Captain Lars P. Harding, Program Director, Nautical Science
Captain Lars has been teaching nautical science for USC since 1988. He received his B.S. in Business Administration from USC in 1989. Licensed since 1985, he has shipped out as captain or 1st mate aboard vessels of all shapes and sizes including, offshore supply ships, WW II amphibious landing ships, hazardous cargo towing vessels, and sailing vessels of all types. Additionally, Captain Harding has experience in containerized shipping, offshore oil drilling, oil spill recovery and managing yacht charters/yacht sales companies. He now happily spends his weekdays in the classroom at USC and weekends aboard the wooden sailing schooner Atlantas sailing with USC students. Although Captain Harding enjoys sharing experiences, funny anecdotes and humorous sea stories with all his classes, past students will tell you that he takes the responsibility of preparing all USC students for their sea voyages very seriously and expects the same from them.
Captain John Ugoretz, Lecturer and Vessel Captain
Captain Ugoretz received his degree from the University of California, Berkeley in 1991 (yes, that other Cal). He is a marine biologist working for the United States Navy but sailing has been a passion for him from sailing sabots and lasers as a child in Southern California to sailing onboard the Brigantine Schooner Corwith Cramer in the Sea Education Association’s Sea Semester program to ocean passages from California to Hawaii and Costa Rica to the Galapagos Islands. Captain Ugoretz can not only show students the ropes, but also ensure that they know what fish they see in the ocean around them, even when the fish is a whale.
Captain Noah Peffer, Lecturer and Vessel Captain
Captain Peffer Graduated from Tufts University and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston with a two bachelors in Art and Education in 2000 and promptly moved to Los Angeles. In 2005 he completed a graduate degree in art at Cal Arts and has been working as a conceptual artist, carpenter, fabricator and teacher in Los Angeles for the past decade. Captain Peffer grew up sailing the East Coast and Bahamas on the David Stevens schooner Sarah Abbott (sister ship to Atlantas!) with his family. The son of a wooden boat owner he was raised in and around boatyards and developed an interest in traditional sailing craft while simultaneously racing on everything from 420’s, to Shields, to Schooners, to ocean racing ULDB’s. Captain Peffer has cruised in many parts of the world but always returns to Southern California. He is also a Lecturer at Cal State University Long Beach in the Wood Department.
Captain Rex Levi, Vessel Captain
Captain Levi engages in vast nautical endeavors, not only as a sailing voyager, but running large motor vessels. To support his water habits, his other hat is as a Real Estate Consultant for Pepperdine University assisting with acquisitions and dispositions and his own real estate endeavors. Captain Levi also handles vessel donations for Pepperdine. He managed to squeeze in two degrees: Business Administration (BSBA) and Education (MAE). He is passionate about marine ecology and checked out of the corporate routine for a few months to serve as First Officer under Paul Watson, Sea Shepherd. Rex also enjoys putting together exotic sailing trips around the world, the more tropical, the better!
Captain Rob Rice, Vessel Captain
Captain Rob graduated from the USC School of engineering in 1992, which is the same year he became a licensed captain. He has a passion for sailboat racing and has competed for 20 years in national and world-class regattas in boats of all sizes from 8 feet to 80 feet. Captain Rice specializes in offshore weather forecasting and computer systems used in tactical navigation. The last 10 years he has also been supporting his son’s quest to represent the United States Sailing Team. Captain Rice works as a software engineer at Boeing to support his sailing habit.
Captain Ric Dahlin, Vessel Captain
Captain Dahlin has been in education for 26 years serving as a Teacher, School Principal, Adjunct Professor, and is currently the Assistant Superintendent for a local School District. In addition, he is an instructor in the Marine Science Technology Program at Saddleback College. Captain Dahlin teaches the Intermediate and Advanced Ocean Cruising classes, Vessel Command and Organization, and Introduction to Cruising the Channel Islands. He has experience aboard many sailing vessels including our local tallships. In addition to USCs Nautical Science Program, Captain Dahlin serves as an Instructor with the Aventura Sailing Academy in Dana Point, CA.
Jason Finley, Professor of Geology/Meteorology
Professor Finley has been a weather enthusiast since he was 5. He studied climate dynamics, synoptic meteorology, and severe weather (which included chasing storms/tornadoes) at the University of Oklahoma and Northern Illinois University. He earned his Masters from UCLA in geography focusing on climatology. As full-time faculty member at Pierce College, Professor Finley teaches geography, meteorology and climate courses. He is also the Director of the Pierce College Weather Station, one of the first official cooperative weather stations for the National Weather Service.