Port Townsend Yacht Club doubles scholarships this year

By Doris Loeser
Posted 4/24/24



The number of recipients of the scholarship funds from the Port Townsend Yacht Club has doubled from last year, meaning more opportunities to gain experience and advance …

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Port Townsend Yacht Club doubles scholarships this year




The number of recipients of the scholarship funds from the Port Townsend Yacht Club has doubled from last year, meaning more opportunities to gain experience and advance career plans in marine sciences, maritime trades and boatbuilding. At the same time, the amount of money raised for scholarships rose from $7,000 in 2023 to $10,000 in 2024.

Funds for the scholarships were raised by members of the Port Townsend Yacht Club members. "Club members have worked very hard, through our big annual garage sales and many smaller fundraisers, to support these scholarships," said Janette Mestre, co-chair of the Scholarship Committee. 

Five of this year's 11 awardees will study at the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding, four will pursue college degrees, one will engage in boatbuilding at the Northwest Maritime Center, and another has an internship on the Schooner Martha.


Here's a look at this year's recipients:   


Ella Ashford will continue with her studies at Willamette University in environmental science and archeology. At PTHS, she participated in a robotics project for derelict crab pot identification and removal, and has widened her experience to archeology in Greece, oceanography off New Zealand, and the coral reef ecosystems of American Samoa. She plans a career focused on the management of coastal resources to mitigate environmental threats.

Nathaniel Ashford, while at Port Townsend High School, thrived as the lead engineer in the Marine Advanced Technology Education’s underwater ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) Program. He intends to become a marine engineer using emerging underwater robotic technologies to further the sustainability of the maritime environment. The Ashfords are siblings.

Zephyr Bell has a love for design and the water that has led him to work at the Northwest Maritime Center and sail on the PTHS sailing team. His senior project, designing an aluminum outboard speed boat, will enhance his pursuit of a degree in mechanical engineering, followed by marine engineering and naval architecture.

D’Leen Betts, now a student at the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding, wants to continue their nautical learning through a sailmaking apprenticeship. Already an enthusiastic student and maritime volunteer, they hope to eventually have their own sailmaking loft. 

Panya Cao plans to study environmental studies, with a minor in coastal studies, focusing on utilizing natural systems to counteract the effects of harmful agricultural pesticides on the ocean. An avid sailor, she is on the PTHS sailing team and is the youth representative to the board of the Port Townsend Sailing Association, advocating for more opportunities for youth sailing. 

Piper Hewitt grew up in Maine, where she sailed along the New England coastline. Currently a student at the NWSWB, she hopes to start her own business and support other women to become skilled boat builders. 

Mia Nikkonen is inspired by her childhood summers in Finland, where she often rowed her great uncle’s hand-crafted wooden boat. Having earned her degree in environmental science and terrestrial resource management, she wanted a deeper connection with nature and its resources. This scholarship will support her current studies at the NWSWB. 

Emilia Ramsay, a graduate of OCEAN K-12 and PTHS, has become the owner of Dorjun, the 26-foot gaff rigged sloop built in 1905 that has been part of the NWMC fleet. She plans to use her scholarship to build a Point Hudson Dory in the NWMC’s Duckworks Boat Shop Takeover that will serve as Dorjun’s tender.

Sebastian Rogowski, the first in his family to pursue higher education, has graduated from the NWSWB’s Boatbuilding School and is presently enrolled in the school’s Marine Systems program. This has awakened his interest in marine electrical systems and corrosion issues in particular. His plan is to find an internship or employment in marine electronics.

Nellie Sorenson is currently enrolled in the NWSWB boatbuilding program and wants to work in historical boat restoration and boat interiors. She hopes to eventually start her own boatbuilding restoration business and be a role model for women in the boatbuilding trades. 


Hazel Windstorm will use her scholarship for her training internship aboard the Schooner Martha this summer. She began sailing on Martha in fifth grade. Now, as lead deckhand on youth sailing trips, her duties will include assisting in vessel operations, managing around six youth students on multi-day trips, and teaching them the basics of sailing and navigation.

The scholarship was started in recognition of the importance of the maritime industry as an economic driver in the community, along with marine sciences, and key to the health and preservation of the Salish Sea environment. Begun in 1990, the first scholarships were awarded in 1991. PTYC has awarded over $116,000 in local scholarships to date.

Members have already begun raising funds for 2025 scholarships. Thanks to a new relationship with the Jefferson Community Foundation, donors — including those outside PTYC — are invited to contribute to the PTYC Scholarship Fund, and obtain tax-deductible 501(c)(3) status. "Our decision to partner with JCF is a progression to expand fundraising out to the community beyond our members and provide a tax benefit to donors,” Mestre said. 

Doris Loeser is a volunteer on the scholarship committee at the Port Townsend Yacht Club and a resident of Port Townsend.