Greetings and welcome aboard the SSV Tole Mour. The "SSV" is a US Coast Guard designation for "Sailing School Vessel" and is a coveted designation to have. An SSV vessel is in the water for one purpose only. It is a vessel dedicated to the education of young people in the lore and the art of sailing the tall ship, of learning an appreciation of our environmental surroundings, how people fit into it, and, thus, how we can protect it.
This vessel, and its SSV moniker, imbues in the thousands of students that cross its deck the knowledge of tall ship sailing, marine science, and a sense of the almost mystical history of life aboard the tall ship. And the ship teaches individualism, the individualism that springs from teamwork. From the ship comes the understanding that no one is more important than the team and that without individuals working together there would be no voyage; the ship simply wouldn't go. This ship is the great equalizer. When we get a group of kids aboard this ship, they come in all stripes. Before long, after a turn in the galley or the scullery washing dishes, or way up in the yards furling sails, or out on the bow standing a 3:00 A.M. watch, knowing that their watch is keeping 48 other people safe and snug in their berths below, students quickly come to recognize viscerally that they are all an integral, indispensable part of a working team, all equal and all equally important, regardless of their task.
From that experience springs the realization of true identity and individualism. When kids disembark from the Tole Mour, they're walking a little taller with a little bit more spring in their step.
This ship was born in the minds, and from the hearts, of two visionary individuals from Boston, Mass., Dr. Lonny Higgins and Mr. David Higgins. On the Marshall Islands, Dr. Higgins discovered that the health conditions in paradise were horrific. Diabetes, high blood pressures, malnutrition and diarrhea were rampant, as well as radiation related cancers.
The Marshalls are the site of U.S. thermonuclear bomb testing in the 1950's, at places whose names have become inextricably linked with the Cold War: Bikini Atoll, Enowetok, Rongelap. The outer islanders were in desperate need of medical care, were helpless to help themselves, and had been neglected and forgotten by their own local government and their protectors, the United States. The Higgins' became committed to seeing health care delivered to this remote region. They would form a foundation to see their vision through to fruition, design and build a medical delivery vessel unique to the region and the environment, a sailing vessel that would be over-designed and over-built to withstand the extreme environmental rigors of the tropical Pacific.
Tole Mour's original configuration included medical, dental, and opthimalogical offices and a fully equipped, compact surgery. Oversized air-conditioning and water making equipment was a must; crew comfort was considered essential, as the vessel would serve long hauls of many months each in the tropics. A design was chosen based on the vessel that would become "sister ship" to Tole Mour, the cadet trainer SSV Spirit of New Zealand.
Funds for construction of the vessel ($3,500,000.00 in 1997-8) were raised through an extensive and intensive campaign carried out by Marimed's prestigious Hawai'ian Board of Trustees. In 1987, David called the School of the Pacific Islands Foundation (SOPI) with a request for funding. SOPI is a small, Thousand Oaks based foundation that focuses its grant making on marine oriented educational projects that serve the youth of the Pacific Islands. Impressed by Higgins' vision, SOPI granted to Marimed a gift of a substantial nature, the largest grant SOPI had ever made to that point in its history. Marimed had its "lead gift" and as the news spread, that a small mainland foundation had made a large grant in support of this radical idea, the floodgates opened and contributions came pouring in.
The SSV Tole Mour was commissioned by the Marimed Foundation and was constructed by Nichols Brothers Shipbuilders of Whidbey Island, Washington in 1988. The ship was designed by a team from the naval architecture firm of Ewbank Brooke and Associates of Auckland, New Zealand, including Capt. Edward E. Ewbank, FRINA. Many visiting captains have commented on her excellent design and how well she can handle a sea. The name Tole Mour means "A Gift of Life and Health" in the Marshallese language. The vessel was named in a national contest among the school children of the Marshall Islands. She set sail on her maiden voyage in October of 1988 and arrived in the waters of the Marshall islands in early 1989. She saw service there for the next four years, making regular rounds to the outer islands and providing medical services to over 15,000 outer islanders, most for the first times in their lives.
An unexpected circumstance brought Marimed's tenure to a close in the Marshalls. The presence of the Tole Mour in the region started islanders talking and wondering among themselves. "Why was it that Americans were providing the very services that the local government should have been but wasn't?" This caught the political attention of the government leadership in the district centers, as it was not lost on them that outer islanders formed a majority of the electorate and had been known to vote in bloke. Soon, after only four years service, the Tole Mour was put out of business as the Marshalese Government put into service its own fleet of medical delivery vessels. Tole Mour was retired from its Marshallese service and returned to Hawaii.
After a period of searching, Marimed created an arrangement with the Hawaiian Justice Department to provide remedial services for hardened criminal youth offenders referred to them by the Department. It was soon discovered that Tole Mour was too large to carry a group of youth of this demeanor into deep waters, and so the vessel found itself pulling duty as a floating dormitory, a situation clearly beneath the dignity of the ship.
In the summer of 2000, the Marimed Foundation Trustees reluctantly decided to sell the Tole Mour. In the summer of 2000, Ross Turner, the President of Guided Discoveries noted with great interest the advertisement in a yachting magazine that announced that the Tole Mour was for sale. Guided Discoveries had recently introduced a marine "tall ship" sea training component to its' menu of offerings on Catalina, employing the Pilgrim of Newport in that pursuit (Now the Spirit of Dana Point). The program was enthusiastically received, however it was soon realized that in order for the program to grow, ownership of the vessel was essential. It was then that the ad came across his bow.
Ross Turner called School of the Pacific Islands Foundation and spoke with its president, Larry Janss, in the summer of 2000. As the two men talked, the potential for the future began to unfold. A commitment was made between Turner and Janss to see the Tole Mour into So. Californian, waters, and over the course of the following eight months the two worked tirelessly putting a deal together. The Boards of the two non-profits had to be convinced, financing had to be secured and an entire business program developed. These things were accomplished and on Wednesday, March 28th, 2001, Janss and Turner flew to Hawaii, boarded Tole Mour with David Higgins and at 3:00pm local time the three signed the documents committing the Tole Mour to becoming the largest working tall ship on the entire west coast of the continental Northern Americas, from Alaska to Panama.
CIMI Tall Ship Expeditions has now completed over 300 expeditions to the Islands of Southern California and are always looking forward to the next one. We have served teachers from all over the United States and Students from all over the world. We hope you will come experience an expedition with us soon.