At school on a schooner Under way: Maryland students sailed for four hours with one of the few women in this country to captain such a ship.

March 28, 1996|By Ernest F. Imhoff | Ernest F. Imhoff,SUN STAFF

In an article yesterday on the Living Classrooms Foundation, the name of its port captain, Christopher Rowsom, was misspelled.

The Sun regrets the error.

When the 25 fourth-graders sailed aboard the Lady Maryland this week, they began in calm Inner Harbor waters. By the time they reached the Key Bridge, they met winds of up to 30 knots, some cold water in the face and a seriously leaning deck.

"Wow," someone shouted.

"All riiiiiight," another yelled.

The captain, 28-year-old Pamela Tenner, was calm and purposeful, well-aware that she was responsible for the youngsters on the tilting deck. This was her first day as full-time skipper of the Living Classrooms Foundation's flagship, which was on its maiden voyage of the season.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

Amy Creegan, 9, steering the 103-foot-long pungy schooner with Captain Tenner, may have been inspired by seeing a woman at the helm or by fingering the big wheel and seeing the ship change course. "I was thinking how much fun it would be if I could be captain," Amy said.

Issuing orders in tones as crisp as the wind, the captain was businesslike with her passengers and her five adult crew members. The Annapolis native first learned sailing with her family and after graduating from Oberlin College, taught at Womanship in Annapolis.

"It's hard not to be excited about this job," she said. "I'm so lucky that as a captain I can teach the kids so much the weather, the theory of sailing, navigation, modern shipping, Maryland history, ecology."

After duty as a Lady Maryland deckhand in 1990, she worked her way into jobs as fill-in captain and crew member on the Lady and other ships in the Chesapeake Bay, Great Lakes and the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

Captain Tenner, who says she is one of about eight or 10 women in the country commanding schooners, will be married in May to the foundation's shipwright, John Kellett. They will head for Bolivia to honeymoon with mountain bikes and backpacks.

The Lady Maryland, claimed to be the world's only pungy schooner, is as old as its young sailors, about a decade. Living Classrooms people built it.

Pungies were descendants of the original pilot schooners that delivered pilots to large vessels entering the bay. Pungies carried perishable cargo on the bay in the 1800s. The last one, the Amanda F. Lewis, sailed until the 1930s.

Captain Tenner's four-hour excursion Monday by diesel, sail and diesel again had everything for the students from landlocked Woodfield Elementary School in Gaithersburg. Captain Tenner took the students out the Fort McHenry Channel and tacked back and forth this side of the Francis Scott Key Bridge. You'd have thought the cruise was on the high seas. Whitecaps were aplenty and the mainsail came down early.

The Lady Maryland is one of four vessels to be run in coming months by the Living Classrooms Foundation from its Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse on Pier 5. The Sigsbee, a skipjack under the command of Stephanie Reynolds, tacked near the Lady Maryland with 24 other Woodfield students.

Completing the fleet are the Mildred Belle, a buyboat run by Bob Britain, and another skipjack, the Minnie V, owned by the city and managed this year by the foundation. Overall commander is Bob Rowson, port captain.

Last year, 11,515 students sailed on three boats. The Minnie V will increase the load for the fleet, which the group says is the biggest of any of the 130 student sailing groups in the American Sail Training Association. It has cited Living Classrooms as its top example of teaching under sail.

Living Classrooms last year offered about 25 educational programs on sea and land to more than 27,519 students and 3,404 teachers and other adults, mostly from Maryland. Its new president, James Bond, used words like "interdisciplinary, experiential education" but he put his finger on the main feature, "hands-on learning."

That began with safety Monday as Captain Tenner and her crew gave the children serious lessons starting at Pier 5. "You are the crew today," said the captain. "Every one of you wears a life jacket."

No one has yet fallen overboard, but "Man overboard" was the call if anyone did. There were other rules. The junior deckhands were well-behaved the whole day.

All adult crew members were also teachers. The program director, Kathy McEvoy, divided the 25 children into four groups and sent them in a rotation to five education stations on the deck. Besides composing a song and making a flag for the trip, the students had studied and were prepared.

The 9- and 10-year-olds learned new things and also were sharply questioned. The topics included preservation of the Chesapeake Bay, seamanship, water quality and collecting weather data.

Holding forth above or below deck were the mate, Sean O'Connor; two deckhands, Chrissy Diorio and Jennifer Muther; an intern, Tim Dwyer; and the captain herself. The cook, Skip Hunter, stayed below. Sailing the ship was always the first order.

"I love it," student Lindsey Zegowitz said, especially steering the big wheel while the captain said, "Two points right" or "One point left," referring to the eight points on the wheel.

After lunch, the fishnet was thrown out but was brought in empty. It was the day's rare disappointment. A ship that sometimes flew as fast as 8 knots -- almost 9 mph -- didn't disappoint.

"We had an incredible sail today," the captain told the children. "I hope you had as much fun as I did. Thanks for being such a great crew."

The one-day sailors cheered their captain and crew mightily.

Pub Date: 3/28/96

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