Skip to Main Content

Women Mind the Water Podcast Series: Taji Riley and Samantha Day Los Santos, New York

As told by Taji Riley and Samantha Day Los Santos
Bronx, New York

Story Narrative:


Submitted as part of the Women Mind the Water (WMW) digital stories project produced by Pam Ferris-Olson, in conjunction with Stories from Main Street and the traveling exhibition "Water/Ways." This story is one in a series created for a podcast in 2020-21, featuring regional artists whose inspiration blends conversation, activism, science, and water. Find earlier stories from the WMW initiative by searching for "Women Mind the Water" on this website.

Taji Riley and Samantha Day Los Santos are women who grew up in the Bronx and alumnae of Rocking the Boat. Rocking the Boat is a program located in the South Bronx that teaches boat building and water appreciation skills to high school students. Working together, students spend a school year building a full-sized traditional wooden boat and learning about the Bronx River environment. The boats are built from designs that were historically used by New Yorkers; therefore, students gain a connection to the city’s maritime past. Once completed, the students have a chance to take their boats out on the Bronx River.

Samantha de Los Santos (00:00): This is going to be the group interview?

Pam Ferris-Olson (00:03): The three of us, yes. Hi Taji. Can you hear me?

Samantha de Los Santos (00:07): Hi.

Taji Riley (00:08): Hi.

Pam Ferris-Olson (00:09): I know you gals have better things to do than sit and talk with me. (singing) So, I'm going to read the introduction, and then we can start the interview.

Taji Riley (00:19): Okay, sweet.

Pam Ferris-Olson (00:21): The Women Mind the Water podcast engages artists in conversation about their work and explores your connection with the ocean. Through these stories, Women Mind the Water hopes to inspire and encourage action to protect the ocean and her creatures.

Pam Ferris-Olson (00:36): Today, I'm speaking with Taji Riley and Samantha De Los Santos. Both women grew up in the Bronx and both are alumnae of Rocking the Boat. Rocking the Boat is a program located in the south Bronx that teaches boat-building to high school students. Working together, students develop the skills to build a full-size, traditional wooden boat. These boats are built from designs that were historically used by New Yorkers, so students gain a connection to the city's maritime past. Once completed, the students have a chance to take their boats out on the Bronx River.

Pam Ferris-Olson (01:13): I'm very excited today to have Taji and Sam on the Women Mind the Water podcast to talk about their Rocking the Boat experience. Taji is a union carpenter, environmental advocate, and a budding novice gardener, who I can attest from her Instagram posts, has a green thumb. Sam is a soon-to-be graduate of Lehigh University. In May, Sam graduates with a degree in marketing. Sam has always had a passion for environmental science and water. Welcome Taji and Sam. Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today. I'd like to start by asking you to tell me a little bit about yourself. I'd like to know what kind of experiences you had with water growing up. For example, did you like playing in the water or have a favorite place to go swimming?

Taji Riley (02:05): Well, for me, I didn't know how to swim when I was younger. I actually learned how to swim at Rocking the Boat, through YMCA classes, but... I did like going outside and being in nature. So I kind of enjoy, if there was an area near the water or near the river. I liked going to the beach a lot as well.

Samantha de Los Santos (02:26): [crosstalk 00:02:26] Yeah. Growing up, I always loved the water, but I felt like I didn't have direct access to it or at least so when I was younger, I didn't think so. And it was through the introduction of Rocking the Boat that they literally opened the doors to me, to an entire river I didn't even know I had in my backyard and a bunch of opportunities that we can do on that. I've always loved the water, but obviously living in the Bronx, there aren't really great beaches near us besides City Island and Orchard Beach in Jones. Yeah.

Pam Ferris-Olson (02:57): All right. What made you think you'd like to try boat-building? Did you like to build things when you were younger?

Taji Riley (03:08): I did, actually. I love doing hands-on projects at home. My mom bought our home when I was young and it needed a lot of work from the beginning. So I would definitely help her out in different projects. And in high school, there was an option to go on the environmental program where they do the on-water education. And I didn't know how to swim yet. So I was like, "Well, I wanted to be a bit safe and stick on land, where I know things are going on". So I chose the boat-building program.

