading newspaper gave it publicity, Self & Sound is happening. Who knows how significantly this will impact the lives of these twenty-five girls, and even the future of our country? The Self & Sound program exemplifies the mission of Sound Experience but is only one of many. I may be too old for this one, but the organization offers a wide range of opportunities to learn, grow, and feel that youthful exuberance again, even for those of us well past our youth. Thank Goodness, the laughing teen-aged girl I once was, with the wind tangling her curls, still exists in my heart. We’re getting reacquainted these days.
Note: All photos are the property of Sound Experience and used with permission.
*Please see archived post from 7/9/08 "Adventure on Adventuress: A Tale of Tall Ships"