Where will you live?
The 10-week program takes place in the home range of the orcas. By day you’ll sail with the whales through calm, inland waters of Washington State and Canada. At night you’ll anchor in scenic harbors around the San Juan Islands.
Your home while at sea during the program is a sailing catamaran called Gato Verde (Green Cat in Spanish). It’s 13 meters long, sleeps 10 people comfortably, and is the only biodiesel-electric hybrid sailboat operating on the West Coast.
You’ll study at the Friday Harbor Laboratories when not on the water. Design your project and analyze your data using the University of Washington’s advanced research, library, and computer resources. Live in student cabins and dorms on a wooded biological preserve.
Dive deeper: Dates, credits, and costs
San Juan Islands
San Juan Island, home base for our students during the program, is a part of the San Juan Archipelago in the northwest corner of the continental United States. There are over 450 islands in the archipelago, but fewer than one-sixth are inhabited, and only six are accessible by public ferry.
San Juan Island is well known for its saltwater shore, quiet woodlands, and killer whales. It’s home to one of the world’s best sites for land-based whale watching, Lime Kiln State Park.
The San Juan Archipelago lies in the center of a rain shadow cast by the mountains of the Olympic Peninsula to the southwest. This area gets 30% of the annual rainfall received by Seattle and is generally warm and dry.
Friday Harbor Laboratories
Friday Harbor Labs, your on land home during the program, is within walking distance (or a 10 minute row!) of the town of Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. Its water front location is surrounded by 484 acres of biological preserves with hiking trails.
The Labs are home to leading scientists and house state-of-the-art equipment. Beam Reach students have access to all of the resources at the labs and get to associate with people who are working on cutting edge marine science.
A sustainability ship
The Gato Verde has been repowered as a biodiesel-electric hybrid that uses no fossil fuels. The nearly silent motors make research and living on the boat better and reduces underwater noise pollution. When the boat is under sail power, the spinning propellors can generates power for the boat.
Catamarans sail efficiently in light breezes and, when the wind picks up, are exciting and fast. They don’t heel (lean over) like a single-hulled sailboat, which means less sea sickness and more comfort for those new to sailing. It has almost 1,000 square feet (that’s a lot) of deck space, so you can move around easily and safely.