Category: Programs

Maritime Talks w/Captain Laurel Seaborn

How sailing changes lives

I met Captain Laurel Seaborn, founder of SEAMHAP earlier this week when she was speaking at an engagement hosted at the Moffat-Ladd House and Garden in Portsmouth, NH. Captain Laurel attended East Caroline University and Mastered in Maritime History and Marine Archeology and received her PhD in Maritime History from the University of New Hampshire. Captain Laurel gave a presentation about her life on the sea, starting as a child living aboard her family’s sailboat, her life aboard tall ships, and the general benefits of attending and teaching sailing programs to all groups of people.

Laurel has crewed on several tall sailing ships of various types; Brigs, Barqantines, and Schooners. She describes the coordinated tasks aboard that need to be completed and be in a perfect state of readiness in order for things to happen smoothly just when you need them to, such as the proper way to coil lines so they pay out smoothly, or how to belay lines to a pin rail so you know exactly which line you are grabbing when it’s too dark or foggy to see where the other end leads. Helming (steering) the ship is her favorite part, it feels the most empowering because it is the one thing that you do that has immediate affect on the whole ship and what the crew needs to do. I agree, it’s a real thrill to be steering a sailing ship that is moving along at a good clip and in perfect balance with the wind and the sea. You can feel the boat become an extension of yourself.

Laurel also shared how learning to crew a ship is beneficial to a person’s personal growth. According to Laurel, crewing on a ship and learning all the tasks to make it go builds a person in three major areas:

Building Self Confidence – When you first approach sailing, you have no idea what you need to do or even how much needs to be done and done right to make a sailing ship go. First you learn smaller individual tasks like tying knots, and how to properly coil a rope, and then build upon those to develop more complex sets of skills that are used in conjunction with one another to complete varying complex jobs that need to be done. When you have learned how to do all these individual tasks, and combine and use them to accomplish more complex goals such as rigging and hoisting the sails, or charting how to get from here to there, you feel accomplished at getting something really significant done. Using those combining smaller skills to accomplish even greater and more complex goals, such as actually getting the ship underway and reaching your destination is a huge confidence builder and builds that sense that your contribution has real meaning.


Team Work – Team work really starts right at the beginning, because no one new knows what to do. So you are shown how to perform tasks and you shadow and you are asked to help. Not to mention some tasks require a coordinated effort between more than 2 or 3 people. Tasks such as hauling a spar. Not only will it take a few people to haul it up, it takes a few other people to coax the spar into place as it’s being lifted. Lauren said, the first time crew learns how to do this, it can take several hours to get it into place. Thank goodness, you can tie off lines when you need a break. It’s all part of being aboard a small ship and even a small boat. You quickly develop friendships when you work together and get a task that is both monumental as well as complex like that completed. You all feel you deserve a good pat on the back and kick-back for a few minutes together with a soda. You feel you are ready to take on what comes next, and it instills a real sense of community and belonging.

Sense of Belonging – From the moment you leave port for the first time, you begin to realize that you are part of this boat and part of this crew. It quickly become’s “your home” for the time you are aboard, and the people become your friends and family. Indeed lifetime friendships are developed while learning to be crew mates and accomplishing great things together. It’s an amazing experience from which everyone benefits. There is nothing like become friends as part of a team that explores the coast and experiences sites and activities that others just dream about.


I am very glad I met Laurel, and I hope we run into one another again. Maybe our programs might end up collaborating with one another. Who knows. We wish her the best.


Five Reasons Your Kids Should Sail


1. Self-Confidence. There is simply nothing like being able to pilot your own craft at the age of 9 years old. Riding a bike is one thing. Skillfully steering and docking a sailboat is quite another. All of my athletic endeavors helped to shape my sense of self as a kid, but sailing was without a doubt the most instrumental. I have not only noticed this in myself; during my ten years as a sailing instructor, I have seen it again and again in my students.

