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ODU Students Take Historical and Firsthand Look at the Bay

ODU Students Take Historical and Firsthand Look at the Bay

As part of an upper-level history course, 8 Old Dominion University students plus one faculty member are joining the crew of the schooner Virginia from March 6-13 to sail up the Chesapeake Bay and learn about its culture and history.

The course, Shifting Sands, Tidal Waters: Exploring the Chesapeake Bay's Culture and Environment, 1850s to Present, examines the people, culture and environment of the Chesapeake Bay region. The onboard portion of the course provides students with the unique perspective of the life of a mariner, especially the harsh realities of sailing the bay in March. While underway, students will participate fully in the operation, upkeep and activities of the vessel to the best of their ability.

"Students will get a real sense of the life of a mariner as well as a sense of the geography of the bay," explained Jonathan Phillips, assistant professor of history, who teaches the course. "The schooner actually enables students to live the past, to gain that perspective."

One student, a graduate communications major not enrolled in the course, is along to film their adventures and will produce a video for the ODU YouTube site.

The Virginia is a two-mast gaff-topsail knockabout schooner with a 12-foot draft, owned and operated by the Virginia Maritime Heritage Foundation. Almost entirely handmade, she is a re-creation of her namesake vessel, the Virginia, which was the last pure sailing vessel used by the Virginia Pilot Association, in service from 1917-26 in the Chesapeake Bay.

The schooner Virginia is scheduled to make several stops as it sails up the Chesapeake to provide additional opportunities for students to learn about the bay's history and culture. Locations were selected for their historical significance to the bay's history and the schooner's ability to put in to port.

March 7: Yorktown, Va., to visit the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and the Waterman's Museum.

March 9: Reedville, Va., for a look at the local oyster harvesting operations and visits to the Reedville Marine Railway and the Fisherman's Museum.

March 10: Baltimore, Md., to tour historic vessels, visit the Knoll Lighthouse, Douglas Myers Maritime Museum and Fell's Point historic district.

March 12: Cambridge, Md., to tour the Dorchester County Historical Society.

The Virginia is scheduled to return to Norfolk on Thursday, March 13.

"They seem like a wonderful group. Very interesting and exuberant," remarked captain Nicholas Alley prior to the Virginia getting underway. Alley went on to explain how a trip like this will be educational for the students on many levels.

"We will share with them this vessel and the lifestyle we have chosen. They will learn seamanship and have the opportunity to develop shipmate skills, like communication and teamwork - core elements to success in any field," Alley said.

To track the location of the schooner and read the crew's blog, visit www.schoonervirginia.org or call Denise Muncher, operations manager of the Virginia Maritime Heritage Foundation, at 757-627-7400 for more information.

This highlight was posted on: March 7, 2008

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