It’s a voyage Della Hahn has wanted to take for eight years. As a third grader, Hahn saw her brother, Myron, spend a semester at sea aboard the Harvey Gamage. In October, Della Hahn finally embarked on her own educational seven-week voyage. Sailing Ships Maine provides the semester-at-sea which teaches teens about sailing, leadership and team work.
Della Hahn is now a junior and, along with four other Maine high school students, sailed on the roundtrip voyage which began Oct. 19 departing from Portland. The Harvey Gamage sailed south to Brunswick, Georgia before returning north, ending the trip on Dec. 21 in Maine. The nautical program includes learning to trim the sails, monitoring weather reports, gauging wind direction and clouds for maximum sailing weather, and calculating boat speeds.
Previous sailing experience is not required. Students learn sailing techniques during the 49-day voyage. Prior to the trip, Hahn was already building her sailing and leadership skills. She is a Boothbay Region High School Student Council member. Hahn is also an experienced sailor. She began learning how to sail eight years ago on a local youth sailing team.
Sailing Ships Maine holds several different programs of various lengths. Hahn participated in the longest session. Besides following in her brother’s footsteps, she wanted to participate in a new learning experience. All the trip participants were quarantined before setting sail, so the semester provided Hahn with a chance to escape mask wearing and social distancing. “We were all tested before leaving, so the trip was like living in our own bubble. After several months experiencing COVID-19 precautions, it was nice being around a group of people and able to give them a hug,” Hahn said.
One of the students’ most important duties was taking a regular watch shift. This meant waking up as early as 4 a.m. to monitor sea and weather conditions. Students not on watch woke up at 7:30 a.m. and 30 minutes later had breakfast. Afterwards, students took the next watch, enjoyed free time, or took a much needed nap. “You are tired all the time. There are three watch shifts a day, and you may have one at 4 a.m. So when you have free time, it’s a good way to catch up on your sleep,” she said.
From 1 to 3 p.m., students would participate in academic lessons. During free time, students became acquainted with one another or made music. “A couple students brought their guitars, and we were all pretty good singers so we had a good time in the salon with the music,” Hahn said.
While the watch was an important duty, Hahn believes it served as an important educational lesson. “We presented our findings in a report to the captain ... The information was used in planning for the next day’s sailing because it includes reports from the National Weather Service and what we saw in the clouds,” she said. The watch also provided her with an opportunity to see nature up close. Watching the dolphins jump while they swam alongside the vessel was one of her favorite moments. “It was so beautiful watching them. It was just an awesome experience,” she said.
The Harvey Gamage made several stops along the Atlantic coast. Hahn’s favorite memory occurred in Cumberland Island in Georgia. “We dug our own clams and oysters on an island. That was so great,” she said. “We cooked them later that night with linguine on a camp fire, and had cornbread and S’mores,” she said.
Hahn still has another year of high school to complete. She is planning on attending college with a possibility of attending school in Europe. Hahn likes math and science, but has not decided on her future course of study or possible career path.