Each semester, Williams-Mystic students and faculty take a 10-day voyage aboard a traditionally rigged tall ship. The Offshore Field Seminar complements the Williams-Mystic curriculum by exposing students to a broad scope of experiences at sea. You’ll live out of sight of land for an extended period of time and experience a more “salty” way of life.
For those who have not sailed before, there is the excitement and challenge of life at sea. For students who have sailing experience on smaller vessels, there is the exhilaration of being on the water again, this time on a large tall ship. For all students, there is the first time experience of learning about the ocean in depth: its science, history, policy and literature. The tall ships we charter are sail-training vessels designed for teaching and are registered with the United States Coast Guard as Sailing School Vessels (SSV).
Offshore, you’ll become a member of the crew and will be assigned to take the helm, set and strike the sails, and stand lookout on the bow. While at sea, the ship functions around the clock: three watches rotate, which allows students to experience life at sea during various points of the day and night. Each watch remains a cohesive unit, led by a mate who teaches you to steer, navigate, handle sails and operate the ship.
Daily academic classes are presented by the Williams-Mystic science and humanities faculty, while seamanship is led by the captain and professional crew. The Williams-Mystic interdisciplinary approach allows you to view your offshore experience and the waters in which we sail from a variety of perspectives: you’ll join the intimate ranks of the seafarers you study in Maritime History while feeling the sensations that inspired the authors whose works you read in Literature of the Sea. You’ll tow nets to collect biological data in near-shore and offshore waters and use advanced scientific instruments to collect chemical and physical data of the surrounding seawater. These experiences provide a new vantage point for you as you consider maritime law and policy governing trade, commercial fishing, and other exploitations of the worlds’ waterways.
Fall: Gulf of Maine
The fall semester voyage traditionally departs from coastal New England in early September. Destinations include the productive waters of one of the world’s most famous fishing grounds: Georges Bank, a “warm core ring” of near-tropical waters spun off from the Gulf Stream and the stunning rugged coastline of New England.
Spring: Straits of Florida
The spring semester voyage traditionally takes place in February in the warm waters of the Florida Straits. Here we explore the origins of the Gulf Stream, sample the Gulf of Mexico and make landfall on the famous Dry Tortugas, home to 19th-century Fort Jefferson, marine habitats such as coral reefs, and one of the country’s most important bird sanctuaries.