Pam Ferris-Olson (03:37): So you didn't think, when you were doing the boat-building, that you'd end up on the water?

Taji Riley (03:42): No. No, I didn't.

Samantha de Los Santos (03:46): Yeah. I guess I'm quite the opposite experience. I wasn't in the boat-building program, I was in the on-water program. However, from my station of the classroom indoors, where we would be taught all the on-water lessons, I could see all the boat-building going on and that in itself was so inspiring, just seeing pieces of woodwork transform into real life, 16-foot boats we can use and row on water. So I was amazed by that, but I've never touched any tools of like Taji did.

Pam Ferris-Olson (04:23): Okay. Well, I guess the next question is for Taji. I'd like to hear about the boat you worked on. How large was it?

Taji Riley (04:32): Okay. So my first boat as a student was a 14-foot white hull named Audacity. We painted it in the design of a shark. Really super exciting for teenage Taji to be able to kind of see this thing go from a bunch of pieces of wood into an entire boat.

Pam Ferris-Olson (04:53): So did you think it was going to be easy to build the boats?

Taji Riley (04:57): Absolutely not, no. I was so confused. "How are we going to be doing the entire..." Because as a student, you really get to see the boat go from pieces of wood that we sent through the table saw and through the thickness planer. And you're like, "Wow, this is really coming together." So I knew it was going to be challenging, but just at that time, I was in for a challenge.

Pam Ferris-Olson (05:18): Okay. What were the steps in building the boat?

Taji Riley (05:23): Oh my goodness. So from the beginning to the end, it's takes about six, yeah, about six months, we were building a boat in six months. And the first steps are laying out the entire boat onto what we call loss dinghy. So what we do on loss dinghy, we take the blueprint that we get from, usually a book, and we decide, "Okay, so we need to lay the entire boat out because it needs molds." It needs different pieces to be fit together. So that's one of the main components of doing it in the beginning is lofting out the full size of your boat. If you have a 16-foot white hull, you have to loft out the entire 16-foot white hull. So it's lots of plywood and painting in the beginning and getting in [inaudible 00:06:04] correct. From that step, the next thing we make the actual molds, which are usually made out of two by fours or two by sixes.

Taji Riley (06:11): And they go onto this piece of equipment that we use is called the strongback. So in the strongback that I built as a Rocking the Boat student, I think it's still around the shop somewhere. We've been using the same one from then. So it's really a super special traditional piece of Rocking the Boat, when it comes to being a boat-building student. We usually sign our names on it as well. But it's a process. It takes a while. We do everything from steam, bending the planks ourselves, cutting them down to shape, painting it. The kids always have a choice in what color we paint the boat and how we name it based on their experiences from that semester.

Pam Ferris-Olson (06:51): Sam, what were you doing while they were building?

Samantha de Los Santos (06:55): I was taking the pre-existing boats out onto the water and testing the quality of the water, whether that was the Bronx River or even sometimes down to the Hudson. And we would do dissolved oxygen testing, solidity testing, pH testing... All of these surveys. And we also would check the wildlife surrounding the rivers, whether that was the types of algae that was blooming in season, or even the birds that were coming, like gray egrets, the eels that would come seasonally and how we could tag them.

Samantha de Los Santos (07:34): So as Taji and that boat-building group we're building new boats to use, we were taking the pre-existing ones out on water and surveillance testing, and then submitting all that information to the New York State Department of Environmental Science, I think?

Pam Ferris-Olson (07:52): That's amazing. I don't think that people realize that students are doing that in the south Bronx. Let me ask Taji and then Sam, I'll ask you the same question. What was the most challenging part of the program and how did you overcome it?

Taji Riley (08:11): Hm. I would say my experiences as a job skills apprentice, you're in that position of a lot of the things that you learned as a student now coming into full bloom. So, as a job skill apprentice, now it's your job to do some of those more private projects. I remember one project that myself and one other boat-building student did was we built a small kayak for this couple. And it was a challenge because the existing program director had a lot of faith and trust in us in doing that project. And I was not as confident, but he continued to instill the fact that, "You're able to do it, you had the experience as a student. You can do this as a job skills apprentice." And a lot of just trusting yourself was a challenge, because you don't want to mess up this boat. So much work goes into every piece of the boat, down to installing the oarlocks. So, that was the biggest challenge is trusting in myself, but, we did a really good project.

