Chimacum Cowboys sail on the Salish Sea

By Donovan Rivel, Ella Kasperson and Brian MacKenzie
Posted 6/5/24



Chimacum seventh-graders learned about longboats, local history, and marine life at the Northwest Maritime Center over the last two weeks.

Teachers at Chimacum Junior …

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Chimacum Cowboys sail on the Salish Sea




Chimacum seventh-graders learned about longboats, local history, and marine life at the Northwest Maritime Center over the last two weeks.

Teachers at Chimacum Junior High School coordinated with the Maritime Center to develop a multidisciplinary outdoor education experience.

To rotate students through varied activities, the educators split the seventh grade into six crews. Each crew chose a name and made a flag to fly on their longboat. This year’s crews named themselves the Bad Basses, Nauti Crew, Seaduction, the Spicy Stingrays, the Sloppy Sea Monkeys, and the King of Red Lions.

Students learned to tie knots, oar in unison, and erect a sail from Ted Moskal, of the Northwest Maritime Center, and from Daniel Evans, an experienced sea captain who now teaches building trades to grades 7-12 in Chimacum.

The crews then put out to sea in replicas of the longboats George Vancouver’s crew used to explore the Salish Sea 250 years ago.

Rainy weather posed a challenge. “The longboats were really wet,” said seventh-grader Aria Angerbauer. “Because of that it wasn’t as fun. Plus, the oars were heavy.”

“Longboats were difficult,” agreed classmate Mackenzie Almaden. “People kept hitting each other’s oars and didn’t have good rhythm at first.”

Seasickness also afflicted some students. “I threw up,” said Almaden.

With help from the Northwest Maritime Center’s music instructor, each crew composed their own original sea shanties. The popular favorite? A ballad called “Big Toe.”

In the boat shop, crews helped build and paint a small rowboat. They voted on the color (pink, unanimously) and the name (Timmy, overwhelmingly). seventh-grader Charley Fisher said, “The shop was fun because I know what I’m doing, because I already have shop” at school with Mr. Evans. 

Some crews experienced greater challenges in the boat shop. “We broke the boat and had to fix it,” Almaden explained.

Each crew got a turn to train on the Northwest Maritime Center’s Ship Simulator, the same state-of-the-art equipment the U.S. Coast Guard and commercial mariners use to learn how to steer ships and conduct rescues when a person is lost overboard.

Chimacum science teacher Brett Thompson led students in dissecting oysters, shrimp, a squid, and something seventh-graders called “gross goopy dead fish.” Mr. T showed them how to identify organs, understand their functions, and practice scientific sketching.

Two marine biologists led crews on beach walks to teach students about rocks, seaweed, and sea creatures. They spotted some California sea lions lounging on a dock. “It was pretty cool,” marveled Almaden, who had never seen one before.

Chimacum English teacher Carrie Beebe led students in art activities. She took crews to the Wild Madrona Studio and Gallery to study art and write about how art makes them think or feel about the piece.

Back at the Maritime Center, Beebe gave each crew time and resources to create art. Fisher said, “It was all fun: sculpture… to paint and create.”

On the last day, students displayed their works in a makeshift art gallery. “I made a dinosaur out of wood,” said Angerbauer.

At the Jefferson County Historical Society’s Museum of Art and History, crews roamed, viewed Port Townsend’s original jail, and learned how the evolution of the maritime economy and the quirks of railroad routes dictated the fortunes of the local economy.

“I got to look at a bunch of cool artwork,” said Fisher.

Several Chimacum High School students earned community service hours by serving as mentors to each crew of the seventh-graders over the two weeks. One mentor, senior Rosemary Schmucker, expressed appreciation that her friend Elena Montoya helped her “deal with the silliest group ever,” with whom they “won every challenge!”

At the end of the two weeks, the crews gathered to see whether Timmy, the little rowboat they built, would float. It did.

Donovan Rivel and Ella Kasperson are students in Brian MacKenzie’s journalism class at Chimacum High School.