The Black Dolphin

Experiential Learning At Its Best

The Black Dolphin is a classic 50-foot wooden ketch that serves as The Harbour School’s "outdoor classroom".  At The Harbour School, we believe that learning can be that much more engaging, fulfilling and enriching by experiencing lessons instead of simply taking notes behind a desk in a classroom.  

The Black Dolphin is, quite literally, a sailing platform for adventures in science, math, social studies, literacy, art, music and other areas of the curriculum. At The Harbour School, marine sciences are taught at all grade levels.

While many sail programs teach sailing, and others focus on character traits and team building, we are one of the few programs that focuses primarily on education and research. Students also learn leadership skills such as collaborative problem-solving, teamwork, resilience and self-reliance. Yes, they also learn to sail and along the way, they also have a lot of fun.

More importantly, The Black Dolphin is a platform through which students may study marine biology, mathematics, physics, oceanography, geography, navigation, ecology, poetry, storytelling, history ... and much more.

About the ship

This beautiful vessel is a diesel auxiliary gaff-rigged cruising ketch designed by renowned Southern California marine architect Hugh Angelman and built in 1944 at the Wilmington Boat Works ("Wilbo") in Wilmington, California. The Black Dolphin is white oak framed and mahogany planked, with teak decks and gum interior trim.

The Black Dolphin is identified as an "A-40 ketch" to differentiate the design from the prolific Angelman's other designs. It is unknown how many of the A-40 class were built, or how many still survive. It is thought that there were less than a dozen constructed and commissioned.

Although built in California, The Black Dolphin has sailed to New Zealand and Hawaii, and was one of the six original ships in the Seven Seas Cruising Association (SSCA) which is now the oldest and largest worldwide organization supporting liveaboard cruising.

The Black Dolphin is especially suitable for use as an outdoor classroom because of its ketch-rig, shallow draft, and flush deck.


Sailboats are classified by how their spars and sails are arranged. The Black Dolphin is ketch-rigged, meaning that it has two masts and hoists a component of three sails under normal conditions. A ketch's sail area is broken up into smaller sails than other kinds of boats making the sails easier for the students to handle.

Shallow Draft

The Black Dolphin's draft is only five feet four inches, which allows it to access many coves and harbours other deeper boats cannot enter. It also allows the boat to come in closer to beaches making access to shore-based educational activities easier.

Flush Deck

The decks of most sailboats are obstructed by one or more "coach roofs", the portion of the deck raised to give increased headroom in the cabin. These structures take up a considerable amount of the useful space aboard a sailboat. The Black Dolphin has a flush deck from the companionway leading down into the cabin to the bow of the boat, making The Black Dolphin an ideal platform on which students may participate in small group lessons, observe their surroundings, view demonstrations and participate in hands-on activities.

The Logs from The Black Dolphin

The Black Dolphin as of this writing is currently anchored off Round Island, the fifth grade class is ashore for the day examining the relationship between world explorers and the natives that they encountered.

Begin your journey