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  • Maddie

Harbor Freight Marine Fellow, Maddie, Goes to Sea Aboard Schooner Harvey Gamage

Maddie, an apprentice from the Oliver Hazard Perry program in Rhode Island, is sailing and learning marine engineering skills for her final high school semester. This opportunity came curtesy of Sailing Ships Maine of Portland, a Harbor Freight Fellows Initiative partner. Having been raising funds for her own semester at sea she is transitioning to raising money for the next crew of women on the water.

Follow her journey on this blog as she blazes a path for access to the marine trades for women! Take a look at her story and support her as she supports other future Harbor Freight Fellows at sea in the marine trades.




My name is Janessa, and my little sister is Maddie, a high school senior and an aspiring sailor from Providence, RI. She’s a Harbor Freight Fellow, part of Big Picture Learning’s trades initiative, and she interns at Oliver Hazard Perry RI, a grassroots nonprofit for maritime education, on their tall ship by the same name in Newport.

Maddie detailed her favorite part of working on the ship. She said:

“The first time on deck was amazing—I found beauty in the masts and the rigging, the wooden cap rails, the smooth, varnished helm. And then, below deck, I fell in love with the engine room, a metal jungle of pipes and valves. It’s where the fun stuff happens. For my birthday, I got to take apart and clean a macerator pump! It smelled awful. It was great! My time on the Perry led to a greater interest in the maritime world, specifically in engineering.”

Shortly after discovering her passion, Maddie was extended an invitation to join a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity aboard Sailing Ships Maine’s tall ship Harvey Gamage for their 2021 Spring Semester at Sea. She was initially ecstatic at the idea of living her dream and experiencing the maritime world hands-on at such a young age. However, the excitement was short-lived once we saw the cost of tuition. We come from a working-class, single-parent household in the inner city. Given our current financial situation, it would be impossible to pay the entire amount.

With the help of amazing family, teachers, friends, and professional mentors, Maddie was able to board the Gamage while we raise funds for her on land so she didn't have to miss out on this opportunity! It takes a crew to raise a sailor, and a community to raise tuition. Coming from a blue-collar family with diverse roots, Maddie doesn’t fit the stereotypical profile of a sailing student. By donating, you would not only be funding her experience onboard but would also enable her to share the opportunities of the sailing world with other students from backgrounds similar to hers. Through an at-sea blog series, photos, and videos, Maddie’s goal is to promote diversity and inclusion in the maritime industry to a new generation.

Please consider becoming part of Maddie’s story by donating and sharing to social media to help her take full advantage of this opportunity!

All funds raised go directly to Sailing Ships Maine to cover her expenses for Maddie and future women on the water. Updates will be posted here and through family’s social media due to limited internet access aboard the ship.

We cannot tell you enough how much we appreciate everyone’s assistance in making her dreams a reality.


APRIL 5, 2021

UPDATE 1: Maddie's First At-Sea Blog Post:

What's in Your Seabag? Sailing on a Budget

First of all, I'd like to thank everyone who's already donated so far. Your support means everything to me. The open ocean is a daydream: endless blue skies, gleams of sunlight on the waves, dolphins and birds and fish of all kinds to keep you company. Thanks to you, my life gets to be like this for the next two months.

But let's get to the point. The packing list I received for this spring semester was extensive. To kit yourself out, in addition to paying tuition and travel expenses, would cost more money than a lot of us have to spare. But I didi it all in two weeks and I'm going to share how. There are three categories for item acquisition: things you have, things you borrow, and lastly, things you buy.

At first, the list looked overwhelming. Quick-dry pants? Wool socks? Synthetic underwear? I thought I had to start from ground zero. However, when I went through it with my mom and my sister, we realized we had a lot more than I thought. I had old t-shirts that would make good pajamas. As we went down the list, we were able to cross several items off; I had batteries, gloves, and a scarf. If you find yourself looking to sail, take the time to see what you already own. What could be brought along and re-purposed?

Next: the things I got from others. I'm lucky enough to have a wonderful network of family and friends who were all enthusiastic to help. I have an uncle in the army; he helped to knock off more of the technical items. He gave me mechanical pencils, a watch, a multitool, and a large duffel bag to hold everything. I'd also like to thank Oliver Hazard Perry for that- they kitted me out with a nice set of foulies (a jacket and bib you wear in bad weather). The engineer gave me a set of ear protection and a headlamp! Side note: bring a red light headlamp. I use mine on every watch. Lastly, my wonderful sister helped me out with rain boots, hygiene items, and packing cubes. So far, I've gathered most of my lists without coming out of pocket.

