SOUND Program 3-5 day (boat-based) for Schools

About the Program

This boat-based program provides 3-5 day expeditions of oceanographic research, and nautical science and seamanship aboard the 61-foot sailing research vessel, Carlyn. In this innovative “classroom” setting, students will conduct marine science research under the careful guidance of the Salish crew.

Program Topics

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

Each expedition is designed to align with teaching objectives and Next Generation Science Standards, providing teachers with a pedagogical tool they can implement to enhance their students’ classroom learning. These educational opportunities encourage students to build skills in critical thinking, problem solving, group collaboration, and leadership.

There are three components to all expeditions.

  1. Expedition Preparation
  2. The Expedition Experience
  3. Synthesis


Salish fills a unique yet critical role in education today: to immerse students in an intensive, hands-on learning experience that helps prepare them for the challenges they will face in our increasingly complex society.

“For several years, I have attended Salish programs with my students. I believe that your approach (sound science forms sound stewardship), which engages students in a process of inquiry and investigation in a natural setting, lays the foundation for them to become lifelong citizen-scientists—and stewards. By understanding the structure and processes of the natural world, students develop a deeper connection with their local environment.”- High School Teacher
“Our daughter had an absolutely incredible experience, and her time on the Carlyn has left a lasting impression.  Her wonder for marine biology continues to grow; the passion that the staff have about their field is contagious, and has only fueled D’s personal desire to learn more and continue to pursue that field..”  -Parent of High School Student

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.

Teacher’s Guide

Expedition Preparation

Each Salish program begins in the classroom with Salish staff working with the students give them the background information they need to conduct their research expedition. We use inquiry-based learning to engage students in working together to develop a hypothesis for their onboard research project, which will guide their days while on the water.

The Expedition Experience

While onboard, students are divided into two watch groups. At any given time, one watch group (half the students) is working with two Marine Science Educators to execute the research project that they planned out in the classroom. These students are deploying oceanographic research equipment, collecting samples, and analyzing data in our onboard lab. Concurrently, the other watch group is working with the Captain, Mate, and Deckhand to run the vessel. Their hands-on lessons include sail raising, piloting and navigation, Right of Way rules, maritime history, and sailing physics.

After a day filled with charts and microscopes, nets and lines, the boat comes to a dock or anchorage of the students’ choosing. One watch group is shuttled to shore where they will set up tents, cook their dinner over a camp stove, and enjoy an evening activity. The other watch group is doing the same on the boat, where they will spend the night. The next night, the two groups will switch, giving each student an opportunity to explore both settings.

On their final day students synthesize their data and graph it in small groups and make their final conclusions about their research project.  Students are then empowered to utilize the science and sailing skills they have acquired over the course of their expedition to lead the way in collecting oceanographic samples and navigating safely back to where they began.


After the expedition, students and Salish educators return to the classroom to synthesize their research expedition as either a scientific presentation, poster, or paper. The project that began with the ideas developed in the first classroom visit ends as a final published presentation to be shared with parents, teachers and peers, and posted on the Salish website.

Please download the complete Sound Program Teacher’s Guide (PDF), which includes our program alignment with standards and previous student projects.


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 six 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.

How long are programs?

You can choose the length of your program aboard the ship (from 3-5 days). We also offer pre- and post-trip classroom sessions at no additional charge. 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 covering background information, becoming familiar with available research equipment, and developing a hypothesis. Post-trip sessions focus on creation of presentations in order to communicate the results of the expedition. 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.

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.

Will boys and girls be sleeping in the same areas?

Sleeping arrangements are based on the number of male and female students.  We can sleep up to 7 students in each compartment.  Student selection is based on teachers and students will be assigned individual bunks.  If a compartment has to be mixed gender it will be approached with the teacher. The sleeping areas of the ship are divided into two completely separate compartments, each having its own “head” (toilet and sink).  There will be at least one adult in each sleeping area.  There are several large tents for camping ashore that will be organized in single sex units (this is one of the few aspects of the program where student input will not be sought).

What are the sleeping areas like?

Open dormitories. Each bunk has a thick covered mattress with a “fiddle” to keep sleepers from rolling out if the ship moves in the night. 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.

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?

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, to you directly 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. 

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.

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. The Education Director carries an emergency communication cell phone during the sails.

What are your payment policies?

Our program fee is $2800/day for up to 30 participants. This includes pre and post trip classroom visits, all food, supplies and instruction. Our payment policy is a nonrefundable deposit of $600/day due with your contract, the first 1/3rd of the total cost due 90 days prior to your expedition, the second 1/3rd of the total cost due at 60 days prior to your expedition and the balance due 30 days before the voyage. If that doesn’t work in your district, just let us know and we’ll work out an alternative.

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 $1,000,000 liability policy.

If you have questions at any time, please contact our Education Director at (206) 780-7848 or email


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 dates for the spring or fall season.

Step 2: Review the Teacher Guide.

Download the Sound Program Teacher Guide (PDF) – everything you need to ready yourself for an upcoming expedition.

Step 3: Fill out and return the following forms.

Step 4: Help your students plan their meals.

One of the most rewarding (and often favorite!) parts of the expedition is when the students get to become cooks and plan their own meals.

Menu Planning Worksheets – Please fill out return the following forms at least 2 weeks before your trip. Print meal sheets for appropriate trip length and distribute among student cook groups.

**Please note that due to the logistics of ordering foods for delivery we will not be able to accommodate last minute additions of students or chaperones with severe food allergies. We will do our best to accommodate all requests, but sometimes substitutions are necessary.

If you will not be able to have your students plan meals as outlined in these documents, please contact the Salish office immediately so that we may help you come up with alternate options that will still give the students ownership over certain aspects of meal planning.

Regardless of how involved they are in the meal planning process, students will definitely have the opportunity to cook for their shipmates once onboard!

Step 5: 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 Chaperone Roles (PDF) – a detailed explanation of chaperone roles and responsibilities
  • What to bring on Carlyn (PDF) – a detailed list of gear to bring on a Salish expedition

Step 6: 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)

If you have questions at any time, please contact our Education Director at (206) 780-7848 or at

Program Details

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

Program length: 3-5 day programs

Cost:  $2800/day

All programs includes 4 phases:
1) Pre-trips to the classroom in order to develop the student science question.
2) The 3-5 boat program.
3) A post-trip into the classroom to synthesize information from the trip into a student presentation.
4) Student Science Symposium at U.W. (optional)

All science equipment, safety gear, food and camping equipment included.

Inquire today!

Scholarships may be available

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

Sound Program for Individuals

Not coming with a group? We also hold a session for individual students and homeschoolers that are interested in participating in the Sound Program.

Contact for more information