Comments: After 57 years at the helm of his iconic schooner Shenandoah Captain Robert S. Douglas and his family have announced their intention to pass down Captain Bob’s beloved ship to the Foundation for Underway Experiential Learning (FUEL). Based in Vineyard Haven, MA, FUEL is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded by two of Douglas’ protégés, Captain Ian Ridgeway and Captain Casey Blum, LCSW.
“Sailing Shenandoah is what I wanted to do with my life more than anything else,” states Captain Bob. “It’s been my major focus and time commitment since 1964. I know that the ship and program will be in qualified hands. Casey and Ian both came up through the hawsepipe, meaning they climbed the ranks aboard my ships. I couldn’t be more proud.”
Under the Black Dog flag, an emblem recognized worldwide, Shenandoah has brought more than 5,000 Island children on voyages back in time and out to sea. For many kids, their week on Shenandoah is their first time away from their parents, and developmental breakthroughs are frequent.
FUEL has accepted the duty to carry on this treasured educational programming for Island children. However, the ship needs mandatory repairs this winter to operate next spring. Until the Shenandoah can sail again, the program is under threat.
“It’s painful to imagine the Vineyard Haven waterfront without the Shenandoah at anchor. We are excited to see the FUEL team working to continue this long-time Island tradition,” said James Anthony, President of the Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank Charitable Foundation. “Children and young adults learning collaboration and self-reliance at sea are vital to understanding ourselves and our community; not to mention the importance of maintaining the Island’s maritime history and culture.”
FUEL has launched a time-sensitive $1 million campaign to ensure Shenandoah’s unique educational programming can continue for Island youth. With one-hundred percent participation from FUEL’s board of directors, a $50,000 matching challenge by Elizabeth Harris, and $350,000 raised to date by lead supporters, the campaign has started strong. Stever and Elsie Aubrey, Harry and Madelon Dickerson, John and Hillary Keene, Christopher Celeste and Nancy Kramer, John and Melissa McDonald, Chet and Betsy Gibson, Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank Charitable Foundation, Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank, and Martha’s Vineyard Shipyard have all made matched contributions. Phil Hale, the owner of Martha’s Vineyard Shipyard, expressed, “We are happy to be a part of the FUEL program. We believe a working waterfront is a crucial component of the future of Tisbury. Getting kids out on the water is a critical part of the working waterfront’s success.”
FUEL is now appealing to Martha’s Vineyard community for large and small contributions. This time-sensitive fundraising drive has $650,000 left to raise.