Marine Explorers & Leaders for Youth

Program on hold for 2022

About the Program

Marine Explorers Program (Grades 4-8) will be offered in the Spring and Fall as scheduling permits. Marine Leaders Program (Grades 9-12) are customized programs and can be scheduled upon request (6 participants minimum).

Salish Sound is a boat-based science and sail program This boat-based science and sail expedition is a program that engages students in oceanographic research, nautical science and seamanship aboard the 61-foot sailing research vessel, Carlyn.

While on-board, students will conduct marine science research under the careful guidance of the Salish crew. The students will collect, analyze and communicate the findings of their research, and split their day learning to navigate and sail the 61-foot sailing vessel.

This expedition will give interested students the opportunity to experience the world of marine science while exploring a portion of the Salish Sea.

Program Topics

  • Introduction to the Scientific Method
  • Water Quality Analysis
  • Oceanographic Equipment & Sampling Techniques
  • Salish Sea History
  • Nautical Science & Seamanship

Expedition Schedule

Marine Explorers Expedition Schedule: Please note that this is a sample of what the day to day schedule of the Research Expedition might look like. In addition, this sample schedule is subject to change based on weather, student or program needs and/or any unforeseen events. We do our best to accommodate special requests or changes to the program in order to meet your goals and student needs. 

Research Equipment

Water Quality Monitoring

Students in the Salish Sea Expeditions Sound Program performing Water Quality Monitoring Measuring and monitoring water quality in the marine environment can be highly variable and dynamic based on factors influencing the environment on a seasonal and even daily basis. This science and sailing experience will create a picture of the Salish Sea environment based on the information collected with a variety of tools and equipment, similar to the tools and equipment currently used by the scientist measuring and monitoring the health of the Salish Sea.

To provide a good snapshot of water quality in our research areas we deploy the following equipment:

  • Phosphate, nitrate, copper, surfactant, turbidity and silicate test kits (LaMotte): measure the amount of important water quality parameters in the water column. While necessary to aquatic life at small levels, problems can arise when these parameters reach high levels.
  • Colorimeter: used in conjunction with water quality test kits to obtain measurements from specific water samples.  Results recorded in PPM (parts per million).
  • Dissolved oxygen/Temperature probe: continuously measures dissolved oxygen/temperature throughout the water column to 50ft. These vertical transects give a good indication of biological activity.
  • Refractometer: measures salinity of a water sample using a drop of water and light refraction.
  • Niskin bottle: used to collect water samples from discrete depths, which are then chemically analyzed.
  • Secchi disk: used to estimate the transparency of seawater, and can provide a relative measure of productivity or turbidity.
  • pH probes:  measure how acidic or basic the water is on a scale from 0-14.  pH is an important water quality measurement with most organisms only tolerating a small range, typically around 6-8.5.

Biological Monitoring

Students in the Salish Sea Expeditions Sound Program performing Biological Monitoring The biological life of the Salish Sea is dependent upon local water quality.  Collection and analysis of water can help to determine relationships between water quality and the marine organisms at different locations.  Students will have the opportunity to collect phytoplankton and zooplankton to view under microscopes. With mentoring from the Salish science team, students will utilize the scientific method to show relationships between water quality and marine organisms.

Biological sampling equipment onboard includes:

  • Phytoplankton net: This 60-micrometer mesh net collects the smallest plankton, which can then be analyzed using volume measurements as well as under a compound microscope.
  • Zooplankton net: This 220-micrometer mesh net collects animal plankton, allowing phytoplankton to pass through the larger mesh.
  • Dissecting and Compound microscopes: used to more closely analyze plankton by species.
  • Seives: can be used to sort sediments collected from shore to classify sediment composition and/or to uncover macro-invertebrates.
  • Fisheye underwater camera: camera to deploy off of the side of the vessel to observe creatures when visibility allows.

Expedition Prep & Paperwork

Welcome, teachers and group leaders! We’re glad that you’re interested in a Salish Sea Expeditions experience and we’re here to guide you through the process. Here you will find information and paperwork required for the program.

Step 1: Expedition Paperwork & Forms

  • Liability & Medical Form must be completed as part of registration. To register, click here

Step 2: Expedition Preparation

Step 3: Evaluation & Feedback

Share your student scientist and sailor stories!

We love hearing post-expedition stories and welcome your feedback and suggestions. Please complete the form below to help us continue creating unforgettable opportunities for student scientists and sailors!

Marina Information

If you have questions at any time, please contact our Education Director at


Answers to the questions we encounter most frequently below, as well as in the linked pdf.

