Ed Stemmler, President

Ed Stemmler

Ed Stemmler has been an active member with the Ship Guild since 1989, serving in various leadership roles both on the ship and in the organization.

He currently provides crew training and is a past president of the board. Professionally, he works at the University of Pennsylvania as a Student Systems Data Analyst, currently working on the replacement of the Student Accounts Receivable system.


Melissa “Marston” Black-Simmons, Vice President

marston black-simmons

Marston became a new board member in 2013. She has worked professionally for the past six years for Philabundance, the regional food bank. She currently works in the Community Food Programs Department. Additionally, she and her husband own two small businesses, Heritage Builders and Remodelers, and Argus Investments.

She first found our about PSPG when her friend, Chris, talked her into coming down to Gazela to volunteer for the Haunted Ship fundraiser in 2006. She subsequently married Chris and became heavily involved with the Guild.


Matt Schoettler, Treasurer

Matt SchoettlerMatt has lived in the Philadelphia area most of his life and has had a lifelong affinity for sailing stemming from trips on his father’s sailboat when he was young to more recently chartering sailboats with friends in the Chesapeake. He became a board member in 2016 after advising the guild on financial and accounting matter for nearly a year. Matt participated in the Tall Ships festival in 2015 and was hooked on the preservation of the Gazela since then.

Professionally, Matt started KAMP Associates in March of 2007 as a consulting practice with a concentration on providing CFO Services to clients that are either in a state of growth or contraction, organizations dealing with turnover issues, start-up’s, or just those in need of a part-time financial management. KAMP Associates has been contracted to work on all aspects of clients financial functions, including but not limited to Full Service Accounting, Financial Statements, Reconciliations, Budgeting and Forecasting, Modeling, Valuations, Control Work, Organizational Efficiency, Finance/Accounting Operations Evaluation, and Strategy.

Prior to starting KAMP Associates Matt was employed at PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Deloitte & Touche with experience in Corporate Finance, Corporate Investment, External Auditing, M&A, and Due Diligence.


Brian Collins, Secretary

brian collins

Brian is a resident of Philadelphia. He joined the Board in December 2014 after hearing about a call for volunteers through volunteer.org. Although he had never been aboard Gazela, the Guild fascinated him and presented an opportunity to engage his interests in maritime history.

He is an attorney practicing civil rights, criminal defense with an emphasis on white collar and government investigations, and estate and trust litigation in downtown Philadelphia. He has extensive experience in building and developing new organizations and event planning.

A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Law and Villanova University, Brian is also involved in local politics and grassroots non-profit advocacy.


Al Ponessa

Al Ponessa

Al joined the Guild in 2010 and has made several trips as a deckhand and Watch Leader. He is also a foreman and is on the Marine Committee. He teaches Level 1 Training and is the editor of Small Stuff (the monthly PSPG newsletter). He was recently elected to the PSPG Board as Vice President, soon thereafter becoming President.

Al has been sailing since 1964, having learned at the Naval Academy. He was on the sailing team there for 4 years and taught sailing to the incoming class while awaiting Nuclear Power training. His major was in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering. He served on nuclear submarines during a 28 year Naval career, retiring as a Captain. He commanded the USS Norfolk (SSN 714) and the USS Ohio (SSBN 726)(Gold) after serving on 4 other submarines in deck and engineering positions including being on the building and commissioning crew of the USS L. Mendel Rivers.

Al is currently employed by Exelon Generation (formerly PECO Nuclear) and has extensive experience in scheduling and overseeing maintenance of mechanical and electrical systems. He resides in West Chester, PA and enjoys sailing on the Chesapeake with the Philadelphia Sailing Club. After learning about PSPG, however, he is fascinated with tall ships and all they represent…camaraderie, hard work, fun and exciting challenges and a chance to sail with the most interesting people around.


Bonnie Halda

bonnie halda

Bonnie is a resident of the historic Society Hill neighborhood and currently works for the National Park Service, Northeast Regional Office. She has over thirty-five years of experience in the field of historic preservation at the state and federal level. She holds a Bachelor of Architecture degree from North Dakota State University and is a Licensed Architect in the State of Colorado.

Bonnie has been actively involved with several civic and neighborhood organizations, especially on committees that focus on preserving historic resources. She served on the Board of Directors for the Society Hill Civic Association for over ten years, including two years as Secretary, and continues to serve on the Association’s Zoning and Historic Preservation Committee. She was on the Board of Directors for the Headhouse Conservancy, a group responsible for the successful preservation of the Headhouse National Historic Landmark in Philadelphia.

She is also a freelance photographer and has frequently photographed Gazela and Jupiter from on-shore. In 2013, Bonnie decided it was time to join the crew and she has been an active volunteer with the PSPG for the past year.