And that is where this last part comes in. Mostly everything I bought was thrifted or bought on sale. I got a couple more t-shirts, two short sleeve and three long sleeve quick dry shirts, and two pairs of quick dry pants. There's no laundry on the ship- some materials that get wet stay wet. Quick dry, synthetic, sun shirt materials have the best chance of being ready to go after a day drying in the sun. (Shoutout to my family for being my eyes and hands while I was in quarantine!) The things I've thrifted are most of what I've been wearing so far. Every item was between $2-4 each, rather than the $30ish each for brand new. It helped that the area I thrifted from was wealthy, where sailing is a popular sport.

This ties into my favorite thrifting tip: strategize! Go where you know people donate what you need. Is there anywhere near you where outdoor sports are popular? Any areas where higher quality clothes are likely to be donated? The key to thrifting is patience. Sort through every rack, visit every store, and you'll find your gems. Though thrifting is a cost effective way to obtain what you need, some things are worth buying brand new. For example, I shelled out for some comfortable Teva sandals. I wear them all the time: on deck, on hikes, and in the head. Footwear are important- they have to be comfortable, because you're always in them. The last thing you want is to be stuck with pinchy, too-worn, or otherwise impractical shoes.

I've been, as they say, ballin' on a budget. I'm now ten days into my trip at the time of writing this, and I've got everything I need! Although, some better cold weather pants would be nice. Although what I have it lightly used, it works. And that's what's important.

Stay tuned for further updates! I'll be writing a new blog once a week, but due to the unpredictability of our itinerary, I have no idea when I'll have access to the internet. So, stand by, and I'll write to you soon!


APRIL 12, 2021

At-Sea Blog #2

It's All Fun and Games Until You Have to Use the Head: The Reality of Tall Ship Sailing

In my last post, I described sailing as akin to a daydream. In this post, I’m going to talk about the less glamorous aspects of life at sea. But first, an update: I’m writing from Charleston, South Carolina. We sailed up from Saint Augustine, Florida, using the Gulf Streak to help push us along. And it was magical.

The water is as blue as lapis lazuli, clear as glass. We were around 80 nautical miles offshore one night when I had watch. Every star was visible; there were tens of thousands of glittering lights. I could even see the Milky Way! My amazing watch leader Rachel Young let us spend our watch exploring the night, finding constellations with a book and a laser pointer, stargazing, and appreciating the undiminished beauty of the offshore sky.

So, back to the nasty: Let’s talk about the heads. For those of you who aren’t nautical folks, “head” is the sailor’s vernacular for bathroom. Here’s how it works: you do your business, then you close the lid. You put your finger over an open hole on the wall, then pump a lever with your other hand. Toilet paper messes with the system, so that has to get thrown in the trash.

Recently, the foreword compartment (where trainees and deckhands sleep) had a smell issue. Every time someone used the head, the space was flooded with the less-than-floral scent of their “deposit”. I helped the engineer flood our blackwater tank (where all the waste goes), and we found a leak! It was a big one- the entire top of the plastic tank had come un-caulked, and that’s why it smelled so terrible.

After that was fixed, the smell abated. However, the heads aren’t the only source of odor onboard— sometimes, it’s your fellow shipmates. For the first two weeks, no one was able to shower. When we’re underway, we have no fresh water, so “showering” is either with a bucket or a swim call in the ocean. Salt doesn’t clean you well. In addition, you have to re-wear nearly everything. You change your chonnies daily (hopefully!), but everything else gets worn a few times. Even your socks. We have an open honesty policy on board: if one of your shipmates smells bad, you tell them. It’s happened a couple times— you just can’t smell yourself! When laundry gets done at port, it’s always a good day.

Though life on board is difficult at times, the ups outweigh the downs. This community of wonderful, kind, amazing, (and sometimes smelly!) people is the best I’ve ever known. Together, we help each other through tough times and work together to make good ones.


APRIL 24, 2021

⚓️ UPDATE #3 ⚓️

Hello all!

Again, thanks to everyone! It makes my day to come into port, check this page, and see updates! I appreciate the generosity.

Just a quick update for this week: I’m writing from Cape Charles, VA. We just made the most difficult part of our journey— rounding Cape Hatteras. It went smoothly, thanks to a clear weather window and the professional sail handling of our crew.

We had a bug infestation! The slops bucket got left out overnight, and by the next afternoon we were flooded with all types of bugs: flies, butterflies, beetles, aphids, and more! It was insane. Shout out to Ms. Young for letting us spend the last five minutes of our watch slapping at the bugs with some shammys. That was a workout!

Though there have been some downs, the ups certainly outweigh them. I’m so excited to see what the second half of this journey has to bring!


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