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    If you want the world on a string,
    start with a ship’s lines.

    For ten days each semester, Williams-Mystic students, staff, and faculty sail aboard a traditionally rigged tall ship. The Offshore Field Seminar enhances our curriculum on land by exposing students to the experience of living and learning at sea. You’ll live out of sight of land for days at a time, discovering a new way of learning and a new way of life.

    If you haven’t sailed before, the Offshore Field Seminar offers the excitement and challenge of life at sea. Even if you have experience on smaller vessels, you can look forward to being on the water again. No matter your background, sailing offshore allows you to learn about the science, history, literature, and policy of the ocean firsthand. 

    Students, staff, and faculty alike work join professional crew members to sail the tall ships we charter, which are designed for teaching and registered with the United States Coast Guard as Sailing School Vessels (SSV). 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, allowing students to experience life at sea at all times of 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.

    Williams-Mystic faculty lead academic classes daily, while the captain and professional crew instruct students in seamanship. Our interdisciplinary approach ensures that you’ll view your offshore experience from a range of perspectives: you’ll join the ranks of the seafarers you study in Maritime History while feeling the sensations that inspired the authors you read in Literature of the Sea. You’ll tow nets to collect biological data in near- and offshore waters and use advanced scientific instruments to collect chemical and physical data of the surrounding seawater. As a result, you’ll walk away with a new point of view on maritime law and policies governing trade, commercial fishing, and other exploitations of the worlds’ waterways.


    The fall semester voyage traditionally departs from a number of different coastal communities. In recent years, destinations have included Georges Bank, the Gulf of Maine, Lake Erie, and coastal New England.


    The spring semester voyage traditionally takes place in February in the warm waters of the Caribbean. Here we may explore the origins of the Gulf Stream, sample the Gulf of Mexico and make landfall on a small island fringed by coral reefs.