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Back to school as schooner sails into the sunset

Tuesday July 04, 2017 Written by Published in Local

School was out in Rarotonga for three-days for the 24 students aboard the stunning two-masted staystail schooner SV Argo before they departed for Tonga on Saturday.


The  34-metre sailing yacht is on an 80-day schooling voyage – called a Seamester – crossing the South Pacific from Tahiti via the Cook Islands, Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu and ultimately Cairns, Australia.

The schooner is a floating lecture theatre attached to the University of South Florida where university students from all over the United States come on board to learn all aspects of navigation and seamanship.

The man behind the Seamester concept was on board Argo in Rarotonga last week.

Jim Stoll began offering educational programmes for youth as a young man himself. Initially oriented around the water, he applied his sailing skills while teaching and working with teenagers.

In 1970, Jim expanded the concept, taking his school to the water full-time. Jim sailed the Atlantic waters aboard 47-5 metre Te Vega and 53-metre Te Quest, enrolling 86 teenagers every year in a high school programme of study and travel.

Twelve years later, with children of his own, Jim moved back ashore to develop motivational programmes for young adults. In the mid-eighties he once again headed to the water.

In 1995, Jim was joined by Mike Meighan and Travis Yates. As a recent oceanography and marine biology graduate, Meighan dreamed of creating a truly interactive educational experience. Using the principles of experiential education, he developed Seamester in 1998 and acquired the 88-foot school ship, SY Ocean Star, in 1999.

With the steady growth of Seamester came the need for an additional vessel. Summer 2006 saw the completion of SY Argo, Seamester’s 112-foot school ship.

Since her launch, she has circumnavigated the globe nearly four times, offering hundreds of Seamester students the chance to cross oceans while furthering their educational and personal goals.

 Argo was designed and built to circumnavigate the world. This means that every 80 to 90-day trip she embarks upon, a fresh batch of students face the challenge of spending many days or weeks at sea while crossing one of the world’s oceans.

For the students its an amazing time in their lives when they get to spend a semester at sea exploring the world from the deck of a sailing vessel.

Calling into exotic locations – like Rarotonga – the get to study abroad, earning college credits in marine sciences and seamanship while crossing oceans and experiencing a variety of cultures, all while learning to sail a magnificent yacht and even gain scuba diving certifications.

After ending this Seamester in Australia, a new crew of students will embark on a further 90-day voyage across the Indian Ocean to South Africa in September.

New Seamesters to follow will take the SY Argo around the globe on a continuous circumnavigation.

The vessel has seven crew who double as instructors.

A 90-day Seamester comes with a cost per student of around US$25,000.

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