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Tall ships let school groups ride at discount
Youngsters can get a hands-on experience of what it takes to sail a tall ship while touring the Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftan when they arrive in Coos Bay in April. (World File Photo)

When the tall ships are in Coos Bay March 26-April 6, Tom Leahy wants to send every fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grader in Coos Bay and North Bend on a cruise.

Historical reenactors take classroom groups on three-hour sails near the McCullough Bridge. Students get to steer the ship, hoist the sails, and work the sheets.

'My grandson went on (a sail), and he said, 'This is the most fun I ever had in my whole life,'" Leahy said.

All the elementary schools in Coos Bay and North Bend are Title I schools, with at least 40 percent of students eligible for free and reduced lunches.

For groups from these schools, scholarships from the Grays Harbor Historical Seaport, home of the ships, will pay most of the $35 cost of a sail for each student.

Seeking $1,500

Someone has to make up the remaining $5.25, though, and Leahy is looking for businesses, service groups, and individuals who'd like to donate.

'I'd like to raise $1,500 for this," Leahy said.

Leahy, vice president of the Coos Bay Boat Building Center, which is coordinating the ships' visit, said not many communities take advantage of the scholarship program.

But his initiative is in keeping with the big Bay Area welcome that the Boat Building Center is organizing for the Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain. This year, the ships are spending more time here than usual because a tsunami damaged port facilities in Crescent City, where they were to spend a week.

Subsidized school groups aren't the only ones who can enjoy a sail. Adults and families can visit the ships for a donation, or sign up for three-hour cruises. An option is a 'battle sail," which involves close-quarters maneuvering and cannon fire.

Leahy will visit any group to talk about the scholarship program. Individuals or groups who would like to donate should call Leahy at 541-217-4365, or visit the seaport's website,