Helen Rozwadowski, left, associate professor of history and maritime studies at the Avery Point campus, explains to students on board the Mystic Whaler what the class will cover. (Nathaniel Trumbull/UConn Photo)
A coasting schooner named Mystic Whaler was the classroom for students taking Professor Helen Rozwadowski’s Introduction to Maritime Studies course recently.
The cruise on a tall ship is a highlight of this particular class, but Maritime Studies, an interdisciplinary, liberal arts major offered at the Avery Point campus, makes extensive use of other local resources as well, to maximize the opportunities for experiential learning. The field trips complement and enhance class readings in literature, history, geography, economics, maritime law, and other areas.
“One of the reasons I take my students on the Whaler, and also on sailing vessels at Avery Point and historical vessels at Mystic Seaport, is for them to learn how to raise and operate different kinds of sails, from modern ones to traditional square sails, so that as they read literature and maritime history, they understand,” says Rozwadowski. “They learn how to follow commands, how to coil lines, and how the hierarchy of a ship functions.”
Graduates of the program, the only one of its kind in the nation, are pursuing graduate studies in the fields of history, economics, and maritime archeology; teaching in K-12 schools; employed by environmental nonprofits; working as technicians on fisheries research vessels; and a few are even tall ship sailors.
From left, maritime studies majors Dana Lewis ’15 (CLAS), Peter Wojtowicz ’17 (CLAS), and non-degree student Andrew Perkins, board the Mystic Whaler before class. (Nathaniel Trumbull/UConn Photo)
Students in a Maritime Studies class take in their surroundings at the start of their cruise aboard the traditionally rigged vessel Mystic Whaler. (Nathaniel Trumbull/UConn Photo)
Capt. John Eginton explains to students, including maritime studies major Caitlin Ferguson ’16 (CLAS), that schooners were like the tractor-trailers of their day, moving goods up and down the nation’s coasts before good roads were built and land transportation developed. (Nathaniel Trumbull/UConn Photo)
The Mystic Whaler’s first mate (wearing a tye-die shirt) gives students instructions on how to haul up the halyard, which raises the mainsail, an activity that requires many people. She also noted that sailors always call back their instructions to be sure they heard correctly. (Nathaniel Trumbull/UConn Photo)
A crew member points to features on a nautical chart of Fishers Island Sound, which includes Avery Point. Nautical charts are specialized tools used for navigation that represent lighthouses, for example, by exclamation points and list their distinguishing features. (Nathaniel Trumbull/UConn Photo)
A view of Branford House at the Avery Point campus, taken from the Mystic Whaler. Avery Point is ideally situated for classes that take advantage of coastal and ocean resources, and UConn students from any campus may take the maritime studies courses offered there. (Nathaniel Trumbull/UConn Photo)
A crew member demonstrates how to ‘sweat the line.’ Sweating and tailing are actions used to accomplish the last, hardest part of the job of hauling on a line. The line shown is a topping lift, which lifts the boom into position so the mainsail can be raised. (Nathaniel Trumbull/UConn Photo)
Maritime studies major Bonnie Altemus ’14 (CLAS) tries her hand at the same task, with encouragement from the crew member. (Nathaniel Trumbull/UConn Photo)
A crew member, right, discusses with students how to operate a schooner, explaining the tasks that need to be done and how newcomers learn from those who are more experienced. (Nathaniel Trumbull/UConn Photo)
Helen Rozwadowski, associate professor of history and maritime studies (wearing a gray shirt), wraps up the class by reviewing the reading for the day and discussing how it relates to the day’s work aboard the Whaler. (Nathaniel Trumbull/UConn Photo)