All-female crew and youth volunteers restore expedition vessels

by Gayle Wilson

  • <p>CONTRIBUTED PHOTO</p><p>(Left to right) Annie Featherstone, Lilian Hougan Veenema and Ellie O&#8217;Driscoll geared up for scraping and sanding.</p>
  • <p>CONTRIBUTED PHOTO</p><p>Youth volunteers Lilian Hougan Veenema (left) and Sophie Kent Purcell are shown here stripping paint.</p>
  • <p>CONTRIBUTED PHOTO</p><p>Youth Volunteers listening hear instruction from Sea School staff lead Erin Philp. Left to right are Alyssa Campbell, Rachel Hubbard, Caelin Ansems, Ella Arruda Kyriakidis, Sophie Kent Purcell Lilian Hougan Veenema, Erin Philp, Annie Featherstone (staff), Gabe Bruce(hidden), Julian Kelly</p>

While COVID-19 health restrictions meant the Lunenburg-based Nova Scotia Sea School was unable to float its regular programming this year, it didn't stop an all-female work crew and youth volunteers from getting down to brass tacks and restoring the school's traditional wooden expedition sailboats, Dorothea and Elizabeth Hall.

Led by the school's programs coordinator and shipwright Erin Philp, Operation Shipshape 2020 was aimed at putting the vessels in tip top shape for next year, which will be the school's 27th season.

The operation gave youth and volunteers "hands-on learning" toward traditional boat building practices while focusing on "prioritizing diversity and inclusion at all levels of participation and employment," according to a media release issued by the school recently.

"We are thrilled to host an all-female repair crew-connecting candidates to future career opportunities and truly supporting the long term goals and succession of the Sea School organization," indicated the release.

"The Sea School has always demanded space for female voices and leadership within its ranks from

the beginning," it states.

The school noted that Dorothea, which was built in 1994, and Elizabeth Hall, constructed in 2000, are both named after "extraordinary female mariners" - Elizabeth "Bessie" Hall and Dorothea Dix.

The female crew members were mentored by Philp, an experienced sailor, Red Seal Joiner, and a Shipwright.

She was joined by Kate Richardson, the school's bosun who is a heritage restoration specialist; and Annie Featherstone, a seasonal support staff member who is a sailor, ship's purser, and film worker.

Erin Robison, who is charge of the school's communications and administration, brings to the table experience as a marine canvas worker and occasional boat and sign painter.

"I am very excited to be a part of this project, not only because we are ensuring the longevity of these wonderful vessels, but that we are also creating a space for those who might not have previously seen themselves in this industry. We hope to increase the diversity of our leaders in years to come because everyone should feel welcomed and included in this field," Philp said in the release.

The Nova Scotia Sea School is a charitable organization founded in 1994 by Crane Stookey. It began with the building of the 30-foot wooden sailboat, Dorothea, which engaged 15 teens in traditional boat building and sailing experiences.

The sea school also has constructed more than 15 smaller boats in youth boat building programs. Dorothea and her sister ship, Elizabeth Hall, have hosted more than 5000 vulnerable and marginalized youth participants in expeditionary programs exploring the Nova Scotia coast line.

In recent years, the programming, which is subsidized through donations, has expanded to include multi-day wilderness camps, sea kayaking expeditions, and winter camping.

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