Sultana Education Foundation Welcomes New Senior Staff


The Sultana Education Foundation (SEF) has announced the addition Madison Beres and Aaron Thal as new members of its senior staff.  Thal and Beres join SEF as the Foundation enters the final stages of its Vision 2020 initiative, a six-year effort to double the organization’s program capacity.

Madison Beres

A Kent County native, Madison Beres joins SEF as the Foundation’s new Development Associate. Introduced to SEF’s programs at a young age sailing aboard the schooner SULTANA with her elementary school classmates, Beres went on to graduate from St. Andrew’s School in Middletown, DE and Hamilton College in New York, where she received a Bachelor’s of Science in Geological and Environmental Sciences.  Beres was active in and outside of school, collecting numerous student-athlete and service awards including the Headmaster’s and Violet Richardson Award. Beres returned to Maryland in 2017 to pursue a path in conservation, serving as a Deckhand Educator onboard the SULTANA in 2018.

Aaron Thal

A former Chief Mate on the schooner SULTANA, Aaron Thal returns to SEF in 2019 as the organization’s first-ever Second Captain, sharing captaining duties with SEF’s Senior Captain, Michael Fiorentino.  Thal received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Connecticut, and quickly jumped into the world of traditional sailing, working on multiple vessels including the schooners Quinnipiack, Sultana, Virginia, and Pride of Baltimore II.  Most recently, Thal worked for Echo Hill Outdoor School where he captained multiple vessels in Echo Hill’s fleet of historic Chesapeake Bay workboats.  Thal holds a United States Coast Guard Master License for Vessels up to 100 tons on Inland Waters, as well as Auxiliary Sail and Commercial Towing endorsements.

Sultana Will Host Camper’s Preview this First Friday


Spring has just begun, but Sultana Education Foundation’s summer programs are currently 84% full, with a few spots left on board the schooner Sultana and within the kayak and canoe adventures.  These programs provide kids ages 5-18 with extraordinary opportunities to experience the Chesapeake Bay in creative and unique ways that most can only imagine, encouraging participants to engage socially, learn new skills and develop confidence in a rage of activities.

On April 5th at 5pm, during Chestertown’s First Friday monthly event, Sultana Education Foundation will open its doors at the the Holt Education Center to host a camper’s summer preview.  Current enrollees and interested applicants can play within a campsite village, watch a video and photo montage of prior trips, roast smores on the fire, and engage in other example activities.

Sign up your child, a family member, a friend or yourself for one of these epic adventures today while you still can.

Sultana Might Have a Job For You


Do you like working with children, spending time outdoors, and traveling around the Chesapeake Bay? If so, the Sultana Education Foundation (SEF) may have a job for you!

As SEF looks towards 2019, the Foundation is looking to fill seven program staff positions, both on the schooner SULTANA, and with its paddling programs. Here is a quick look at the available positions at SEF.

Schooner SULTANA

Second Captain – year round/full-time
Education Director

Paddling Programs

Paddling Program Director – year-round/full-time
Assistant Paddling Program Director
Paddling Program Associate

Click here for complete job descriptions and application instructions.

Founded in 1997, the Sultana Education Foundation is a private nonprofit dedicated to providing unique, hands-on educational opportunities that promote stewardship of the Chesapeake Bay’s historic, cultural, and environmental legacies. The Foundation is a two-time recipient of the National Maritime Historical Foundation’s Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Maritime Education.

Downrigging: Robert Earl Price and the Unlading Starts October 26


As greater Chestertown prepares for another great Downrigging weekend, it is sometimes hard to remember how wide and diverse the programing is for this Sultana Education Foundation fall happening. A case in point is the Kent County Art Council sponsored production of Robert Earl Price’s dramatized poem “The Unlading” scheduled to be performed at the historic Janes Church.

Recounting the tale of the first stolen African people arrived in North America in August 1619 whose  arrival was marked by four words, “20 and odd Negars” and later would be legally known as “un-free” for population census purposes. 

Art Council director John Schratwieser was clever enough to talk Robert Earl into providing a brief overview of this work and resourcefully deployed his handy Iphone for this vertically shot check in.

A Dramatized Poem, written and directed by Robert Earl Price,  Commissioned and Produced by the Kent County Arts Council for Sultana Education Foundation’s Downrigging Weekend 2018.

