How the Girls’ Boat Project is shaping one student’s future

hallie kopaldAll

High school student Jenna Hiegel reflects on her experience as a middle school Girls’ Boat Project participant, and how the program has helped shape her goals for her future.

The Girls’ Boat Project is an amazing program that has inspired me to pursue a career in the maritime industry. Both of my parents are avid kayakers, so my whole life has always revolved around the ocean. I joined the Girls’ Boat Project in the seventh grade after it was suggested to me by my now high school teacher, Kelley Watson, but I didn’t really know what to expect. I wasn’t a sailor or a shipwright, but I was interested and that was enough. I ended up loving the program and continued with it in my eighth grade year as well.

We got to sail on the longboats and even took them on an overnight journey to Fort Flagler. Besides sailing, we also learned basic woodworking skills and helped build a boat that future Girls’ Boat Project participants are still building today.

I am now a sophomore at Port Townsend High School and am a second-year student in Kelley Watson’s vessel operations class. I’m also the proud owner of a Victory 21 sailboat, which I co-own with my two friends, Odin and Cyan. I still can’t tell you my exact goals for my future, but my current plan is to attend California Maritime Academy and study Oceanography, but that might change. All I really know is that I plan to work in the maritime industry, and I would like to thank the Northwest Maritime Center, Kelley Watson, and the Girls Boat Project for setting me up for the lifestyle I am sure to follow.

For more information about the Girls’ Boat Project, contact Associate Program Manager Chrissy McLean at