Salish Sea Expeditions FAQs – Frequently asked questions about our program, vessel and safety practices and policies

What is Salish Sea Expeditions?

Salish Sea Expeditions is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization established to inspire youth to connect with the marine environment through boat-based scientific inquiry and hands-on learning, instilling curiosity, confidence, and critical thinking. Salish Sea Expeditions provides opportunities for student scientists and sailors to design and conduct authentic scientific research from the decks of a 61-foot sailing vessel on the Salish Sea.

What vessel is used?

Programs occur aboard the sailing vessel Carlyn, a 61-foot yawl built in 1996, belonging to Four Winds*Westward Ho Camps. Carlyn is a US Coast Guard (USCG) inspected vessel.

How many crew members are there and what qualifications do they have?

There are a minimum of four to six crew members on all programs, including a Captain, Mate, Deckhand, Program Coordinator, Marine Science Educator, and Logistics & Galley Coordinator. All have experience working with youth in various settings and have first aid training. The Marine Scientists have experience both in the teaching and research fields, while our Mates and Deckhands have experience on the water. The Captain and Mate are licensed by the USCG and have extensive experience operating sailing school vessels.

What kind of plan do you have for emergencies while students are on board?

Any vessel carrying passengers for hire must meet construction and operations standards established by the USCG. Carlyn was designed and certified under the Sailing School Ship Vessel Act. As the name implies, vessels certified under the Sailing School Vessel Act are meant to be used as training vessels and operated by students. As such, the safety margin in construction standards and operational requirements are quite high.

Carlyn is required to have plans that meet or exceed response standards set by the USCG for just about any incident. These mainly address major vessel incidents such as man-overboard, fire, collision, and abandon ship. Every Captain is required by law to thoroughly train and drill their crew in the approved emergency procedures for that particular vessel. When students board the vessel, the Captain will specifically discuss with the group what to do in the event of an emergency. An emergency drill might very well be part of your program. Carlyn is also required to carry emergency supplies and equipment including radios, flares, first aid kits, life raft, life sling and Type I Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs). We have established safety procedures for every activity the students participate in, both aboard the ship and while ashore. Students are informed of the procedures before engaging in the activity. Students who cannot follow the procedures do not participate.

Do students wear Personal Flotation Devices?

Yes. Any time they are working on deck while the boat is underway or in the small boats they will be required to wear Type III PFD’s (lifevests). We are also required to carry the Type I PFD’s (highest USCG buoyancy rating) for each person on board.

Is sea sickness a problem?

Sea sickness is generally caused by the motion of big ocean swells. The Salish Sea is protected from swells by the land that surrounds it. Seasickness can often act as a self-fulfilling prophesy; if you come aboard convinced you will get seasick, then you probably will! Most people that experience seasickness do so when they are below decks for long periods of time. They usually feel better just by coming up on deck, getting some fresh air, and looking at the horizon. If you know that motion sickness is a problem, consult your doctor about a motion sickness product. These products tend to make you feel drowsy and usually need to be taken several hours before going out on the water. Please, only use them if you know that motion sickness is a problem. You may want to look into alternative remedies such as ginger (tea or candied) and wrist bands that work using pressure points.

How long are programs?

You can choose the length of your program aboard the ship (from 1-5 days). We also offer Pre & Post Expedition Sessions for Multi-Day Expeditions. These sessions are designed to maximize the experience by providing students with the background knowledge and skills they will need to be involved in the decision-making process. At a minimum, we recommend at least one 2 hour pre-trip session focusing on background information, becoming familiar with available research equipment, and developing a hypothesis. Post Expedition Sessions focus on creation of presentations in order to communicate the results of the student research. You decide how much time you would like to dedicate to these sessions and what additional topics you would like us to address. Sessions can be arranged before, during or after school. The entire group does not need to attend every session.

What are the sleeping arrangements?

For Marine Explorers & Leaders Programs with limited capacity (<14 students): During the Expedition, all participants will sleep on board the Carlyn with the Captain and Crew. On board, there are two separate sleeping quarters with bunk style beds that accommodate up to 7 students each. Students are assigned to sleeping areas by gender identity. Space is very limited and students will also be sharing their bunk with their personal gear. For this reason, we ask that they bring only the items on the list and pack them in a soft bag. For those sleeping ashore, we provide insulated pads.

For School & Youth Groups (>14 students): During the Expedition, students will alternate between camping onshore and sleeping onboard the boat, depending on their assigned Watch Group and corresponding schedule. Specific sleeping arrangements are determined by the number of  students and gender identity, and is teacher driven and informed. On shore, students sleep in group tents according to gender, with adults sharing same gender tents separate from students. Salish Sea Expeditions provides insulated pads for those sleeping on shore. On the boat, there are two completely separate compartments, each having its own “head” (toilet and sink) with bunk style beds that can accommodate up to 7 each. Adults will be assigned according to gender to the corresponding compartments.

Space is very limited and students will also be sharing their bunk with their personal gear. For this reason, we ask that they bring only the items on the list and pack in a soft bag. For those sleeping ashore, we provide insulated pads.

How are the meals organized and when? Can you accommodate dietary needs & restrictions?

Meals: All snacks and meals will be provided and prepared by our crew and when possible, with assistance student scientists and sailors! Upon registration, parents/guardians will complete our Medical Form, which includes questions around dietary restrictions and requirements. We are able to accommodate most needs, though if you have any specific questions or requests, please contact us.

Meal & Snack Schedule: Please note that the times below are estimated and might fluctuate depending on program and student needs, weather and other variables.

    • 7:30-8am Breakfast
    • ~10am Snack
    • 12pm Lunch
    • 3pm Snack
    • 6pm Dinner

Where in the Salish Sea will we be and can parents follow our Expedition?

Parents and teachers will always be aware of the marina and city that their trip will be departing from. Due to the student-directed nature of our programs and the fact that students decide where they will be sailing and collecting samples each morning, we cannot exactly say where the boat will be.  The Education Director will send periodic emails, some with updates from students directly, to parents/guardians over the course of the sail adventure. The information typically includes the location of the boat, the boat track for the day, and some journal text from the student. Our Program Coordinator will also do their best to update our Instagram account over the course of the Expedition. 

How far will the boat travel each day?

With guidance from the crew, your students will be deciding where to sail each day, taking into consideration what sampling needs to get done, the tides and currents and where they want to camp for the evening. In general, the greater the distance you attempt to sail, the less time you have for sampling stations. We encourage the students to make conservative plans that do not cover a lot of physical distance so that they have greater flexibility in meeting the challenges of the day.

How far will the boat be from the campers?

Ideal locations are those where the ship is in direct sight of the camp. Occasionally the campsite will not have a protected enough moorage for Carlyn, in which case the ship will moor in the closest possible safe anchorage. In general, we try to keep the campers and the boat as close together as possible. Some staff and chaperones will be sleeping with the watch ashore.

What kind of communication system is there between boat and campers?

Most of our camping locations are marine state parks. We communicate between ship and shore via our hand-held two-way radios or cell phone. We also travel with both an inflatable small boat with outboard motor and rowboat/dinghy.

Could a parent contact their child if there were an emergency at home?

Yes. During all Salish Sea Expeditions adventures, a designated Salish staff (typically the Education Director) will carry a phone during all programs in case of emergency at any time during the Expedition. On Call Education Phone Number: (206) 715-0312

What do students need to bring that is not covered in the program fees?

Students will need to bring appropriate clothing (we will supply a list) packed in a duffel or gym bag and a backpacking type (compressible) sleeping bag. We supply rain gear, tents, sleeping pads and PFD’s. Please refer to What To Bring (Multi-Day Expedition) for a more detailed, comprehensive list.

We don’t have enough students. Can we pair with another group?

Yes, you can pair with another group. We can try to help you find one or you can come up with your own. We find the ideal group size to be between 18 and 24 students. Your group can be mixed age (any combination of 5-12th graders). In all cases we would need to insure that program plans meet the needs of all parties and we would arrange for the entire group to meet before going out on the boat.

What’s the insurance coverage policy?

Participants are covered by a $1,000,000 liability policy.

If you have questions at any time, please contact our Education Director at

What are your payment policies?

The fee for the Marine Explorers & Marine Leaders is $280 for a 2-Day program, without scholarship. Longer duration programs will accrue additional fees.

Complete the MARINE EXPLORERS & MARINE LEADERS PROGRAM REGISTRATION for registering for the program.

If you have questions at any time, please contact our Education Director at

Program Details

Dates & Location:
Future Dates TBD

*Minimum of six participants required in order to sail. Space limited.

Grade Levels
Marine Explorers: 4th-8th; See dates & locations above

Marine Leaders: 9th-12th; Customized programs scheduled upon request (6 participants minimum)

Cost: Contact us at for pricing information.

*Fees include US Coast Guard inspected sailing vessel, Captain & Crew, all rain and camping gear, scientific equipment and food. Participants are asked to provide their own sleeping bag.

Scholarships are available. For more information, please contact

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