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As a member of the Ocean Institute and a resident of Dana Point since 1976, I am distressed with the management of the Institute (OI). I question the qualifications of the board to keep a key element to the OI existence, the tall ships, afloat. Last week, I received my email solicitation for $1 million to keep the Spirit of Dana Point functioning. After the heartbreaking sinking of the Pilgrim in 2020, I was stunned that the Institute’s remaining tall ship was also in disrepair. According to the June 10, 2021 OC Register, repairs for the Spirit are needed by the end of June 2021. These include a new deck and restored mast. The OI should have solicited funds well before now, and ideally should have been maintaining the Spirit throughout with previously allocated funds.

The stewardship of the Spirit and the OI funds need oversight and should be under different management. Why can’t the OI keep their tall ships afloat? Their reputation shows lack of expertise and concern for the ship’s legacy to Dana Point, and connection to its residents.

The sinking of the Pilgrim was an egregious event. With all the expertise in the harbor and the OI’s knowledge of her condition, it is unfathomable that this could happen. We are now left with bones of the Pilgrim, scattered around the Institute like a disturbed graveyard.

With all the wealth in the Dana Point, why can’t the OI fundraise better and manage their money? Where are they spending their money?

The Ocean Institute’s CEO and President, Wendy Marshall, and Board Chairman Vipe Desai should be held accountable for the mismanagement of the boats and funds to keep them afloat. Both were operating the OI during the sinking of the Pilgrim and current disrepair of the Spirit. When the infrastructure of an Institute disintegrates, it is time to find new leadership.


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