Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

September 26, 2013

Seaworthy lesson

Local couple taking students on Mediterranean voyage

By Dustin Luca

---- — They have traded their home on Woodland Road for a life on the open water and over the next two years, Bob and Sara Knapp will be sharing their journey with local students.

It’s the latest adventure for the Andover couple whose last excursion was a four-year sailing voyage that took them to 70 islands in 23 countries.

They spent the last three years since then planning their next expedition — this time on a larger boat, the Quintessa, paid for by their life savings and the sale of their Andover home.

Their plan is to eventually sail to the Mediterranean Sea — bringing two West Elementary School classrooms along for the ride.

“When we did our last trip, (school Principal Liz Roos) suggested that we get in touch with a class,” Sara Knapp, 62, said. “We never quite pulled it off that time, so this time, we said, ‘Let’s do it.’”

As they travel, they’ll communicate with the fourth-grade classrooms of Frank McCall and Holly Plamondon via email, Skype video-conferencing and any other means available.

“We’ve got these great experiences and we’re not able to share it other than with family and people reading our blog,” Bob Knapp, 56, said. “We thought, how could we give back?”

Before they set sail, the Knapps visited with the fourth-graders to talk about the upcoming trip and how they’ll travel over the next couple years as well as answer questions about their prior sailing excursions and what they’ve seen.

McCall is familiar with what his students will see and hear. He had the chance to sail with the Knapps this summer.

“They had offered a day of sailing as part of a fundraiser in support of A Better Chance of Andover,” he said.

After his brief ocean excursion, McCall was approached by Roos, who pitched an idea for his students to work with the Knapps during the school year.

He couldn’t resist.

“The Knapps’ adventure will help bring the curriculum alive through their real-world experiences as they travel down the East Coast and then on across the Atlantic,” McCall said. “The students’ ability to make connections via the Knapps will increase their level of engagement.”

What the students will learn in class will tie directly into the trip, McCall said. Their progress will be tracked in geography lessons, math will be used to calculate their travel rate and progress based on distance and time, and science will be used to demonstrate their use of celestial navigation and GPS.

Roos said the trip will “make the world so much smaller through Skyping and blogging.”

Last Wednesday, Sept. 18, the Knapps boarded their boat in Rhode and headed for Florida. They expect to arrive in the Sunshine State in December, Sara Knapp said.

Then, they will drive back east for the holidays, when they will check in with the West fourth-graders, Sara Knapp said.

They’ll bring with them a crate of saltwater and another of purified water cleaned by onboard reverse osmosis to demonstrate the process, she said.

After the holidays, the couple will return to Florida and set sail again, hitting the Bahamas by February then a few other locations on their way to Bermuda by May. From there, they’ll make the trek to the Mediterranean, Sara Knapp said.

By the time their journey takes them south of Europe, the fourth-graders will have graduated to the fifth grade and will continue their cross-ocean learning for a second year, the Knapps said. Four more fifth-grade classes will join in the adventure, too.

While Bob and Sara Knapp have planned for a definite two-year voyage to the Mediterranean, they may extend their trip to four years by continuing their travels around Europe and then possibly heading south to Africa, Bob Knapp said.

“At some point, we’ll come home and buy a house again. We’re not at that point,” Sara Knapp said.

“So many people wait and wait, and (fulfilling a dream) never happens. So we’re saying, ‘Don’t wait. Go live your dream.’”