The U.S. Coast Guard has determined Coupeville’s resident schooner is in shipshape and Bristol fashion, enough so that it’s allowing approximately 20 more passengers at a time.
The schooner Suva’s new designation as a small commercial vessel means larger groups, such as the Heritage Adventurers who sailed Wednesday, can experience the 1920s-era sailing ship.
The timing worked well for Sue Andrews, who was looking for a fun activity for members of her nonprofit group. SUVA Capt. Gary “Captain Mac” McIntyre led two groups of adults with developmental disabilities and their parents or sponsor on short sailing excursions into Penn Cove.
The Maritime Heritage Foundation, which owns the SUVA, sometimes provides “donation sails” to local nonprofits, McIntyre said. Andrew got in touch with the foundation, and the board overwhelmingly supported the idea, said board member Lindy Kortus.
The plans met fair winds as McIntyre guided the ship across smooth waters Wednesday. The Adventurers each got an opportunity to steer the vessel under the captain’s guidance.
“It was amazing,” said Dagne Schellenberg, of Coupeville.
Heritage Adventurers is a “friendship group” that organizes every once in a while for social gatherings on and near Whidbey Island.
Schellenberg had the opportunity to inform the crew to ready to come about as the SUVA neared the opposite end of the cove.
The volunteers, who have each received extensive training, sprang into action. In addition to sailing the SUVA, volunteers have also powered a number of upgrades to vessel. Two grants from the state helped fund major restoration efforts, McIntyre said.
They refinished the Burmese teak woodworks, replaced the fuel system, improved fire suppression and took steps enable the ship to pass the Coast Guard’s stability test for the new certification. Nautical enthusiasts or just people who are casually interested can tour the 68-foot-long SUVA for free when it’s at the Coupeville Wharf.
Weekend sails, which last two to two-and-a-half hours, are 5 p.m. Fridays, 4 p.m. Saturdays and 1 p.m. Sunday for $65 per person.