Focus Session: The Emergency Response from Ashore

The Emergency Response from Ashore- A Panel Discussion on Lessons Learned from Past Incidents on Sail Training Vessels

Updated 1.20.2013

Presenters: Bruce Middleton, Chief Operating Officer, Class Afloat
                        Captain Tiffany Krihwan, SV Denis Sullivan (click here for documents: Vessel Communication Log and SMS Manual)                      
                        Captain Wes Heerssen, U.S. Brig Niagara   
                        Abi Iverson, Ocean Classroom Foundation   (click here for document: OCF Crisis Management Plan)          

Session Description
: Does your organization have an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) or similar plan that outlines the key roles and responsibilities necessary to mount an effective response from the office to support an emergency on your vessel? In this session, several Tall Ships America members will discuss outcomes from emergencies/ incidents that occurred aboard their vessels, which called for revisions of their organization’s EAP. The goal of this session is to examine the effectiveness of Emergency Action Plans to identify their usefulness and limitations. Panelists will identify any information in their Emergency Action Plan (or similarly titled plan) which required modification after an actual incident and resulted in valuable lessons learned.”

Biography of Speakers

Bruce Middleton

A native of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Bruce has worked at  Class Afloat since 2007. He has sailed with Class Afloat for 3 years as Shipboard Director onboard the Concordia, Chopin and Sorlandet, served as the Director of Operations and now holds the Chief Operating Officer position in the Lunenburg office. For the past 16 years Bruce has managed or directed residential outdoor and experiential education schools and programs in Ontario, New York, and Nova Scotia.

Captain Tiffany Krihwan

Captain Tiffany Krihwan
Captain Tiffany Krihwan

Captain Tiffany Krihwan sailed on the S/V Denis Sullivan on the schooner’s maiden voyage and returned in the fall of 2008 as Senior Captain. Having spent more than 20 years on boats, her passion for sailing has found her in command of sailing vessels from racing dinghies to chartered yachts to tall ships. Tiffany’s racing career began at age 10 as she raced Thistles and Flying Juniors and reached a high in the semi-finals of the junior racing circuit. Following her racing career she taught sailing at the Erie Yacht Club, her home town. After receiving her first USCG Master license she was employed by her first tall ship, Appledore IV as the chief mate in 1997 and her love for tall ships was born. Tiffany has worked in almost every capacity aboard tall ships from deckhand to master, thus honing her skills while continuing her educational development. She has served as Captain of the Unicorn, Chief Mate aboard Pride of Baltimore II, Second Captain of the Denis Sullivan, Captain of the historic Schooner Roseway, and Chief Mate and Relief Captain of the Brigantine Exy Johnson in Los Angeles, California. When she isn’t thinking about boats she enjoys being with her family and watching her young daughter grow up on the Sullivan.

Captain Wes Heerssen

Captain Wes Heerssen
Captain Wes Heerssen

Captain Heerssen joined U.S. Brig Niagara as Chief Mate in 2001 and was promoted to Captain in 2003.  He has been sailing since he was six years old, and volunteered as sailing crew on his first tall ship at age 15. Captain Heerssen changed course midway through his first year in college and shipped out aboard a 16th century galleon as a professional deckhand at age 18. By the time he was 21, he had earned his first captain’s license, yet continued to work his way up the chain of command serving onboard many tall ships as Rigger, Carpenter, Boatswain, 3rd Mate, 2nd Mate, Engineer, and Chief Mate. He accepted his first command on the Delaware Bay oyster schooner A.J. Meerwald in 1996.
Beginning as a volunteer on Elissa in Galveston, Texas, he went on to sail on many tall ships and returned as Ship Manager in 1999. Senior Captain and Erie Maritime Museum Site Administrator Walter Rybka was an early mentor to Capt. Heerssen onboard Elissa in the 1980’s, and at a conference in November of 2000, Capt. Rybka invited Capt. Heerssen to apply to join Niagara, become his protégé, and to eventually become the next Captain in Niagara.

His career includes sailing on a dozen traditional sailing ships on voyages between ports all over the world and on domestic voyages along all three American coastlines and upon the Great Lakes. He now teaches and shares his knowledge to all who sail in Niagara.

In 2010, Captain Heerssen was chosen as the “Sail Trainer of the Year” by the American Sail Training Association.  More than 200 Tall Ship members of ASTA nominate and recognize their peers and fellow sail trainers for outstanding contributions to the field.  Sail training encompasses specific knowledge and skills needed to sail the ship through which lessons in teamwork, communication, work ethic, leadership, responsibility and trust are learned by trainees.

Captain Heerssen is happily married since 2003 with two young children and resides in the City of Erie, PA.

Abi Iverson

Abi Iverson
Abi Iverson

Abi’s first experience with schooners was at the age of 9 aboard the Charlotte Ann.  Throughout Abi’s adolescence, her mom’s passion for sailing and wooden boats resulted in hours of sanding and varnishing with significantly less time spent sailing.  In the summer of 2007, Abi sought out a sail training program in exchange for her experience with brightwork and wisely chose the originally iron-hulled Pioneer to serve as her learning platform.  Within a year’s time, her fate would return her to a wooden schooner as Engineer of the Lettie G. Howard, where she could combine her passions for sailing, education, and manipulating mechanical systems.  Since that time, she continued to serve the South Street Seaport Museum as Educator and honed in on her seamanship skills aboard the Pride of Baltimore II.  Abi’s career with Ocean Classroom Foundation began in the Summer of 2009, and as Educator, she has sailed for OCF aboard Westward, Gamage, Spirit of Massachussets, and most reclently, Amistad.  Abi brings to Ocean Classroom 13-years experience in education, both in the classroom and through experiential and extracurricular programs within the United States and abroad.  She earned a BA from Long Island University’s Global College with a concentration in Education and holds a USCG 100 Ton Near Coastal Masters license and AB Special.


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