Meet Captain Jay Amster, SSV Tabor Boy’s new captain

Sep 14, 2020

MARION — Sailing was never in the cards for Captain Jay Amster before going to college.

Even growing up on Long Island, he said he never seized the opportunity of living by the water to do so. Twenty years later, and multiple stints on ships going around the globe, it’s something he can’t quit. 

Now, Captain Jay Amster is taking over the helm as the commanding officer of the SSV Tabor Boy at Tabor Academy.

The Tabor Boy is a ninety-two foot, gaff-rigged, two-masted schooner that has been a part of the school since 1954. 

It’s the first time in 30 years that the sailing school vessel will have a new captain after the retirement of Master of Tabor Boy and teacher of Nautical Science at Tabor, Captain James Geil.

“It’s a big change and a great community to be a part of” at Tabor, Amester said. 

Amster’s sailing career started in 1999 when he applied and was accepted into the Sea Education Association at Woods Hole, a teaching, learning and research community that teaches students about marine and maritime environments through time spent in the classroom and away at sea.

Though he graduated from Northeastern with two degrees in Information Technology and Music, sailing still called him.

“Once you get the bug, it’s pretty hard to quit,” Amster said. 

After college, Captain Amster had ambitions of becoming Third Mate at SEA. He figured he would "sail for a little while, 9-18 months" to qualify for that position. 

Instead, he sailed for five years before he went back to SEA in 2007. Captain Amster made his first voyage as Third Mate at SEA in 2007, and between 2007 and 2020, he spent more than 10 years sailing in SEA's ships in various capacities, becoming captain there in 2016.

At the beginning of this year, Tabor was looking to hire a summer captain for SSV Tabor Boy. Knowing that it would fit into his lifestyle, Amster applied. After going through interviews, covid hit in March and the process was put on pause.

Then in July, the school contacted him, asking if he wanted to Captain the schooner full-time after Captain James Geil retired at the end of August from a 30 year tenure at the academy. 

What won Amster over in wanting the job was the students. He said that the level of care they have for the schooner showed when they talked with him during a luncheon interview in the spring.

“It’s an infectious environment, who wouldn’t want to be there?,” Amster asked. 

 He hopes to be sailing with students in the coming weeks and through October if the weather permits. 

With a delayed school start due to covid, Amster and his crew have been “playing catch up to get her ready.” 

He said the schooner is an old, beautiful boat with lots of secrets that he’s excited to explore. 

In addition to his role as Director of Tabor Boy programs and Master of Tabor Boy, Amster will also be teaching Celestial Navigation classes.

He will carry on the history of the SSV Tabor Boy that he said many alumni cherish. Since being hired, Amster has discovered how thick the culture is that surrounds the lore of the vessel.

“It’s so obvious how much they enjoyed their time with the schooner,” Amster said.

One aspect of the job Amster will also enjoy is the convenience of having a set schedule. With a wife and 10 month old son, he said this job is much easier than being out at sea with SEA for 8 weeks straight, two times a year. 

"I am just really thrilled to be here,” Amster said. “It's been a long time since I have been in a place that is brand new to me, and I have forgotten how daunting and exhilarating it can be at the same time. I am really looking forward to it!”