Lifetime of sailing achievement for J.B. Smith

Long time schooner captain J.B. Smith (seen at left in photo, along with ASTA executive director Bert Rogers and Ocean Classroom Foundation founder Alix Thorne) was recently awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Sail Training Association. Smith has sailed on and captained numerous sail training vessels, such as Spirit of Massachusetts, Westward, Harvey Gamage and more. He is a superb teacher and wonderful shipmate, a fact that I can readily attest to having sailed with him on Ocean Navigator celestial seminar cruises over the years. I had the good luck to speak with J.B. just a month ago in Charleston. The schooner Virginia and Spirit of Massachusetts were tied up together at the Charleston Maritime Center. J.B. was aboard Spirit which was headed southeast to the Caribbean, while we we about to leave for Bermuda. J.B. was, as always, his charming, witty self.
From the press release: The American Sail Training Association (ASTA) has recognized Captain Jonathan Bacon Smith with their Lifetime Achievement Award for 2009. Captain Smith, known by his students and colleagues as JB, is the Senior Captain of the Ocean Classroom Foundation (OCF) in Boothbay Harbor, for whom he has sailed many thousands of miles while introducing young people to the ways of life under sail.


The ASTA Lifetime Achievement Award is presented to “an individual who has dedicated his/her life to getting people to sea under sail, and who has worked to preserve the traditions and skills of sail training. As one of the pioneers of sail training, Captain JB Smith has likely initiated more eager minds to the physics of ocean sailing and the mathematics of celestial navigation than almost anyone. His skills as a sailor and teacher and his vast experience on vessels of every shape and size have earned him the trust and respect of all those who sail with him.


According to Alix Thorne, founder and Chairman of Ocean Classroom, it has become a rite of passage among the Ocean Classroom crew to sail with JB to receive his official approval as they move into positions as officers. But Captain Smith doesn’t just teach a checklist of skills: he teaches his students and his crews respect for the sea and respect for the way of a ship by sharing his enjoyment in his element, and by being a complete gentleman when he does it. Says Thorne, “The exacting standards he sets and the nautical knowledge he possesses make him the kind of mariner and educator that others aspire to be.”


Bert Rogers, Executive Director of ASTA, notes, “He sails with confidence, instilling a sense of accomplishment, respect, and deep pride in his crew and students. I have worked with JB aboard several ships and organizations, and I have never stopped learning from him, respecting him, and valuing his skill, his wisdom, and his style.”


Equally surprised and honored by the ASTA award, Captain Smith stated that his career as a mariner began as a child. He has literally sailed the world, serving on a US Navy Destroyer, a Spanish squid fishing vessel, multiple cruise ships and yachts. His schooner experience includes years aboard the brig Unicorn, as well as Ocean Classroom’s coasting schooners Harvey Gamage and Spirit of Massachusetts, and staysail schooner Westward.


Peter Neill, Executive Director of Ocean Classroom, says, “His dedication is more than taking kids to sea: it is to bringing them home stronger and better prepared for life, no matter what they choose to do.”


Ocean Classroom Foundation is an expeditionary learning organization building the next generation of ocean stewards by providing major voyages of discovery in which the traditions, values, and adventures of maritime life provide a unique context for education. Ocean Classroom Foundation has provided experiential education under sail to over 14,000 young people since its founding in 1996, exploring the North Atlantic and the Caribbean Sea aboard the schooners SSV Harvey Gamage, SSV Westward, and SSV Spirit of Massachusetts. All OCF captains and vessels are US registered, and USCG inspected and certified to meet the safety standards for sailing school vessels. Ocean Classroom Foundation is a 501(c)3, non-profit organization whose programs are offered without regard to race, gender, religion, or national origin. For more information, visit


The American Sail Training Association, founded in 1973, encourages character building through sail training, promotes sail training to the American public, and supports education under sail. With an organizational membership of over 200 vessels from 20 countries, ASTA serves as a forum for information exchange, program standards, and professional development, and as an advocate for sound policy and regulatory oversight, as well as organizer for the Tall Ships Challenge, a series of races and maritime festivals in North America. Based in Newport, RI, ASTA is also a member of Sail Training International of Hampshire, UK. For more information, visit

By Ocean Navigator