As part of Ashley Hall’s Offshore Leadership Program (OLP) spring voyage, fourteen Ashley Hall students and two faculty members sailed for seven days with the professional crew of the wooden 131-foot schooner Harvey Gamage from Brunswick, Georgia. Traveling up the coast as well as venturing east into the open Atlantic Ocean, they encountered stormy weather, torrential rain, and 20-25 knot sustained winds. Their resilience to pull together as a crew is the perfect example of the transformative power of the OLP journey.

A year-long commitment, the OLP is an elective Ashley Hall signature program led by Upper School faculty member Dr. Roscoe Davis, who introduces students to maritime history, celestial navigation, marine biology, and the leadership skills needed to crew a tall ship. Once on board and under the guidance of a professional crew, students learn the ropes, hoisting and dousing gaff-rigged sails, tacking and gybing, gauging weather conditions and sea state, reading charts, joining to the watch rotation, and more.

For many, the sailing trip—which acts as the program’s capstone—is the highlight of their academic year, but this year’s voyage encountered a number of challenges. Initially scheduled for the fall, the trip was postponed, and students and faculty members were required to quarantine for two weeks to meet safety protocols. Then, once underway, the weather deteriorated rapidly. A rough first night particularly tested the girls’ fortitude.

“I learned to never doubt myself on watch,” said Ailish Ward ’23, after a challenging night watch. “My shipmates showed me how to persevere and encouraged me to keep going.” For many of the girls, drawing on a confidence in their shared ability as well as each other helped pull them through. “I learned that I can rely on my shipmates in my times of weakness,” noted Dorothy Fort ’22.

Dropping anchor at Cumberland Island for a several hours to explore its natural wonders, including sightings of armadillos and wild horses, also helped the girls gain their footing. Days later, when Charleston appeared on the horizon, they knew the value of what they had accomplished, together. “I learned just how strong each of my friends/shipmates are,” shared Penny Wallace ’22.