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VOL. 23, NO. 5OCTOBER 3, 1997


Students Navigate Maritime History

Nautical Charts, Navigation Tools and a 100-Year-Old Schooner Make Ready Sailors of Barnard and Columbia Students

Pioneer's navigation instructor Tiffany Smythe, CC'95

By Amy Callahan

Cailing through the brackish water of New York harbor on a 102-foot schooner, one student in Barnard Professor Robert McCaughey's American Maritime History class looked across the chop and shouted, "Where are we?"

  As part of the hands-on learning experience of the morning sailing adventure last Sunday, the nine Barnard and Columbia classmates were provided with a nautical chart, navigation tools and the challenge: "Figure it out."

  The Statue of Liberty was off the port bow, offered Andrew Jakabovics, CC'99, who was standing among his classmates on the wet deck of the 112-year-old ship Pioneer that is part of the South Street Seaport Museum. "And the World Trade Center is off the starboard bow."

  " 'Starboard bow'—good, you're getting into the language," said the taskmaster, a captain-in-training and fellow Columbian Tiffany Smythe, CC'95. Smythe was a former intern of the museum, and is now an educational consultant while studying social studies education at Teachers College. She led the students in a seafaring lesson during the 2-hour sailing trip from South Street Seaport.
Tanuja Goulet, BC'99, looks up at the steel mast and enjoys the ride.

  For the next assignment, the class was to determine how long it would take the Pioneer to travel from the Verrazano Bridge at The Narrows to Highland Beach at the end of Sandy Hook. This required a little more than spotting landmarks. It required working through the equation: distance equals velocity times time. After 10 minutes of stewing over the chart with measurements and calculations, the class determined: about 3 hours.

  But more than brain power was used by the class aboard the steel-hulled vessel. They also pulled rope along the rail to hoist the gaff-rigged mainsail, and a few helped to quickly secure the halyard when the jib began to luff.

  McCaughey's class uses interactive elements on the World Wide Web and takes an interdisciplinary approach to the subject of maritime history. The salty air, however, was a new addition to the course.

  "This is the first time we've taken a group out sailing," explained McCaughey, who is chairman of the history department at Barnard.

  From all accounts, it was a success. Tim Harrington, CC'98, said sailing was not a typical experience of most students in New York: "That why Columbia's great, because we get to do this."

Plotting a Course—Aboard the schooner Pioneer, Prof. Robert McCaughey of Barnard, center, instructs his students on how to plot a course in New York Harbor.

Tim Harrington, CC'98, right, and Andrew Jakabovics, CC'99, hoist the mainsail.

Salty Seafarers—From left: Parry Creedon, BC'99; Laura Rosenfield, BC'98; Emily Kaiser, CC'98; Tim Harrington, CC'98; Irene Meisel (in front), adult program coordinator for the South Street Seaport Museum and a student at TC; Kimberly Donaldson, BC'00; Tiffany Smythe, CC'95; Capt. Kevin Jones; Emily McNeil, BC'98; Tanuja Goulet, BC'99; Erin Dunkerly, BC'98; Andrew Jakabovics, CC'99, and Prof. McCaughey.