As far back as I recall, I’ve always been fascinated by sailboats, observing their magnificent silhouettes crossing Narragansett Bay or escaping toward the Atlantic horizon. Coming to IYRS has not only returned me to my home state, but it has also brought me that much closer to one day building my own boat with which to explore the intricate coast of Rhode Island and beyond.
I first learned about IYRS as a high school aged kid who visited Rhode Island in the summers with his family. Back then, I thought to myself, wouldn’t that be a cool life: working on boats, living out my days near the water, using nautical terms. I could see myself forty years down the road, smoking a pipe with a salty, grey beard, saying things like, “hold fast” and, “jib sheet.” But I was young, scared, and I didn’t know anyone who did things like that. It didn’t seem possible.
Fair warning that this post is a little different than most on the IYRS Blog – typically these blogs are written by students and alumni; while I am neither of these things, I am a member of the IYRS staff and this is about how I found myself working in this crazy, almost magical place.
I would guess that this blog post could be best titled as “First impressions”, as we are about a month into the Fall semester. I’ll try to share what I have experienced so far as an IYRS student in the Composites Technology Program.
My name is Abby Shenker, and I have a confession to make: I don’t really care about boats. Even in the Digital Modeling & Fabrication program at IYRS, it’s the sort of phrase I say in hushed tones on our campus, where boats and those who are passionate them are around literally every corner.
The thing about IYRS is they don't just teach you the hard skills; we also learned a lot of the soft skills, the things that aren't in the flyers for IYRS, the things that can make or break your career in maritime trades. Things like showing up to class on time, communication, teamwork, and the hardest two for me - flexibility, and tolerance of change and uncertainty.
I was on a plane to San Jose, Costa Rica en route to Sail Cargo. I knew it would be a hot, buggy, dirty job. I packed my own ear muffs because I knew it would be loud, too. I anticipated a rustic bunk and lots of rice and beans. What I didn’t know was how how much a passionate company, international crew, and a jungle location would make saying goodbye so challenging.
Our new Student Ambassadors hail from the around the world - literally. They have amazing backgrounds and we can't wait for them to be the 'face' of IYRS this year, writing stories for this blog and welcoming visitors and prospective students to campus.
She's one of the fastest sailboats ever built, and very possibly the fastest. She's New York Yacht Club American Magic, and she's been built under a shroud of secrecy in Bristol, RI for over a year in preparation for the next America's Cup race.
Ten students and alumni have been part of the build team - a rock star opportunity by any measure for these talented IYRS-educated yacht builders.
She's a beauty and a fast one at that. Second year IYRS Boatbuilding & Restoration students built Wee Winn in 2018-2019 as their final project - a zippy little racing boat designed originally by L. Francis Herreshoff in 1892 for Miss Winnifred Sutton of England.