Pam Ferris-Olson (09:14): Yeah.

Taji Riley (09:14): It was a good time.

Pam Ferris-Olson (09:16): What about you, Sam?

Samantha de Los Santos (09:18): I think the biggest challenge I faced is obviously, majority of the students that are a part of Rocking the Boat are from the south Bronx, an area that is... Doesn't have much access to opportunity, yet alone the wildlife and the outdoors. And I guess the biggest challenge, in a sense, was, having that shift in perspective and gaining that outdoor experience that I wouldn't have, being a "city" native or born girl. We went camping, we went on the rivers every day, that wasn't a normal high school experience for any New York City kid, besides people that were a part of Rocking the Boat. So, I guess the biggest challenge for me was... Adopting to that shift and perspective of opportunity of getting outdoors, in my backyard, where only a few selected people knew that that was an access opportunity point to do. So, yeah.

Pam Ferris-Olson (10:18): Okay.

Samantha de Los Santos (10:19): And getting my hands dirty. I think that was also the first time I was putting my hands in the river and picking up eels, and... It was just so messy. You would never think someone from the city would be on water and doing water collection sampling and touching eels and planting things. I don't know, it was just a very weird introduction to the outdoors, but I loved it.

Pam Ferris-Olson (10:45): Great. So ,I'd like to hear from each of you. A funny story that you could share. Taji, about both building, and, I'm sure Sam, from what you're telling me, the first time you were asked to touch something that was alive in the water must have been funny.

Samantha de Los Santos (11:05): Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Pam Ferris-Olson (11:06): So Taji...

Samantha de Los Santos (11:06): There are so many, yeah. Taji can...

Taji Riley (11:10): A funny story in the shop?

Pam Ferris-Olson (11:13): About boat-building, yeah.

Taji Riley (11:17): About boat-building?

Pam Ferris-Olson (11:19): Or being on the water, when you got in the boat.

Taji Riley (11:21): Yeah, I have a lot of funny stories from being a program assistant on the water with the kids. We do this week-long trip to a bunch of... Sam, I'm sure you've been on this trip too. A bunch of small islands in the area. And I distinctively remember my first time going out on the water, just learning how to sail on the water. I was such a boat builder. I was always in the shop boat-building. And so before this week-long trip, we take the kids out for a week-long trip to sailing on the water. We hit North Brother Island, I think. We take a stop at Rye Playland. And it's really fun learning on hand because the students have so much trust that you know what you're doing. And for that point, I was kind of nervous out there by myself with eight kids in a boat.

Taji Riley (12:09): But it was really funny because one of my students had to use the bathroom, on water. So we were, had to figure out that situation. I was like, "Well, there's no bathrooms, kids." So we just have to use all the techniques that we've learned. So we did a lot of man overboard drills at Rocking the Boat. So we had to slow down the boat while we were sailing, lean her over the boat so she could use the bathroom and then safety pull her back in. And that was really fun. It was a great trust-building experience and team-building experience for the kids, and it was also great for them to see how in a kind of stressful situation, the PAs keep it cool and are able to just make sure everyone's safe, but also comfortable on a long ride.

Pam Ferris-Olson (12:55): And that poor young lady probably never lived that one down.

Taji Riley (12:59): No, trust me. She was very resilient after that. She had many stories to tell.

Pam Ferris-Olson (13:03): Okay, what about you, Sam?

Samantha de Los Santos (13:06): I have so many good stories. Cause a lot does happen on water. But I think the funniest thing that happened, I guess, like Taji, when I was an apprentice, I was given this responsibility where they put a lot of trust in me that I was capable, which I was capable, as a high schooler. You may not think so, and you may have doubts in yourself, but I surely was capable of taking my team and my other apprentices out on water, all on kayaks. Two-person kayaks and one-person kayaks and organizing. I think that day we were just bird-watching, actually. And we were all on kayaks. Some were individual, somewhere in two-seaters. And my kayak actually flipped over and I was in the Bronx River and I had my life vest on. I was saved and things like that don't happen as often.

