PORT TOWNSEND — Bainbridge Island-based nonprofit Salish Sea Expeditions will merge into the Northwest Maritime Center organization July 1.
The 22-year-old inquiry-based science sailing program brings with it a full-time staff of four plus a seasonal crew on the 62-foot sailing vessel, SV Carlyn, based in the San Juan Islands. Program management will continue to be based on Bainbridge Island.
Jake Beattie, executive director of the Northwest Maritime Center, said Wednesday that the idea of coming together was three years in the making.
“We received a grant to explore what collaborations would be possible with peer organizations,” Beattie said. “We talked with 25 regional groups and discussed how we could leverage each other’s strengths and pool resources.”
Last December, Salish Sea Executive Director Seth Muir left the organi- zation which provided an opening for discussion.
“Change in leadership positions are an opportune time to explore these things,” Beattie said.
“The program synergy and leaders in the nonprofit sector often talk about how more organizations should consider collaborations into mergers, but very few do. This is a bold step for both organizations. This is the merger of two thriving organizations. We’re being very strategic and smart during this period of transition and working to find a better ‘best outcome.’ ”
Salish Sea Expeditions was formed in 1994 by co-founders Kathy Murphy and Sophy Johnston, both former Adventuress crew members. That same year, Four Winds Westward Ho Camp on Orcas Island was planning to construct a 60-foot sailboat for use by the camp in the summer months, according to the website at www.salish.org.
Murphy and Johnston “saw an opportunity to create a unique science education program that would use the camp’s vessel during the school year,” the website said.
Some of the original vessel design was influenced by the programmatic visions the two had, and, in 1996, the vessel was completed and Salish Sea Expeditions’ research programs began the following year.
The sailboat was christened “Carlyn,” as a token of appreciation for Carlyn Kaiser Stark, who operated Four Winds from 1968 to 1973.
Stark currently is board emerita of the maritime center and the Wooden Boat Foundation. She is a resident of Port Townsend.
Salish Sea Expedition’s 100 days of yearly programming occur between October and May, and sailing takes place from Olympia to the San Juan Islands. Typically 800 students participate in one-to five-day expeditions, mostly coming from the Puget Sound region but as far away as Colorado, Wyoming and Alaska.
“Students design their trip after they design the experiment after they design the hypothesis,” Beattie said. “They do sailing to enable the science to happen.”
Beattie said Salish Sea Expeditions has a goal of serving 25 percent to 30 percent of underserved populations at deeply-discounted-to-free tuition. They receive about 70 percent in philanthropic support with 30 percent of their operating budget coming from fees.
“The original vision of the maritime center was not to be just a public space and a campus, but a support mechanism for aligned nonprofits,” Beattie said.
“While we haven’t done it like that, we are a central infrastructure for a lot of aligned nonprofit ideas that happen to come under the same management structure.
“Salish Sea is being folded in and supported by the efficiencies of scale. We are all excited about the growth possibilities.”
Jefferson County Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected].