A steel successor to replace legendary Shenandoah

A design for Shenandoah 2.0, a steel successor to the legendary schooner. — Courtesy FUEL

A design for Shenandoah 2.0, a steel successor to the legendary schooner. — Courtesy FUEL

The famed topsail schooner Shenandoah, the masterpiece of Captain Bob Douglas built 55 years ago, will one day be moored near an improved rendition of itself, a sister ship fashioned from steel. Aboard both the Shenandoah and the early 20th century schooner Alabama, the Douglas family has shown children the wonders of learning through sailing for decades.

While Black Dog Tall Ships remains strong and popular, a kindred organization is poised to help maintain the magic of big-vessel educational sailing the Douglas family pioneered on the Vineyard Haven waterfront. To do it, they’re going to need a bigger boat. 

“Bob used what he learned from designing and sailing Shenandoah to make an improved ship that could better serve learners and the community,” Capt. Ian Ridgeway told The Times. In addition to being a captain of the Alabama, Ridgeway is the executive director of the Foundation for Underway Experiential Learning (FUEL), a nonprofit for maritime learning. Furthermore, FUEL is meant to facilitate the construction and future operation of Shenandoah 2.0 out of Vineyard Haven. 

Among the virtues of steel, Ridgeway said, is that it’s “a more readily repairable medium, which helps in world voyaging.” On average, steel offers about 10 percent more interior volume than wood. In Shenandoah 2.0, that translates into approximately 30 percent more interior space, he said. 

Douglas said instead of a foresail, the new schooner will have a main staysail, which is better for sailing in foul weather. The new schooner will also have something Shenandoah lacks, an engine, which will make it “more mobile and versatile,” Douglas said. 

Whereas Shenandoah is 170 tons, Shenandoah 2.0 is projected to be 240 tons, Ridegway said, and whereas Shenandoah’s sparred length is 152 feet, 108 feet at the rail, Shenandoah 2.0’s sparred length will be 169 feet, 118 feet at the rail. 

“From a stability standpoint, she’s a safer boat, he said. Shenandoah 2.0 will be able to “recover from a complete 90° knockdown, while Shenandoah cannot.”

Maine shipyard Washburn and Doughty has been selected to construct the schooner once funding goals are met. Douglas called the shipyard a “very impressive operation” known for its tugboats. “I never saw such a clean operation,” he said. 

“I did my first weeklong trip on Alabama as a 9-year-old kid, and I’ve been here sailing every summer since then,” Capt. Casey Blum, FUEL program director, said. Now a captain of that vessel, alongside Ridgeway and Capt. Morgan Douglas, Blum is hooked on sailing and the outdoor education aboard sailing vessels like Shenandoah, which is why she wants to see another iteration of the great schooner in Vineyard Haven Harbor.

“My biggest hope is that the legacy continues and that the people that are served by the Shenandoah continue to be served into the future,” she said. “So I think that’s what we’re doing with FUEL is trying to carry the torch on. It’s such a meaningful vessel for so many people here, for the Douglas family, and all the people who’ve gone to sail onboard. You know, it’s definitely amazing that’s she’s lasted as long as she has. She’s had great care given throughout her life.” 

As to the fate of the Shenandoah, Douglas said he was unsure. He placed a small for-sale ad in May in a nautical publication to test the market but there’s no sale pending. The 87-year-old mariner said he’s known for 30 years what the new schooner will be named, but that’s a secret he’s not giving up. 

Shenandoah 2.0 will cost between $4 and $4.5 million, Ridgeway said, so donations to FUEL to realize the vessel are paramount. 

“By investing in the new ship, you are investing in the spiritual growth of the young sailors who make the journey onboard the ship and within themselves,” John Keene, a FUEL director, said. A gathering in support of FUEL’s annual fund will take place on July 18. Anyone who wishes to attend or who wishes to contribute to FUEL can contact Ridgeway at ian@buildtheship.org.

New Community Partnership

We are charged by having created another community partnership. The FUEL Program and our home radio station MVY Radio are joining forces.

Look out this summer for a new segment on the air called “From the Sea” brought to you by FUEL and WMVY. Everything feels right when nonprofits are working together to raise our community up. Thank you Laurel Reddington, MVY, and all our MV nonprofits for your hard work to keep this island special.


FUEL featured in the MV Film Festival


Did you know that we made a short film about the FUEL Program last summer? Our talented videographer friends Lisa Bolden and Michael Nipper came out to Martha's Vineyard for two weeks in July and August to capture the magic behind our story.

Now, The Martha's Vineyard Film Festival has elected to include our film among the Vineyard documentary shorts in their 19th annual M.V. Film Festival.

Ours will be showing on Sunday, March 24th at 5:45pm at the Chilmark School along with the other Vineyard documentary shorts. Since you most likely cannot make it for the film festival, you can see our short film by clicking the button below.

Dr. Dan Garvey joins FUEL Advisory Board


“I am eager to support FUEL because I know the value of experiential education. On a ship, learners are taught real lessons with direct, immediate consequences. There is no better investment to help reinvigorate education.”

Dr. Dan Garvey has joined the FUEL Program's board of advisors. Our advisory board is a group of distinguished experts who are working with us to make sure our program is effective and successful. His relevant accomplishments are numerous. I will highlighting a few:

  • President Emeritus, Prescott College

  • Former faculty & Researcher, experiential education, University of New Hampshire (UNH)

  • Former President and Executive Director, Association for Experiential Education

  • Vice President, American Youth Foundation

  • Former Dean of Entering Students, UNH

  • Former AmeriCorps Executive Committee member

  • UNH Outstanding Teaching Award recipient

  • Julian Smith Award recipient

  • Author of over 25 books and articles about experiential education

  • Former Trustee, National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS)

  • Former Director, Project Adventure

  • Current Trustee, The Institute for Shipboard Education

Additionally, Dan has sailed around the world six times as dean of Semester at Sea and one time as faculty.

To learn more about the FUEL Program's advisory board click here.

Tracey Overbeck Stead Joins FUEL


Tracey Overbeck Stead has joined FUEL's board of directors. As a successful interior designer from Texas who summered on Martha’s Vineyard, she moved to the island with her husband Ethan and her three kids in 2017.

Tracey owns a wooden daysailer built by Gannon & Benjamin that she keeps in Vineyard Haven harbor and holds a US Coast Guard 50 ton Captain’s license.

Tracey is excited for her kids to learn the ways of a sailing ship on a FUEL educational voyage.

See who else serves on FUEL's board of directors.

Dr. Anita Tucker Joins FUEL Advisory Board


We are excited to announce that Anita Tucker, Ph.D., LICSW, has joined FUEL's board of advisors and is serving on our academic committee.

The academic committee oversees the creation and implementation of our curriculum. They make sure our courses are worthy of college credit and our learners are getting the most valuable and positive developmental adventure a world-voyaging sailing ship can offer.

A few of Anita's credentials:

  • Associate Professor, Department of Social Work at the University of New Hampshire

  • Co-coordinator, Dual Masters Program in Social Work and Outdoor Education

  • Prepares graduate students for careers in adventure and wilderness therapy.

  • Associate Director, Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Center at UNH

To learn more about Anita and other members of the FUEL Program's advisory board, click here.

Congratulations Casey for Graduating

From left to right: Dr. Michael Gass (FUEL advisor), Casey Blum, Dr. Anita Tucker (FUEL advisor

From left to right: Dr. Michael Gass (FUEL advisor), Casey Blum, Dr. Anita Tucker (FUEL advisor

On Friday, our cofounder and program director Captain Casey Blum, M.S., M.S.W graduated from the University of New Hampshire with dual masters degrees in outdoor education and social work. We are very proud of her accomplishment.

Casey is working closely with her mentors from her dual degree program, Anita Tucker, Ph.D., LICSW and Michael Gass, Ph.D., LMFT to write the curriculum for the FUEL Program.

Thank you for following our development.