SOUND Program 1 day and 2 day (Overnight) for Schools

About the Program

One-day and two-day (overnight) sail expeditions engage students aboard the 61’ Research Vessel Carlyn in hands-on activities that explore the Puget Sound ecosystem, water quality issues, and nautical science.

Program Topics

  • Water Quality Analysis
  • Oceanographic Equipment & Sampling Techniques
  • Nautical Science & Seamanship


  1. Nutrient station – Samples drawn from the bow of the boat are analyzed using a colorimeter and compared to water from a local storm drain.
  2. Dissolved Oxygen, Temperature, Salinity and pH station – Surface and 20m samples are taken with a niskin bottle are analyzed using oceanographic equipment.
  3. Microplastic + Plankton station – Samples drawn using the Neuston net and then observed under microscopes in our onboard lab.
  4. Navigation and Nautical Science – Chart basic latitude and longitude, plus learn the physics of sailing and lift.


Research Equipment

Water Quality Monitoring

Water quality monitoring in the Salish Sea is highly variable and dynamic, changing with proximity to land, river mouths, currents, as well as many other factors.  To give the best snapshot of water quality in our research areas we employ 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

The biological life of the Salish Sea is dependent upon local water quality.  Through collection and analysis of biological and water quality samples we are able to employ the scientific process to determine relationships at different locations.  Biological sampling equipment onboard includes:

  • Phytoplankton net: This 63-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 120-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.


Answers to the questions we encounter most frequently.

What is Salish Sea Expeditions?

Salish Sea Expeditions is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization established to provide an opportunity for students to design and conduct real scientific research from the decks of a sailing vessel on Puget Sound.

What vessel is used?

Programs occur aboard Carlyn, a 61 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 five crew members on all programs. All have experience working with teenagers in residential settings and all have first aid training. The Captain and Mate are licensed by the USCG and have experience operating sailing school vessels. The Educators/Scientists have science degrees with experience both in the teaching and research fields. Most also have sea time experience.

What does a program involve?

In the classroom, students are taught scientific principles and provided with background scientific information. They then identify a suitable marine research topic and work with our staff to organize a research expedition. Students are key decision makers in every aspect of planning and conducting the program. Groups must be willing to work within the structure used by most non-pleasure marine vessels. This is a rotation that allows for equal sharing of all aspects of the expedition. Everyone will be expected to help handle sail, cook meals, launch and recover scientific gear, scrub toilets, evaluate data, plot a course, wash dishes, etc. On overnight programs, one watch (half the students) sleep ashore in tents at a marine state park and the other watch sleeps on board Carlyn.

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.

Is sea sickness a problem?

Sea sickness is generally caused by the motion of big ocean swells. Puget Sound 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.

Where in Puget Sound will we be and how can we let parents know?

Before your expedition starts, your students will have a great many decisions to make in planning their expedition. Part of this exercise is to have them choose where in Puget Sound they will travel over the course of their expedition. Students will create a detailed itinerary of their trip including details such as the locations of planned scientific sampling stations for each day, where they intend to camp, what the tides and currents are doing, what they are going to eat for each meal and what duties a student will be performing at any given time. This itinerary can be distributed to parents and school administrators.

How far will the boat travel each day?

As with all aspects of the trip planning, your students will be deciding exactly 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.

On overnight trips, 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.

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 whatever the approved procedures are for that particular vessel. When you board the vessel, the Captain will personally discuss with the group what to do in the event of an emergency. An emergency drill will 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 jackets. 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-PFD’s (lifejackets)?

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 (like kayakers wear). We are also required to carry the Type I PFD’s (highest USCG buoyancy rating) for each person on board.

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

Yes. The pre-trip parent information will have the appropriate telephone numbers.

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

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.

How much insurance coverage do you have?

Participants are covered by a $5,000,000 liability policy.


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: Request a date for the spring or fall season.

Step 2: Work with Salish to design your program’s content.

Step 3: Fill out and return the following forms.

Step 4: Prepare your students and their families for the trip.

  • Homework Packet (PDF) – a homework booklet that students should fill out prior to the expedition to further their knowledge
  • Onboard Chaperon Roles (PDF) – a detailed explanation of chaperon roles and responsibilities
  • What to bring on Carlyn (PDF) – a detailed list of gear to bring on a Salish expedition

Step 5: Upon completion of the program, fill out and return the following forms.

Additional Information

Driving Directions

Elliott Bay Marina (Seattle)

Cap Sante Boat Haven (Anacortes)

Foss Waterway Seaport (Tacoma)

Bell Harbor (Seattle)

Program Details

  • Spring season: March - June
  • Fall season: September-October

Cost: $400/hour and a minimum of 5-hour sail.
Class Size: Up to 28 students and 2 chaperons.
Grade Levels: 5th – 12th grade


Cost: $4800
Includes food and camping equipment.

Class Size: Up to 28 students and 2 chaperons.
Grade Levels: 5th – 12th grade

Contact for scheduling options.