Performances are FREE and will be held at Janes United Methodist Church, 120 S. Cross Street, Chestertown as follows:

Friday, October 26, 2018 – 6:00 p.m.
Saturday, October 27, 2018 – 1:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Sunday, October 28, 2018 – 1:30 p.m.  

The play runs approximately 30 minutes with no intermission.

Revitalized Chestertown Marina One of the Headliners for Downrigging Weekend 2018


The Sultana Education Foundation has announced the schedule for its annual Downrigging Weekend Tall Ship and Wooden Boat Festival, set for October 26–29, in Chestertown, Maryland.  Now in its 18th year, Downrigging Weekend is one of the largest annual tall ship gatherings in North America and features four days of tall ship sails, deck tours, concerts, lectures, films exhibits and family activities.


Unique among tall ship festivals on the East Coast, Downrigging Weekend offers visitors the opportunity sail on a fleet of tall ships. Over the course of Downrigging Weekend, an impressive array of historic vessels—including KALMAR NYCKEL (the state ship of Delaware), the schooners VIRGINIA, LYNX, LADY MARYLAND, and SULTANA, and skipjacks SIGSBEE and ELSWORTH—will take passengers out for four joint sails on the Chester River. Sailing tickets begin at $25 and are available at Visitors can also visit and tour the ships at the dock during one of several scheduled free open houses.  Those looking for more comfort for their voyage on the Chester also have the opportunity to cruise on Chestertown’s own River Packet.

This year’s event will serve also as the unveiling for Chestertown’s newly revitalized waterfront. Following two years of construction, and $6.2 million in improvements, visitors to Downrigging will be welcomed by larger, state-of-the-art floating piers, a raised parking lot, a new Marina office, public bathrooms and showers, and extensive landscaping.

The Downrigging Weekend festivities won’t stop at the water’s edge.  This year’s events will feature the return of the Delmarva Dock Dogs competition hosted by Kingstown Farm, Home and Garden. Taking place on both Saturday and Sunday, this competition will see dogs from all over the region compete to see who can leap the furthest. Local dog owners are welcome to enter their dogs in the competition and registration and scheduling information can be found at

The Festivals’ on-the-water events will be rounded out by an exhibit of Classic Cars and Boats on the waterfront in conjunction with the Antique & Classic Boat Society, a waterside 5K and half-marathon hosted by the Chester River Association, and concerts by The Eastport Oyster Boys, Levi Stephens, and the High and Wides. Visitors this year won’t have to leave the River to hear music, thanks to a new waterfront stage hosting performances by Betty and the Bullet, the Mountain Lion String Band, the Chestertown Ukulele Club, Apache Trails, and the Dovetail Trio.

For those interested in maritime history, lectures will take place throughout the weekend.  On Friday evening, John Brady, President and CEO of the Independence Seaport Museum, will talk about the 1892 cruiser OLYMPIA. Saturday afternoon, Press Harding will perform “Boy in the Boatyard,” a performance of music, spoken word and images inspired by his childhood in Wingate, Maryland, and the Bookplate will host a talk on Gilbert Byron and his work by author Jacques T. Baker.

Art will be a major theme for Downrigging, including an exhibit by Marc Castelli, “Minding the Dogvane,” at the Carla Massoni Gallery, as well as the Artworks annual Studio Tour. The Kent County Arts Council has produced a new play specifically for Downrigging Weekend by playwright Earl Price, “Unlading,” which tells the story 23 enslaved Africans as they are “unladed” from a Dutch Man of War.

Also back this year is the enormously popular annual nighttime illumination of the tall ships and fireworks display over Chestertown’s historic harbor.

For a full schedule, or to register for a Downrigging Weekend sail, please visit


Nice: Sultana Wins Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race for Second Time in Three Years


For the second time in three years, Captain Michael Fiorentino and the crew of the Sultana Education Foundation’s schooner SULTANA claimed victory in the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race.  This annual race sees a fleet of over 30 schooners race the length of the Chesapeake from Annapolis to Norfolk to benefit the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.  Sultana completed the 118 Nautical Mile race in an astonishing 16 hours and 15 minutes, averaging approximately 7.5 knots under sail for the duration of the race.