Samantha de Los Santos (14:05): I think I was just trying to turn around, but the current was going against me and it was just really windy. And I just flipped over for my weight. And all of my clipboards and materials was in the water, I had to fetch them. And then I had to jump in Miguel who, I don't think is a part of Rocking the Boat anymore. We're all alumni, but I had to jump in his kayak and that was super uncomfortable, cause it was a one-person kayak and he was the only person equipped to pick me up safely.

Samantha de Los Santos (14:36): And it was just a funny experience, because no one ideally ever wants to get inside the Bronx River water, because it's not like the cleanest. It's obviously not tasteful either. But that was a really good experience too, because a lot of my teammates put trust in me and I trusted them in bringing me to safety and securely. And then we talked about it with, I think Sam, when we came back, and it was fine and it was okay. And I'm glad that we work together as a team to get through that. And also continued our mission of not... [inaudible 00:15:13] oh, well, jotting down all the birds that we saw, besides that minor inconvenience of me falling in.

Pam Ferris-Olson (15:20): I love that. "Minor inconvenience." At the time, it probably was not.

Samantha de Los Santos (15:24): Yeah, it wasn't. I wasn't as happy, but things like that happen. That's a part of the job.

Pam Ferris-Olson (15:31): So Taji, did you ever think that that boat was going to be seethe worthy? And did you have any moments where you thought, "I built it, but I'm sure as heck not getting in it"?

Taji Riley (15:45): Yeah. We do this big event at the end of the semester called the End of Semester Celebration. And that's the day that we do the actual boat launch. And then I remember there being many times where we kind of came down to the crunch line where the day of, we're still putting the paint on and blowing it. So it stays dry. So, in those times, it was always a crunch, but the kids and I always had the faith that, "Yeah, the boat will be fine." And when you first launch the boat, thankfully, it has to take on some water for the wood to swell, so if you've got a little water in it, we weren't to worry.

Pam Ferris-Olson (16:23): I didn't know that! It actually takes on water. What, through the floor planks?

Taji Riley (16:29): Yes, and through the seams on the side, cause the boat, the... When the kind of boats that we built, the planks are put on lapstrake. So there's a bit of a gap. We close it up with cocking, but nothing gets it watertight.

Pam Ferris-Olson (16:43): Huh. Interesting. And that you're sure that it's not going to sink. Did you get on with buckets just in case? To bail it?

Taji Riley (16:53): No, no. Luckily, our environmental students are really talented about getting us back on to land, if anything starts to happen.

Pam Ferris-Olson (17:00): Okay. So, Sam was telling us a little bit about what it's like to take the boat out on the river. What was it like for you?

Taji Riley (17:09): It was always amazing. Each semester, sometimes we got a chance to build a different type of boat. And I think you see a lot of the students' personalities develop as the boats develop and get built. Each year that we had a chance to maybe build something different from a white hull or... Maybe take on a project that was doing restoration, it was always great to see it come all the way through at the end of it.

Samantha de Los Santos (17:34): Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Pam Ferris-Olson (17:36): So for both of you, how long has it been since you've been out boating?

Samantha de Los Santos (17:42): Well, for me, and I miss it so much, cause I remember it used to be such a huge part of my after-school routine from high school. Almost every day, if not four times a week, I would be at Rocking the Boat. The last time I'd been on a boat, I guess it's been close to six, five years? Five to six years.

Pam Ferris-Olson (18:05): So pretty much since the program?

Samantha de Los Santos (18:08): Yeah.

Pam Ferris-Olson (18:11): Okay. What about you, Taji? How long has it been since you've been in a boat?

Taji Riley (18:14): It's been about two... Yeah, it's been about two years. The last time I had access to the water freely and openly was when I lived on a tiny island in Maine. Little Cranberry Island.

Pam Ferris-Olson (18:29): Okay.

Taji Riley (18:29): So that was, yeah, that was the last time I had just free open access to just getting on boats and being out for the day. And I think it, hearing Sam's story, it really is a testament to how having access to that water so easily and freely is so important to your high school experience and your adult experience.

