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Down to the Sea with BAMI

San Francisco Progress
Sun. March 1, 1981
By Chuck Wilfong

Man's fascination of the sea arcs across an untold span of centuries, and the famous line from Masefield's Sea Fever lingers forever:

"I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky, and all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by."

Ask the man who's been there: Warren Taylor Vaughan, III.

As the skipper of San Francisco's Bay Area Marine Institute (BAMI), Vaughan has packed into a seabag a lifetime of living in just 36 years and he shares it all with students enrolled in his non-profit school at Pier 66.

Geared towards supplying the marine boat building and repair industry with graduates bearing recognition as Marine Services Technicians, BAMI and Vaughan are partners in "a beginning."

"There really has not been any direct route of access into the recreational marine and small craft industry," he said, pointing to a bank of pictures depicting an endless variety of pleasure boat designs.

"BAMI is designed to fulfill an ever-increasing need for craftsmen and technicians versed in many skills: woodworking, fiberglass, engine mechanics, electrical systems, coatings, finishing, etc."

No stranger to this multi-$ billion industry, (he first got his sea legs when he was 19 years old as an ordinary seaman aboard the Norwegian freighter M/V Evanger during a circumnavigation of South America via the Straits of Magellan and Panama), Vaughan has a list of credentials that read as if they belong to three people instead of just one:

Carpenter, cabinetmaker, builder of the ocean-going yacht Great Bear which he sailed from San Francisco to Newport, Rhode Island, a master carpenter in the building of the 12-meter yacht Intrepid for the 1974 America's Cup Defense, Dean of the Chapman School of Seamanship in Stuart, Florida, a naval architect and marine engineer, and in 1976 the Western Regional Director of the Oceanic Society at Fort Mason.

Amidst all of this he has somehow found time to write; author of "The Launch of the Great Bear," "West to East by VHF" and "Odds on the Sea."

This intensive background spills over into the teachings at BAMI---"We teach pride of craftsmanship, " he said.

And the students are not judged merely on how well they answer questions on a written examination. "You've got to get your hands into the work," the skipper says, pointing to his more than 76,000 square feet of work area at BAMI

This "laying on of the hands" is an everyday part of the BAMI student's activities; from practical application of reinforced plastics in boat construction, to basic concepts of projective geometry in lofting, for boat builders, model makers and students of naval construction .

In the BAMI course of study, which has been approved by the California Department of Education, Vaughan has tailored the offerings into a tightly knit package which is unique to the West Coast.

Both day and night class schedules are "accelerated training" and, as Vaughan describes them, "contain the current state of the art closely linked to industry skills and requirements. "

One of the keys to success of any training is placement of graduates. BAMI operates a job clearing house for Marine Services Technicians which is nation-wide in scope.

"Although we can't guarantee a job in the industry," the BAMI skipper remarked, "we have had very fine placement with our graduates. This pride of craftsmanship we teach is paying off. As our students begin their careers in the industry yards we say to them, 'Don't go out there and say you can do everything; keep a low profile, ease into it and you'll be welcomed'."

And this philosophy of the Bay Area Marine Institute and its president, Massachusetts born veteran seaman Warren Taylor Vaughan, III relates to the words of Masefield--" . .going down to the seas again. "

As men of the sea well know, from the intrepid dory men of Portugal to the pleasure craft skippers off the coast of California--"Don't go out there at sea and say you can do everything; keep a low profile, ease into it and you'll be welcomed."

For the BAMI crew, the adventure is in the beginning.