SULTANA competed in the “AA Class” of the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race, which sees her compete against the largest schooners, including VIRGINIA, LADY MARYLAND, COLUMBIA, and AJ MEEERWALD – all vessels whose designs are considerably more modern.   Using “corrected time,” a handicapping system that accounts for the differences in the competing vessels’ designs, SULTANA claimed victory by a margin of almost two hours over the second place finisher COLUMBIA, and four hours over the third place schooner LADY MARYLAND. 

Following the conclusion of the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race, SULTANA is scheduled to sail north to Solomons Island, Maryland to provide educational programs for Calvert County Schools in conjunction with he Calvert Marine Museum, before heading home to Chestertown for the Sultana Education Foundation’s annual Downrigging Weekend Tall Ship and Wooden Boat Festival on October 26-28.

Sultana Education Foundation Partners with Gunston School for Chesapeake Watershed Semester Kickoff


Free Public Presentation on Thursday, September 27, 6:00 PM, at Sultana Education Foundation

Join Director of Watershed Restoration and former Pennsylvania Executive Director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Matt Ehrhart, for a free discussion on the Stroud Water  Research Center, a Pennsylvania non-profit that is leading the effort to help farmers use best management practices for whole farm restoration—preventing fresh water pollution in the Chesapeake Bay at its source.

Through extensive public and private partnerships as well as intensive outreach and education for farmers in the Chesapeake’s Pennsylvania freshwater tributaries, the Stroud Water Research Center helps landowners secure the best program funding to suit their farms and properties.

This talk is free to the public, with no registration required.

Sultana Education Foundation connects people to the Chesapeake Bay’s history, ecology, and culture, inspiring them to preserve and restore America’s largest estuary through land- and-water-based experiential education.  To learn more about Sultana Education Foundation’s public or school programs, visit

About the Sultana Education Foundation

Founded in 1997, the Sultana Education Foundation is a private nonprofit dedicated to providing unique, hands-on educational opportunities that promote stewardship of the Chesapeake Bay’s historic, cultural, and environmental legacies.   The Foundation is a two-time recipient of the National Maritime Historical Foundation’s Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Maritime Education.

Sultana Snapshots: SEF and Gunston School Kick Off Chesapeake Watershed Semester


Over a three-day, two-night kayak overnight trip from September 4-6, Sultana Education Foundation’s staff naturalists helped kickoff the Gunston School’s new Chesapeake Watershed Semester program. Throughout the course of the fall, Chesapeake Watershed Semester (CWS) introduces high school students to the complex environmental, political and cultural landscape of the Chesapeake Bay watershed through classroom and field experiences.

Gunston’s Chesapeake Watershed Semester student Zach Goss examines a longnose gar while paddling with Sultana Education Foundation on the Nanticoke River.

13 students and three CWS staff joined Sultana Education Foundation paddling educators to start their semester by exploring three rivers on the lower Eastern Shore of Maryland—the Nanticoke, the Pocomoke, and the Little Choptank. From the pristine swamplands of the Upper Nanticoke to the Pocomoke’s primordial stands of bald cypress, the students explored some of the diverse habitat contained in the Chesapeake Bay’s 64,000 square mile watershed.

Chesapeake Watershed Semester students explored the bald cypress swamps of the Pocomoke River.

“We were honored to be asked by Gunston to lead the very first trip of their new, innovative program,” said Sultana Education Foundation Vice President Chris Cerino. “It was a great experience for everyone involved. In addition to seeing an amazing array of Chesapeake ecosystems, it was an important bonding activity for the students as they kicked off their semester.”

Sultana Education Foundation connects people to the Chesapeake Bay’s history, ecology, and culture, inspiring them to preserve and restore America’s largest estuary through land- and-water-based experiential education. To learn more about Sultana Education Foundation’s public or school programs, visit

Sultana Snapshots: Scott’s Point Findings to Share


Photo by Kate Livie

The Scott’s Point area, historically African American, had many more homes than exist today—some of which were on the property where the Marina work is happening now. Though those buildings might be gone, there are reminders of the busy 19th century community that once existed here in the soil. These pieces of glass, salt glazed stoneware, transferware, milk glass and various crocks would have been thrown into a kitchen midden or privy vault when broken in daily use.

They’ve been unearthed by the construction at the waterfront; a reminder that no matter the century, Chestertown’s waterfront has always been a well-loved, well-used and important part of our river community.

The Sultana Education Foundation in Chestertown offers a diverse variety of history and science-based field programs serving students and teachers throughout Maryland and beyond. For more information please go here.


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