2. Spatial awareness. When kids learn how to navigate a boat through narrow spaces and tight turns – how to avoid collisions, coast to a dock with finesse, or squeeze into a packed starting line at a regatta – they develop a spatial awareness that will bring them prowess all activities that involve coordination. Like driving, for instance.

3. Sense of direction. When I was 10 years old, I would sail all week with my class, and then go out on weekends by myself. I would pack a lunch and take my Optimist out for a couple of hours to explore. I believe that it was on those trips that I began to develop a good sense of direction. Noticing which direction I had come from, picking out landmarks, and knowing how to get back became a regular part of my stream of consciousness. That awareness is crucial to having a sense of direction.

4. Weather knowledge. Do you know from which direction thunder storms normally come? Do you know what the water temperature normally is on Long Island Sound in May? If your child is a sailor, he or she will know. Weather knowledge will come in handy both on-the-water and on land.

5. Shipshape habits. Sailing students learn how to properly rig and unrig a boat. Kids learn to put things away in the right place, and keep them tidy while on the water. That’s a skill no mom or dad can argue with. Longshore Sailing School even has a shipshape award for every class to encourage the behavior.

So if your kids haven’t tried sailing, have them give it a try. Teaching a kid to sail is to give them a gift for life. They might not stick with it, but after they age out of all the other youth sports, the sailing skills are still there. I’ve seen many people return to sailing after an extended absence.

New Board Member – Sri Dhyana

American Seafarers

Sri Dhyana, Board of Directors, Director of Science Programs
American Seafarers

I wanted to take a few minutes to introduce and to welcome Sri Dhyana to our board of directors and to our leadership team. Sri comes with an impressive and diverse background that includes Sailing, the Sciences, and Mechanics. I met Sri as a dockmate in Kittery Maine. We are both part-time live-aboard sailors, and we both work at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. Over the last several months, we have become friends and as usual conversation goes talked about our pasts and where we want to be in the future. After a while it became clear that Sri would become an excellent member of our team. In fact on the day I intended to share my interest in her joining American Seafarers, she beat me to it. She wanted to talk to me about just that. While reviewing her CV, I became very excited about the diversity of her professional background, her education and history of community service and outreach that aligns so well with our mission.

Sri graduated from the University of Southern Maine with a B.A. in Physics, with honors and as a member of several fellowships, including fellowships with NASA and the National Science Foundation. She served for 9 years in the U.S. Army National Guard for the State of Maine. While serving in the guard, Sri was deployed for Operation Iraqi Freedom and when her unit came home she returned decorated for her conduct and service.

Sri has spent time with several organizations and labs researching Astrobiology, Environmental Toxicology, Genetic Damage, as well as other highly specialized fields of study and practice working with or for NASA, USM, The Scripps Research Institute, and Wise Lab of Environmental and Genetic Toxicology. Additionally she has worked as an education facilitator with Mad Science of Maine, an organization that specializes in providing experiential learning techniques to elementary school children.

Sri’s outreach and community service is also pretty extensive. While she was the President of the USM Physics Club, she designed physical demonstrations for high school science classrooms learning programs, ferrying students and staff to Cow Island to participate in the Ripple Effect Project. Concurrently as the Vice President of the USM Chemistry Club, she volunteered to perform chemistry demonstrations to middle school students. And again, as the Vice President of the USM Biology Club, she organized events and fundraisers to send students on educational field trips that she helped develop and plan. She was also a crew member at Star Pal, helping underprivileged children get involved in sailing and sailboat racing in greater Portland, ME

Sri is also a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Chemical Society, Society of Physics Students, The American Association of Physicists in Medicine, Association for Women in Science and past member of the USM Sailing Team. She has been and currently is working towards receiving her U.S.C.G. Captain’s license Master of Vessels.

As you can see, Sri Dhyana is going to make an excellent team member, and I am excited to introduce her to you as a member of our Board of Directors and Director of Science Programs. We look forward to Sri working independently and in conjunction with our educational partners developing some amazing ocean science programs for our kids and we look forward to sailing with her as a Captain of American Seafarers.