From Small Ships to Tall Ships

Youth sailors from Mentor Harbor Yachting Club complete the Reach Simple Machine Scavenger Hunt!

From Small Ships to Tall Ships, to the Great Lakes we go!

By Jessica Servis & Windy Key

Young sailors, big and small, participated in the Reach Simple Machine Scavenger Hunt at TALL SHIPS CHALLENGE® 2016 Great Lakes Race Series this summer. Over one thousand youth had the unique opportunity to connect science and sailing at these events. Children entered the tall ships port festivals, with tall ships lining the docks available to explore and staffed with a full crew ready to answer questions and take kids and their families on a journey back in time.

The kids explored mechanical advantage and made the connection between the six simple machines: wheel and axel, lever, pulley, screw, wedge, and inclined plane, and their use on tall ships and small sailboats. Kids that successfully completed the scavenger hunt finding examples of all six simple machines received their very own “Simple Machine” to take home, a block key chain from Harken. Thanks to Harken, kids were also able to explore a winch (wheel and axel), winch handle (lever), blocks with various purchase systems (pulleys) and a vang system (pulley) at the US Sailing tent. The kids quickly connected the Harken equipment with equipment they have, have used, or have seen while sailing or on the Tall Ships.

We started our adventure in Fairport Harbor, Ohio in early June, where we worked with volunteers from Mentor Harbor Yachting Club (MHYC) to help connect families and youth with a local sailing program providing participants with a direct connection to sailing programs. While MHYC was hosting Laser Nationals that same weekend, they sent all their junior sailors over to explore the tall ships. The young sailors quickly made the connection between the pulleys used to hoist the sails on the tall ship El Galeon Andalucia from Seville, Spain and the main halyard and purchase on their Optis and 420s.

Our next stop was Bay City, Michigan located on Lake Huron. The Tall Ship Celebration: Bay City has had a reputation for being one of the busiest festivals and it surely lived up to that. With tens of thousands of people coming through the gates each day, kids from all over the state were able to participate in the Simple Machine Scavenger Hunt. Volunteers from Saginaw Bay Community Sailing Association welcomed youth and engage them in several STEM activities in the kid’s zone including raising the sails on a boat.

Tall ships3Tall Ships Chicago -5

Our final stop was Chicago, Illinois located on the majestic Lake Michigan. Opti youth sailors from Columbia Yacht Club welcomed the tall ships during the parade of sail out on the water on Wednesday, July 28th.  They couldn’t believe how big the ships were and how many sails they had. Spectators and tall ships lined Navy Pier for five days. One ship, the DRAKEN HARALD HÅRFAGRE, the world’s largest Viking ship, had sailed all the way across the Atlantic from Norway. The kids couldn’t believe it.  Special thanks to Celia Oprinovich from Indiana Sailing Association who saved the day by volunteering last minute at the US Sailing booth. Our booth was busy all weekend with long time sailors as well as new comers, US Sailing members, and tons of kids stopping by. We were able to match participants with sailing programs from Wisconsin to Ohio.


Thanks to all of the kids and most importantly to the parents that participated in the Reach Simple Machine Scavenger Hunt this summer. Every time we get to watch kids make connections and see that ah ha moment light up their eyes it makes those office days well worth it. Happy Sailing!