The early days of exploration and commerce on the Salish Sea were powered by sail. These days, one of the few tall ships you’ll see on these waters is the schooner Adventuress. Nearly a century old and more than a hundred feet long, the tallest of her two masts towers eleven stories above the water. For nearly 20 years, Adventuress has been operated by Sound Experience, a non-profit that leads environmental education programs from the classic wooden boat.
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In this week’s “Reflections on the Water,” KPLU environment reporter Liam Moriarty goes aboard Adventuress to speak with her captain, Daniel Evans, about his years on the Salish Sea.
Liam Moriarty: Are there ways in which a vessel like this enhances the environmental education; getting people in touch with the elements and in touch with each other?
Daniel Evans: Boats have a feel to them. You can have steel boats. You can have fiberglass boats. You can have wood boats. There’s an organic feel, there’s a harmonious feel to sailing on a wooden boat. That organic feeling to me, and that feeling of something that is wood, that has been living, that has come naturally to this place is, I think ,a really important aspect in creating that environment for coming to understand those things.
You know, some of this wood is from 1913. Some of this wood was harvested out of these forests. When those students talk about it, we can talk about the history of it, and it sets that setting of learning that we’re trying to encourage.
Liam: By putting folks on an organic vessel like this, and having them out on the water, up close and personal with the elements; what does that do for people?
Daniel: A lot of, say, our younger students, they come from the land of X-Box 360. They come from a lot of concrete. They come from building-to-building, car-to-car. They’re all of the sudden getting on something that most people think is a pirate boat.
Daniel: Aarrrgh; exactly. They ask me where the cannons are, and I say well, no; we don’t have cannons. It’s not that kind of boat. They’re getting on a boat that doesn’t have showers, that doesn’t serve meat, that takes them out in the weather.
It becomes like going into a different solar system for people. Once they understand that they are far stronger and more capable than they ever imagined when they were sitting on the couch, they are willing to start to reach out and learn. I think that’s the moment when you see them kind of turn outward from themselves, and to begin to look around them.
Liam: What are some of the qualities of sailing in an inland sea like this that are different from sailing in other places around the country and around the world?
Daniel: Puget Sound is so unique because it’s such a dynamic environment. There is a complexity here that I don’t find in other places. It’s not just about the currents, though they are very complex here; some of the most complex in the world. But it’s that there is such an overlay of the natural history and the human history. There’s such an overlay of what’s happened geologically here; the Ice Ages; the way they’ve carved things out. It’s created a unique environment in that way, so that we can go from one place to another and have an entirely different place to live in because of that history.
Liam: So how did you come to skipper Adventuress?
Daniel: When I first started, I was actually rock climbing at the time, and someone mentioned that there was an Outward Bound base camp that was opening up in Anacortes, and that they were going to pay me to go sailing with a bunch of people. I thought well, that’s crazy. Who’s going to pay me to go – I’ll be happy to do it. I’m gone. These were also replicas of (Captain George) Vancouver’s ships launches; you know, open boats, rowing, sailing boats, no engines, and we would live on them for 12 days. It was there I discovered how tangible I can find my own joy, my own spirit, in the area around me.
It was only from there that, through encouragement from others, that I began working on larger vessels, that I finally got my license to go onto these larger schooners. I ended up working in the Caribbean. I ended up working a lot on the east coast, up in the Great Lakes, and found my way on schooners there, but have known for a very long time that that was only a means to get me back here in a place that I really wanted to be.
And I think, like a lot of people finding their way, I had to go far to come home.
Liam: What’s your favorite thing about being skipper of the Adventuress?
Daniel: (laughs) What’s my favorite thing about being skipper of Adventuress? That’s a difficult question …
This is a big one. I went to school at Evergreen, and I studied Environmental Studies and Literature. It was a time when I bought my own boat. I was living out in a marina, Fiddlehead Marina, in downtown Olympia. It was a foggy day. I was rowing to school; light rain and fog. And I row up – you know when you row and you’re facing the opposite direction you’re going, and as I’m rowing up, this vessel comes looming up on my side, and it’s all wood. I look over and I think what is this boat? I come pulling up, and it’s Adventuress.
I didn’t know anything about Adventuress at the time. I looked at that boat and I thought, ‘I want to be on that boat. Someday I’m going to be on that boat.’ I was 19 at the time; what, 21 years later, I got to be on that boat. It was a huge triumph in my life to be able to have a goal that I set, and be able to meet it.
Liam: Well, Daniel; thanks for having me aboard Adventuress.
Daniel: It is absolutely my pleasure; thanks for coming.