Re: Getting seamanship experience in Highschool...?
If you want seamanship experience in high school get a job as a mate or a deckhand on a charter boat somewhere on the east coast. Not a boose-cruise striper-fishing boat but a day-sailer like a schooner or something. That's where I started, more or less, and it was the most fun I've had in my entire life, especially when you live aboard. It also taught me how to manage a crew, maintain a vessel, and run a boat in general. Depending on where you are the money's not bad for a high school student either. My last summer doing it I took home around $400-$500 per week, which is hardly an OSV but that's not bad for pocket cash when you're a teenage with relatively low personal expenses.
About your pilot's license: with a little more time and effort I'm told you can get your helicopter endorsement, or whatever they call it, on your private pilot's license. If you were willing to take the time and effort to do that I can tell you that that would take you a long way in one particular sector of the maritime industry: private yachts. If an owner can pay you to be their mate/captain/deckhand/what-ever AND their private chopper pilot, then so much the better! Two birds with one stone. A pilot's license is most definitely a serious competitive advantage when it comes to yachts.
I can't speak to this on any personal level but I have a suspicion that a chopper pilot's license might also help to a certain degree in the off-shore supply industry. I know most, if not all, of the rigs in the gulf, and indeed many of the vessels down there as well, have helipads and frequently do crew transfers and small supply-runs that way. If a company can hire a mate or a captain who can second as a back-up pilot for one of their choppers, then that could potentially put you a step above the rest.
Also about maritime academies, good to see you're looking ahead, I know I was early in high school, but don't leave any of the big six out (Maine, Massachusetts, Texas, California, Great Lakes, and Kings Point). If there is something you like in particular about Cal-Maritime that's fine, but don't forget that each one has things going for it that the other five don't have (except maybe Kings Point, they're having a pretty hard time lately so be careful there).
Just in the interests of shamelessly plugging for my own alma mater I can tell you that if you were to attend Maine Maritime Academy you could graduate with a 1600-ton mate's license (the largest tonnage license without being unlimited) and a towing endorsement (both HIGHLY marketable things), all without having to spend 4 years in the regiment and just living like a normal student at any other college, which is something you cannot do at any other of the big six maritime academies. MMA's graduates also have highly competitive job placement and starting salaries with the other maritime academies.
Good luck in your endeavors and godspeed! If you ever come up to visit Castine (Maine Maritime) send me a PM and I'll see you get a good tour!
"And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by..."
As I was a walkin' down London Road I come to Paddy West's house. He gave me a feed of "American hash" and he called it "Liverpool Scouse". He said, "There's a ship who's wantin' hands, and on 'er ye'll quickly sign! The mate is a bastard, the bos'un's worse but she will suit ye' fine!