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Ormond Beach Observer Monday, Jun. 14, 2021 5 months ago

'Seas' the day: Seabreeze student returns from 2,500-nautical-mile expedition

Hunter Moody, of Ormond Beach, spent a semester onboard the Harvey Gamage for the Sailing Ships of Main Spring Semester at Sea program.
by: Jarleene Almenas Associate Editor

If you could spend a semester of school at sea, would you?

For one Seabreeze High School rising sophomore, the answer was easy. Of course she would. 

Hunter Moody, of Ormond Beach, knew nothing about sailing when she signed up to spend almost three months aboard topsail schooner Harvey Gamage for the Sailing Ships Maine Spring Semester at Sea program earlier this year. The academic program by the nonprofit offers math and nautical science, environmental history, maritime literature and other courses for its high school trainees. Under the direction of Capt. David Goldman and Capt. Pamela Coughlin, the 10 trainees completed a 2,500-nautical-mile sailing expedition that took them around the eastern coast of the U.S.

“I’m the type of person if there’s an opportunity or anything like that, then I would just do it," Hunter said. "I’m very adventurous. I just never really thought there was a program like that, but once I heard about it, I was like, ‘I really want to do that.’”

She learned about the program from her aunt, who lived on sailboat for three years. On March 12, Hunter and her fellow trainees stepped aboard the Harvey Gamage. Though they had met on Zoom prior to this, they were virtually still strangers to one another. They wouldn't be once the semester came to a close.

“It took months of work — planning all of the quarantining, testing, and monitoring- to make educational voyages like this happen over the past year," said Coughlin in a press release. "Every member of the crew—including the trainees —has had an opportunity to feel the joy of coming together as a cohort or pod that allows them to work together on a tall ship in the same way that people have for centuries. We took an extremely cautious approach and it worked.”

Life at sea

On an average day at sea, the trainees all had different watches to perform. During their watch, they would log the weather and engineering details about the ship. When docked, they would often visit museums, parks and observe nature in its untouched state, something Hunter said is a rare sight to see.

From wild horses on Cumberland Island in Georgia to seeing the mountains appear on the coastline, Hunter said the sights rendered her speechless. It was beautiful, she said. 

The Harvey Gamage is a 131-foot two-masted gaff-rigged topsail schooner. Courtesy photo

One day, she remembers they visited a swimming hole in Maine, and the water was a chilling 40 degrees. They had the opportunity to swim in it. 

“That’s one of the things that I’m so glad I did, but it was very cold," Hunter said.

She also celebrated her 15th birthday aboard the Harvey Gamage. The cook baked her a cake, and the other trainees made paper decorations and planned a party for her, all the while trying to keep it secret aboard the 131-foot schooner. It was a calm day at sea, Hunter recalled, and they played music on the deck and danced. Hers was one of three birthdays celebrated during the expedition.

Though she was missed at home, her father Brad Moody said he knew that Hunter was enrolled in a good program.

“The hands-on experience of learning— all the courses were related around the ship— is something that is much better than sitting in a classroom," he said.

'Best time in my life'

The Harvey Gamage returned to Portland Harbor in Maine on June 2, and Hunter returned home. 

Hunter Moody celebrated her 15th birthday above the Harvey Gamage. Courtesy photo

While she can't say she would live in a sailboat for years like her aunt, she said she will miss life at sea. Thankfully, the program has kept a blog of all the dispatches written by trainees during the semester, detailing events like the "Schooner Olympics" and seeing the Statue of Liberty at sunrise. 

One day, Hunter said she wants to work in a field that involves a lot of travel. A world photographer, perhaps. 

For now, there are a few things Hunter said she will take away from this experience: the bonds made with the other trainees, the sights they saw together and the hard work they all put in.

“As one of the captains said, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, but it was also the best time in my life," she said. "It was one of the things he said a lot.”

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