Shilshole Marina home to a piece of history

Nearly two years ago, a sailboat named Orion began its journey north from San Diego to Seattle.  Only, it didn’t make it all the way.  Almost 200 miles into the trip, after poor weather revealed a leaky deck and eroded fuel tanks made it impossible to go on, Orion’s captain Kevin Campion loaded her onto a big rig, and Orion made the rest of the trip north on the back of a semi-truck up Interstate 5.

Photo by Kris Day

“She was over-height, over-weight, over-width, and over-length,” laughed Campion, remembering the nail-biting trip north from Ventura, California. Campion is founder of Deep Green Wilderness, a floating classroom aboard Orion.  “It wasn’t quite the glorious return to the northwest we’d planned,” Campion said, smiling.

Orion’s Captain Kevin Campion

Boat designer Olin Stevens built Orion on City Island, New York in 1934.  The first owner was Rudolph Schaefer, of the F & M Schaefer Brewing Co. in New York.  Orion was named Edlu back then, and she won the famous Newport Bermuda Race the same year she was put in the water.  Her design shed a new light on boat construction.  Orion was built lighter than most yawls in the 1930s, and surprised the sailing community with the way she danced over high waves and raced through high winds.

Now, nearly 80 years since her first sail, Orion lives at Shilshole Marina in Ballard.  In the spring and fall, Campion offers chartered trips around Elliot Bay and up to the San Juan Islands.  During the summer, Orion can be found with groups of high school students on-board, learning how to sail and studying the ecology of the Salish Sea.  This year, Campion will take groups of high school students out for two weeks at a time, where they’ll learn about the ecology of the Canadian inland waters and new regulations concerning the endangered southern resident orcas in the San Juan Islands.

“I strongly believe in the power of a sailboat and the sailing experience to inspire people, whether it’s students or adults.  It’s a powerful thing to learn how to sail a boat like this,” said Campion.  “You go to sea on a boat, and you become part of a crew of people, and you learn about the boat and you learn about the ocean and you leave the boat a different person.”

Kris Day, First Mate on Orion

Campion wants his program to be more than just a summer camp.  Indeed, the research the students do on board will be presented to a policy-maker after the trip.  He said the end goal for the students is to create their own research project that they’ve designed with the staff’s help.  “Whether that’s a research paper, or a photo-journal, or a radio story of what they did, they will present that data to the public and to policy-makers,” Campion explained.

“She is a working piece of history, and a tangible piece of history. It’s cool for a high school student to come on board, and be able to be a part of that,” Campion said.

Photo by Kris Day

For the next two months, Campion is offering Tuesday night sunset sails and ongoing charter sails.  Those interested in the sunset sails should contact Windworks, at 206-784-9386. 

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