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Sea School Ocean Institute Teaches Kids; Hoteliers, Quiksilver’s McKnight on Board SHERRI CRUZ Sunday, March 13, 2011

Kids aboard institute ship: some 100,000 visit each year It’s tradition for Dana Point’s mayor to serve on the board of the Ocean Institute, a science and maritime history learning center for school kids in Dana Point Harbor. Wayne Rayfield, a retired executive at The World Bank in Washington, D.C., has stuck around long since his stint as mayor because of his passion for the ocean and kids. “For many of the kids, it’s a life changing experience,” said Rayfield, now chairman of the Ocean Institute’s board. “They get off the bus and their eyes get as big as dinner plates.” During the week, the 2.4-acre Ocean Institute buzzes with school children, some who have never seen the ocean before. They learn about science and the sea through hands-on activities and examining sea life such as starfish, jellyfish and sharks. “We think of it as a learning laboratory,” said Dan Stetson, chief executive of the Ocean Institute. The institute hosts other visitors on weekends. It also rents its oceanfront facilities for meetings, proms, weddings and other events. Bill Steel, partner at Irvine law firm Samuels, Green & Steel LLP, has worked with the Ocean Institute since 1988. He’s an avid sea guy who likes to boat and scuba dive.

“I thought this was perfect,” he said. “All the things it offered were all the things that mattered to me.” Steel had another hook. His late uncle Ray Wallace built the 130-foot Pilgrim, one of the institute’s ships that teach kids maritime history by re-enacting life on the sea in the 1800s. The Pilgrim is a replica of the ship that Dana Point’s namesake, Richard Henry Dana, sailed in 1834. Local Executives Steel is on the institute’s executive committee, which steers the board’s 40 members. Others on the eight-member executive committee include Tim McMahon, senior vice president in the Anaheim office of Los Angeles-based CB Richard Ellis Group Inc., and Jens Von Gierke, an executive of Newport Beach-based Makar Properties LLC. Members of the overall board include Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa general manager Jim Samuels, St. Regis Monarch Beach general manager Johnny So, Laguna Beach artist Wyland and Huntington Beach-based Quiksilver Inc.’s Bob McKnight. Members serve on various committees. They’re also expected to help raise funds for the institute. The board has a financial commitment to “give or get” $20,000 annually. “If you’re passionate about it, you’re going to be more excited,” said

board member Scott Connella, Union Bank’s executive vice president of Southern California commercial banking. The institute runs 60 science and maritime history programs for different grade levels. More than 100,000 California school kids take part annually. The 18-hour overnight program on the Pilgrim is one of the most popular. Kids re-enact life aboard a ship in 1830s, when the original Pilgrim collected cattle hides, which were converted into leather goods. “They eat a very disgusting looking stew for dinner and have oatmeal for breakfast because there were no fancy meals back in 1834,” Steel said. Before the kids board, they read Richard Henry Dana’s book “Two Years before the Mast,” which arrives in classrooms in a sea chest, along with rope for knot-tying lessons. The kids choose roles for themselves, such as galley mates, riggers and hide gatherers. The Pilgrim also earns extra money for the institute moonlighting as a prop in films. The ship generated $10,000 a day as a prop in Steven Spielberg’s movie “Amistad.” The institute also owns the Spirit of Dana Point, a replica of a 1770s ship used during the American Revolution. About 110 people work at the institute, including 40 full-time workers. It has about 450 volunteers. Its yearly budget is roughly $8 million, down about $2 million from a year earlier.

Fundraising The institute has stepped up its adopt-a-class program, which raises money to send classrooms to the institute. It takes about $2,500 to send 40 kids to the institute. About half of that is fuel for buses. The institute puts on several annual fundraisers, including Jazz in January, which nets about $130,000, and the Laguna Beach Home Raffle, its biggest fundraiser, which typically grosses $3 million and nets about $1 million. The institute sells roughly 20,000 raffle tickets at $150 apiece for the chance to win a Laguna Beach home or $1 million in cash. The three-day Toshiba Tall Ships Festival, which attracts 20,000 people, is like a Renaissance festival. “An armada of tall ships with cannons blasting sail into the harbor,” Stetson said. “The captains take it pretty seriously.” The institute is in the midst of raising $4 million for a new seaside learning center that will double the size of its dock to 300 feet. The new center, which it hopes to finish this year, will accommodate more ships and more learning labs. The institute has raised about $1.5 million so far for the learning center.