Sunday 6 April 2014

A Transom from the Nova Scotia Sea School

Our collection acquired a special artifact last year that connects the Museum to an intertwined story of adventure, learning and compassion.

The newly donated transom, MMA, M2013.18.1

The Nova Scotia Sea School presented the Museum with the transom of their training boat Dorothea. This is a 30-foot sailing and rowing boat used in the school's educational programs. The boat was built in 1995 and received a major refit last year which included replacing the transom, that elegant wineglass shape that forms the stern of many traditional boats. The Sea School presented the old transom to the Museum in recognition of our longstanding partnership with this special community group.

The Nova Scotia Sea School was founded in 1994. Founder Crane Stookey combined a passion for the sea from years as deck officer on Tall Ships with a passion for working with teenagers and training in Buddhist philosophy. The Sea School uses boats to developing a contemplative and responsible approach to life rooted in the experience of co-operative adventures in boats.

Courtesy Nova Scotia Sea School
Dorothea was built at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic from 1994 to 1995. The lines were taken from the double-ended Sable Island surf boat in the museum collection, slightly redesigned with this elegant transom. The original surf boats supplied the rescue crews and their families who were based on the famous and dangerous island.

Courtesy Nova Scotia Sea School
The Sea School has since built 16 wooden boats as part of its programs, ranging in size from 8 feet to 30 feet and has logged over 9,000 hours on the water in these boats. At the launch of the refitted Dorothea on May 11, 2013, the Sea school presented the old transom to the Museum.

Dan Conlin and Eamonn Doorly accept the transom from the Sea School
The old transom can now be seen proudly hung on the walls of the Museum's central boat shed.
You can learn more about the Sea School and its programs on their web site:
Museum Wharves webcam, Nova Scotia Webcams

Dorothea often ties up at the Museum wharves when her programs operate out of Halifax.

Dorothea's two masts can be seen to the right of the Museum's south wharf in this view from the Museum's webcam, just off the bow of our neighbour, the restored corvette HMCS Sackville.

Museum Wharves webcam, Nova Scotia Webcams

Soon after Dorothea's relaunch, the boat made headlines when she was briefly stolen on June 20, 2013, but soon recovered. You can just make out the Dorothea near the stern of HMCS Sackville in this view, as the hapless, young thrill seekers attempt a getaway. After their arrest, the Sea School characteristically reached out, noting that the misguided mariners are typical of many teenagers that the Sea School seeks to work with in its programs.

Compassion has been a central idea behind the Dorothea, including the choice of her name. The boat is named after Dorothea Dix (1802-1887), a remarkable social reformer from Boston. She is noted for campaigning to improve the lives of prisoners, the poor and people with mental illness.

Dorothea Dix portrait by S.B. Waugh, US National Portrait Gallery, Wikimedia
In 1853, Dix was drawn to Nova Scotia to investigate reports of mentally-ill people being abandoned by their families on Sable Island. She visited Sable Island and found the reports were no longer true, but while there witnessed and assisted in a shipwreck rescue. Upon her return to Boston, she led a successful campaign to send advanced lifesaving equipment to Sable Island, including new rescue boats. Compassion, community activism and boats make Dorothea a natural choice to honour in the lead boat of the Nova Scotia Sea School.