Lewiston 7th-graders to take virtual sail around the globe

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LEWISTON — About 100 Lewiston Middle School seventh-graders will follow a Brunswick man as he and his two co-skippers sail the globe in their 42-foot boat, No Regrets.

Over the next two years, students will blog and Skype with Zeke Holland in the Blue Planet Odyssey, an educational ’round-the-world sailing event to raise awareness of climate change and the state of the oceans.

Students met Holland on Friday when he visited Lewiston Middle School.

During a recent interview, Holland said he wanted to meet the seventh-graders to pique their interest, “to get them excited about sailing around the world. There are kids their age in very, very different places and cultures. We can reach out and establish a connection. I can expand their view of the world, get them thinking more globally.”

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Holland also wants students to see how human behavior affects the health of oceans, such as how plastics pollute the water and harm wildlife.

Holland, a cousin of Lewiston Schools Superintendent Bill Webster, said he’s been a sailor all his life and has sailed across the Atlantic. “For me, this is the next cool, big thing,” he said.

At age 61 and after experiencing some health issues, he is taking an early retirement from his software development career. He’ll sail next month from Maine to New Jersey. His crew and 10 other boats will leave Key West on Jan. 10.

“It will be a big event,” Holland said. Their first stops will be Cuba and Panama. They then will sail to the South Pacific, visiting remote islands including the San Blas Islands. “They are extremely low-lying sandbars with people living on them,” Holland said.

The voyage will continue to the Galapagos Islands, the Marquesas Islands and Tahiti. The plan is to sail the classic trade winds route through the tropics, stopping at islands endangered by global warming.

The Blue Odyssey organizer is Jimmy Cornell, who encourages participants to network with students as they sail.

“Jimmy Cornell has spent his life voyaging around the world and organizing rallies like this one,” Holland said. “He’s getting old and has seen places and cultures threatened by climate change and ocean pollution.” The idea is to spread awareness and bear witness to change.

Holland said he’s amazed at how Lewiston teachers latched onto the project.

Lewiston Middle School literacy teacher Susan Weber said students will get lessons in geography and math lessons involving discussions of ocean depths and boat measurements.

“There’ll be a lot of science lessons about climate change on the weather, on cultures he’ll be visiting,” she said. The project offers rich opportunities for reading and writing. Students will write and blog about what they learn from Holland.

Spending two years at sea isn’t for everyone, Holland said.

“You need to enjoy time away from lots of people, enjoy being almost alone,” he said. A good sailor must be self-reliant and knowledgeable about weather, navigation and mechanics on the boat.

“So many people look at my blog and say, ‘It’s cool you’re doing that. I’m glad I’m not going.’”

bwashuk@sunjournal.com

For more information about the Blue Odyssey: http://cornellsailing.com/sail-the-odyssey/blue-planet-odyssey/

For more information about Zeke Holland: www.zekethesailor.net

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