Cruising and Seamanship

Seamanship is an art, because it can be learned only through practice. You can study design, meteorology, and nautical science, but you can only learn to dock a boat by doing it.

My Tartan 27 bound for Hell's Gate.
My Tartan 27 bound for Hell’s Gate.

Cruising is not a structured activity. Meetings are called rallies, or perhaps mess-abouts, not races. Inevitably there comes a day when the skipper wants to sail out to that distant island, or around the point. Reach around to the next-door cove for a picnic to see what you can see. Huck Finn casts off with Ratty and Mole to meet the Swallows and Amazons on Treasure Island. It’s a non-program program where success is using your brain, brawn, and resources to come back smiling. Jury-rigging and fishing are allowed. Adventurers beware: the ocean is capable of providing more pain than man or machine can endure.

Messing about in small boats does not depend on a new boat or the same boat as your neighbor. An older, pre-scratched boat that you made your own with a can of wax and some innovative “tie it and fly it” rigging is going to bring you at least as much fun as a spiffy new boat. A friend took a 20 year old Optimist with the “unsafe” airtanks and gave it a paint job that brought a smile to his daughter’s faces and we all realized there was still some fun left in that old boat!

Five Reasons Your Kids Should Sail 

imageDaniela Clark, who started with now-husband Allen Clark, grew up in Westport, CT and has been involved in sailing schools, water sports programs, and also found time to obtain her Master license from the Coast Guard. Here she provides observations in the WaterViews blog on the benefits of sailing for children:

1. Self-Confidence. There is simply nothing like being able to pilot your own craft at the age of 9 years old. Riding a bike is one thing. Skillfully steering and docking a sailboat is quite another. All of my athletic endeavors helped to shape my sense of self as a kid, but sailing was without a doubt the most instrumental. I have not only noticed this in myself; during my ten years as a sailing instructor, I have seen it again and again in my students.

2. Spatial awareness. When kids learn how to navigate a boat through narrow spaces and tight turns – how to avoid collisions, coast to a dock with finesse, or squeeze into a packed starting line at a regatta – they develop a spatial awareness that will bring them prowess all activities that involve coordination. Like driving, for instance.

3. Sense of direction. When I was 10 years old, I would sail all week with my class, and then go out on weekends by myself. I would pack a lunch and take my Optimist out for a couple of hours to explore. I believe that it was on those trips that I began to develop a good sense of direction. Noticing which direction I had come from, picking out landmarks, and knowing how to get back became a regular part of my stream of consciousness. That awareness is crucial to having a sense of direction.

4. Weather knowledge. Do you know from which direction thunder storms normally come? Do you know what the water temperature normally is on Long Island Sound in May? If your child is a sailor, he or she will know. Weather knowledge will come in handy both on-the-water and on land.

5. Shipshape habits. Sailing students learn how to properly rig and unrig a boat. Kids learn to put things away in the right place, and keep them tidy while on the water. That’s a skill no mom or dad can argue with. Longshore Sailing School even has a shipshape award for every class to encourage the behavior.

So if your kids haven’t tried sailing, have them give it a try.

Comment: If I could add to the list, teaching a kid to sail is to give them a gift for life. They might not stick with it, but after they age out of all the other youth sports, the sailing skills are still there. I’ve seen both my teenage sons return to sailing after an extended absence. Same goes for the piano too. – Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt

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