Lisa Kolibabek

lisa kolibabek

Lisa first stepped aboard Gazela in November 2008 and was an extremely shy and reserved individual; anyone who knows her now is painfully aware that that is no longer true. After spending weekend after weekend working on the boats, she finally figured out that people are not all that bad and that the Guild members really do have some fantastic stories to tell.

After spending even more time working on the boats, she got hired with the local chart agent, Pilothouse, thanks to a recommendation from Gazela‘s port captain. After being urged enough times by various Guild members, she decided to pursue working on traditionally-rigged sailing vessels while still keeping her land job. To that end, she has done shipyard periods, a semester at sea program, and a few crew transits on various vessels. Despite the great times she has while she is away, she keeps coming back to Philadelphia, and more specifically, to the PSPG, becasue the volunteers and the ships just keep compelling her to come back.

After working on sailing vessels professionally, she hopes to be able to use skills and knowledge that she has acquired to help Gazela and Jupiter and the persons who work tirelessly to maintain and preserve those extraordinary vessels. In addition to being a member of the board, she is also a member of the Marine Committee and the Jupiter Steering Committee. She currently serves as the Volunteer Coordinator and a foreman. Beyond that, Lisa also spends time making sure that both vessels’ social media presence is alive and well.

Lisa is excited to be part of the group that helps keep the vessels going and is ecstatic that she gets to help volunteers not only learn more about Gazela and Jupiter and how to care for them, but also gets to facilitate volunteers’ learning more about themselves and and having amazing experiences that they otherwise would not have had.


Robin Schimpf

robin schimpf

Robin Schimpf is a Philadelphian, a life-long river wards resident who possesses a decade of experience at a community newspaper, served on the last active board of the historic Kensington Soup Society in her Fishtown neighborhood and is a second generation proprietor of a 45 year-old family business and the proprietor of a self-made real estate business.

She is a graduate of John W. Hallahan Catholic Girls High School at Logan’s Circle and Penn State University. Her ship guild experience began in 1997 with a sailing trip to Nova Scotia, Since then, she has been and commits to remain a loyal steward of our vessels. Robin has served the guild in capacities,beginner through leadership.


Patrick Turner

patrick turner

Patrick is the Vice President of the Groupware Leadership Center (GLC), which is part of the National IT organization of the Federal Reserve System. He is responsible for all messaging and collaboration services of the Federal Reserve, as well as video conferencing and wireless handheld services.

He has been the managing officer of the GLC for the past year, and was previously responsible for bringing new and emerging collaboration technologies to the Fed, which included the enterprisewide “Connect & Share” effort to move from the Lotus collaboration suite to the Microsoft-based portfolio of products. Patrick is new to the Board and lives in Olde City.


Pete MacAlpine

pete macalpine

Pete, a newly elected Board Member to the PSPG, has lived in the Philadelphia area all his life. He is a graduate from Villanova with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting. He has worked in Private Accounting for over 10 years for Two companies, Kewanee Oil and John Middleton Tobacco Company.

He then embarked on a sales career for a company selling support services for underwriting and claims in the Insurance industry.

Having an ongoing avocation and relationship with automobiles, Pete started in his own Detailing Business, named Dr. Detail. Nearly 20 years later, retirement became the choice.

Pete has known the Gazela for many years and now hopes he can contribute towards her future as Philadelphia Historic Ship.


Deb Peretz

Deb Peretz

In 1994 I had to decorate the Gazela Primero with lights for the “Lighted Boat Parade”. And since we had placed a small generator onboard to power all the lights, I got to stay onboard for the parade. I was convinced the top of the masts were close to the bottom of the Ben Franklin Bridge. I asked if I could go aloft to check it out and was told I needed a harness. I had mine, since I needed it to climb all over the ship to set up the lights, and up I went. The masts are not even close to the bottom of the bridge.

I sailed the summer of ’94 for two weeks and only learned when I was on watch, the lines under the galley wings and how to furl the squares. For years after that I would sail the entire summer, as deckhand, then bo’s’n and then mate, on Gazela. Slowly my career changed from lighting and rigging in Philadelphia theaters to rigging ships, Moshulu, Half Moon and the Bill of Rights and sailing (almost) fulltime on the Half Moon, the Bill of Rights, Gazela and harbor tugs in Philadelphia.

In 1999, hawsepiper trained, I sat for my Captain’s license and my career had completely changed to the Maritime industry. Since then I have worked on tugboats here in the Philly area. I currently work at Vane Line Bunkering at City Dock, where I supervise a fleet of 20 vessels, keeping them shipshape and USCG and ABS compliant.