The 200-foot Tall Ship Oliver Hazard Perry, Rhode Island’s Official Sailing Education Vessel, departed Monday, May 1 for its first of two back-to-back programs held in partnership with the Naval Academy Prep School (NAPS). Aboard were 28 midshipman candidates enrolled in a ten-month course of instruction at NAPS that began in July 2016. The candidates will be at sea aboard Perry for five days.

“We are really excited about it,” said NAPS spokesman Mark Donahue. “The Coast Guard has the barque Eagle, and the Naval Academy does a lot of sailing but not on a square rigged school ship, so this is a great opportunity for these students. The training program that Perry’s crew has worked out will be perfect for them, and they know they are not going out there to be passengers on a cruise ship; they are going out to lend a hand and get an appreciation for the sea.”  

The mission of NAPS, located on Naval Station Newport, is to enhance midshipman candidates’ moral, mental, and physical foundations to prepare them for success at the U.S. Naval Academy.

Upon boarding Perry, Midshipman candidate Jordan McDaniel (East Chicago, Ill.) said, “I’ve always loved the idea of going out to sea, seeing the stars and learning about all you can do on boats.”

The Perry’s first stop will be Point Judith on Monday evening. Then the ship will likely sail through the Cape Cod Canal to Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. It will return to Newport on Saturday, May 6.

“This is the culmination of three to four years of coordination between OHPRI, NAPS, the U.S. Naval Academy and a lot of military leadership,” said Rear Admiral Glenn Whisler, Jr., USN (Ret.), who is an Oliver Hazard Perry Rhode Island (OHPRI) Board member. “My only regret is that the late Vice-Admiral Tom Weschler, USN (Ret.), who helped found OHPRI, wasn’t here to greet these young men and women. These midshipman candidates come from a variety of backgrounds, and most have not been to sea on anything, let alone a Tall Ship.”

OHPRI’s goal is to make this an annual happening where every NAPS class will have the opportunity to sail aboard Oliver Hazard Perry. “It’s our opportunity to get them excited about going to sea and learning about navigating, boat handling, and such,” said Whisler. “It goes back to there being no passengers here. Once these Midshipman candidates step aboard, they are crew.”

The next five-day trip for NAPS will begin on Saturday, May 6.