Maritime Academy makes a splash

Students embarked on a day-long field trip on South Lake Union, learning about the inner workings of the Virginia V ship


Tansy Velush

John Foster’s maritime class goes on a field trip on South Lake Union to learn about the Virginia V ship.

Marley Helfer, Copy Editor

The school’s Maritime Academy boarded the Virginia V ship on South Lake Union on May 23 to learn about maritime career pathways and the inner workings of ships and maritime adventures. 

After a four year break in the program tradition due to COVID-19, maritime teacher John Foster sought to reintroduce the field trip to the program. Leaving the school at 9 a.m., the class spent the day learning from staff and volunteers about paths in maritime, as well the activities of a ship like the Virginia V. 

“The big thing for me is that we get a chance to do these things that we’ve done in class [on the] water,” Foster said. “I can teach navigation in the room. I can teach it in the parking lot. But until you’re on the water … it helps the knowledge to stick.” 

The maritime program was revived with an NOAA grant when Foster arrived at BHS 23 years ago. The program initially had two maritime classes: a survey class and a skills class. After evolving over the years with several teachers including history teacher Greg Feise, the program would ultimately combine into one class. 

“So I tried to put as much sort of career … stuff in my curriculum, but we sort of combined that now with skills,” Foster said. 

In the past, the Maritime Academy took other field trips during the school year and over the summer, including their three day trip on the Schooner Zodiac in Bellingham. However, it took years for Foster to figure out that opportunities like the Virginia V existed for students at BHS. 

“We’d done a couple of cruises on there, and it was fun, but we were like, ‘we gotta do more with this and use it as a floating classroom,’” he said. 

Taking advantage of this floating classroom, students were split into five groups for rotations throughout the day, including steering the ship, learning navigation skills and touring the engine room. 

In the engine room rotation, Chief engineer Connie Buhl emphasized how experienced and skilled all members of the ship have to be; every engineer and crew member works cooperatively to keep every piece of the ship working.

“Between a few people, we have to do a lot,” Buhl said. “Everything is a system, and as soon as one piece fails, it can be dramatic.”