Pam Ferris-Olson (18:47): I'm going to have to talk to you afterwards about Cranberry Island. I haven't been there, and I live in Maine.

Samantha de Los Santos (18:52): Oh, okay. So, I actually was on a boat last summer in Maine.

Pam Ferris-Olson (18:59): Okay.

Samantha de Los Santos (18:59): My friend lives in Portland.

Pam Ferris-Olson (19:01): Okay.

Samantha de Los Santos (19:01): It was more like a motorboat. We just did it for a fun Fourth of July thing. And then we went to- [crosstalk 00:19:06]

Pam Ferris-Olson (19:05): That's okay.

Samantha de Los Santos (19:07): We went to Cow Island, I think.

Pam Ferris-Olson (19:10): So, I'll ask this to both of you. Why do you think boat-building is considered an art?

Taji Riley (19:15): I believe that boat-building is an art because of the way you get to express yourself. There's something about when you have a tool in your hand and you're taking it to Cedar, to White Oak, to Cherry, and you're creating whatever you feel and are experiencing at that moment.

Taji Riley (19:39):bOne of my favorite parts of boat-building is cleaning up the edges of our planks because I get to just hold a block plane and shave it down and make these really long swirls sometimes, from the Cedar wood. And just that form of expression and art-making really makes boat-building special, especially traditional boat-building. I love the fiberglass boats because they go fast and they're lightweight, but there's something about that hands-on touching the grain experience that I get from boat-building that makes it such a beautiful art form.

Pam Ferris-Olson (20:13): Taji, did that experience drive you to become a carpenter?

Taji Riley (20:18): Absolutely.

Pam Ferris-Olson (20:20): I can hear it in your voice. There is an artist in you.

Taji Riley (20:24): Thank you.

Pam Ferris-Olson (20:25): And Sam, you are the artist. So can you tell me why you think boat-building would be an art?

Samantha de Los Santos (20:31): Yeah, I think for me, even watching it and, it goes alongside being on water in the... There's this connection that we all felt. Whether I had no part in building the boat, I had a part in being on it and being the person launched with full faith and trust that the people at Rocking the Boat, my team, and my other friends built this with their love and care and sweat. And it means so much to them. And I felt honored each time I was able to take a boat out, and every boat had their own name, had their own color.

Samantha de Los Santos (21:06): And I think that in itself is a form of expression that almost all of the students chose to pick. And I think it provided a sense, like what Taji said, when you build something, you feel such personal ground connection to something. You made this happen. It's an accomplishment, it's an achievement. And for me to have the opportunity to have taken their achievements out on water, I think it's seeing their vision come to life.

Pam Ferris-Olson (21:35): That's lovely. So Sam, if you had a chance to design your own boat, what would it look like and what would it do?

Samantha de Los Santos (21:45): I honestly would replicate Audacity, the first boat. I want to make a new and improved version of her. Audacity part two.

Taji Riley (21:56): Yes!

Samantha de Los Santos (21:57): Yeah, so that's why-

Pam Ferris-Olson (21:59): How would you improve it?

Samantha de Los Santos (22:03): Personally? I would add some gold accents to the, I don't know what you call the places that hold the oars?

Pam Ferris-Olson (22:11): Oarlocks.

Taji Riley (22:11): Oarlock part?

Samantha de Los Santos (22:11): Oarlocks? The oarlocks. Yeah. I just put a little glam, little glitter, maybe do a nice gloss or finish with, I don't know. I make it my own.

Pam Ferris-Olson (22:23): Sounds good. And put a bathroom in it.

Samantha de Los Santos (22:26): Yeah. A port-a-pot... Or a hole. Actually, that wouldn't work.

Pam Ferris-Olson (22:30): Yeah.

Samantha de Los Santos (22:32): Maybe not a hole.

Pam Ferris-Olson (22:33): So being out in the boat, did it affect the way you thought about the river?

Samantha de Los Santos (22:40): A 100 percent. A 100 percent. And I think the Bronx River especially kind of gets a bad rep for being so dirty. Frowned upon. And some citizens of the area would actually fish there because they had no other access to fresher resources and, the Bronx River, when I was on it, symbolized so much more than just, "Oh, this weird, random, dirty river in my backyard." It sort of became my responsibility to take care of it, to clean it, to monitor it. To see its improvements over time throughout the season. I guess the funny story too, I don't know if you remember Taji, but there was a dolphin in the Bronx River.

Taji Riley (23:28): Yes.

Samantha de Los Santos (23:29): That was a magical moment. And to see life, well, obviously a dolphin is not supposed to be in the Bronx River, but to see life enter and blossom in the Bronx River, it kind of made me feel good and feel protective of the sacred space that I had in my backyard that I wasn't once aware of before. And it does get a bad rep for those who aren't informed on how the Bronx River came about and how we should protect it. And I think it involves education around the community because a lot of surrounding homes are right behind the Bronx River.

Pam Ferris-Olson (24:05): Right. And make it so that people can fish in it and dolphins should be there.

Samantha de Los Santos (24:11): Yeah. A 100 percent

Pam Ferris-Olson (24:13): Taji, how did that experience of being on the river affect you?

Taji Riley (24:19): It made me fall in love with water, I think, in a different way. My perspective from inside of a boat is so different from being on land. Each year, for one of our big fundraising events, we do Rocky Manhattan, where we take a bunch of our donors and a lot of staff from Rocking the Boat, and we do this big roll around Manhattan. And every year, I get something special from that experience because of the perspective I get of Manhattan from on the water. And it's a perspective that a lot of people don't have a chance to get.

Taji Riley (24:52): I mean, unless you're taking the ferry daily or traveling by boat, which a lot of people from the south Bronx aren't doing, you don't really get to see the water from that perspective. So it gives me respect and, like what Sam was saying, responsibility for the water. The Hudson River, the Bronx River, the Long Island Sound, everything that connects these New York City waterways is really, really special and important.

Pam Ferris-Olson (25:17): Okay. So you told me how the experience affected your thinking about the river. How did the experience affect you as a person?

Samantha de Los Santos (25:30): I can go first. It's not often that I get the opportunity to reflect on my experience at Rocking the Boat, cause I become so consumed with life, but... I truly wouldn't be the type of person I am today if it wasn't for my four or five years at Rocking the Boat. And as a high schooler, not even a late middle schooler, those experiences shape you. And it also taught me how to communicate.

Samantha de Los Santos (25:58): Not every situation on water was good and jolly, there were some dangerous situations, like suddenly a cloud came over us and it was raining and we had to rush back and everyone has to stay consistent in rowing and you have to tell everyone, "Okay, relax. The boat is not sinking." If even that was the case or, "We'll be okay. The windows [inaudible 00:26:20] our side. Oh, low tide is coming in way faster than we thought, we're getting stuck in the mud."

Samantha de Los Santos (26:25): There were many situations that me and also my other apprentices had to flip on the switch of responsibility and accountability and safety and shelter everyone like, "Okay, we're going to be okay, let's do this." And I feel like I definitely learned majority of my communication skills there, accountability, also knowledge. I think I've learned way more about earth science at Rocking the Boat than I ever did in any science class in high school.

Pam Ferris-Olson (26:56): Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Samantha de Los Santos (26:57): And that's also thanks to my day-to-day experiences and the program directors there and how much they truly care. So I think I definitely learned. I gained a bunch of knowledge, communication skills, to teaching skills, and also managing, like how to manage people in crisis situations.

Pam Ferris-Olson (27:17): Okay. And Taji, how did the experience change you or affect you?

Taji Riley (27:25): I would say it affected my career path. After Rocking the Boat, I went to college and I was going to school to be a nurse, but I lost the passion for that and really connected back to my passion for building things and working with my hands. Because I remember being at Rocking the Boat as a boat builder and I just loved it.

Taji Riley (27:48): Like Sam, I would be at the programs sometimes way past the time it was time to leave or I'd be there on days where I didn't even have to be there, just because participating in the program and having something safe to do after school is really important. And having a space, and a safe space at that, was really important to me as a teenager.

Taji Riley (28:07): So, remembering all those feelings and emotions and thinking about, "Well, if that was something I'm super passionate about as a kid, I wonder what a career as a carpenter would actually look like." Well, it's different than what I thought it would be. I thought I would be doing more hands-on woodworking stuff. So when I had to put down the woodworking tools and pick up the construction tools, it was a bit of a learning difference. But still, having that experience at Rocking the Boat definitely gave me a leg up in the construction field.

Pam Ferris-Olson (28:36): Very good. Is there anything else either of you would like to tell me about the experience or the river or...?

Samantha de Los Santos (28:46): I guess all in all, the experience, I would a 100 percent recommend it to anyone. My age, older, younger, in between. I don't think there's ever too early or too late of an experience to get what Rocking the Boat has taught me. And truly, like Taji said, a safe space. I think that was one of the most important things that has been created in the south Bronx. A safe space where children could build and learn how to build actual boats. A space, a safe space where children can learn about environmental science the right way and actually apply it. And the fastest way of learning is doing it yourself, which is what we all did. I don't know, it's also just access to opportunity. If Rocking the Boat had not been there, I don't know how I would have spent my days after high school.

Samantha de Los Santos (29:41): I was there, as how you said, until the doors closed, until the lights were off sometimes, because it was a safe space for me. That was where I was able to get away. If I had a really rough and bad day, the last thing I would want was to be at home. I wanted to be on water and catch the sunset from this phenomenal view while I do my work.

Samantha de Los Santos (30:03): So it was a very freeing experience and I cherish it a lot. And I think that connection that we gained with the water or boat-building is something very unique that a lot of people don't have access to. And if granted, would probably be amazing at it. Unfortunately, I'm not an environmental science major, but I came very close to thinking about it and it definitely shaped my perspective now. I have such great passions in environmental science. I'm a great advocate for going green and recycling and taking care of our planet. And those are still issues I follow today as things become more important, so that's how it really shaped me all in all and I would recommend it 10 times over to anyone.

Pam Ferris-Olson (30:45): Well, earth needs a good marketer. So I guess you can be her.

Samantha de Los Santos (30:50): Yeah, hopefully.

Pam Ferris-Olson (30:53): Taji, anything else you'd like to say?

Taji Riley (30:55): Yes. I would like to say that it's amazing to continue to keep spaces and the water accessible to everyday people and having those people be people of urban communities. Allowing those people to make sure that they feel like, "Hey, this is my backyard. And maybe I am responsible for that." And that really happens when you have organizations like Rocking the Boat with people who have strong connections to the community. Strong connections to the water. I want to see programs like that really develop.

Taji Riley (31:32): So in my experiences, as a boat builder, from being a kid who wasn't really interested in traditional after-school programs and was looking for somewhere to express herself, we need more students who are like that at Rocking the Boat and we need to make sure that those experiences are honored and we keep those safe spaces. And having women have accessible space to the water is super important too. When I think of the traditional sailor, I don't really see myself or many other women that comes up to mind. So having access to the water's important. And even if it's your own small river in the backyard or on that, you're entitled to that.

Pam Ferris-Olson (32:14): Well, thank you too. It's been wonderful that you gave up part of your Sunday to talk to me. I found you both a lot of fun to talk to. Very inspirational. I wish you a lot of success and I hope you'll just stay around for after the outtake so that we could just talk a little bit longer. But for now, let me just say, I have been speaking with Taji Riley and Samantha de Los Santos for the Women Mind the Water podcast. (singing)

Pam Ferris-Olson (32:43): The podcast can be viewed on Women Mind the Water dot com. An audio only version of this podcast is available on the Women Mind the Water website and on iTunes. Women Mind the Water is grateful to Jane Rice for her song Women of the Water. All rights for the Women Mind the Water name and logo belong to Pam Ferris-Olson. This is Pam Ferris-Olson. Thank you for listening.


Asset ID: 2021.02.10
Themes: Water, waterways, students, rivers, boats, boat building, education, environment
Date recorded: April 16, 2021
Length of recording: 33:08 m
Related traveling exhibition: Water/Ways
Sponsor or affiliated organization: Women Mind the Water Digital Stories Project, Maine
More information

Media Files: