Rhumb Lines July 2018 Issue

Sailing Camps for Kids

This summer tens of thousands of children will take their first sail, with a friend or alone in their own little boat. They will sail away from the WiFi connection, the YouTube videos, and the remote control. It’s an experience that can change a life.

Even so, maybe you are on the fence this summer. The drive is too far, the cost too high, or the child says, “It doesn’t sound like much fun.” If you or your child still need some gentle persuasion, here are a few arguments in favor.

Optimist fleet
The Optimist fleet sets sail for another adventure on Sarasota Bay in Sarasota, FL.

1. “You get to sail your own boat.” Independence—at last. To take responsibility for one’s actions one has to first recognize them as your own. There’s no question who is trimming the sails or steering your boat. It’s a twist on the Spiderman motto: with great freedom comes great responsibility.

2. “You get to be out on the water.” Immersion in nature. A number of studies have demonstrated how water lifts spirits, and even improves mental and physical health. Mastering a small boat heightens an awareness of the forces of nature, and plants the seeds of the notion that we are part of something much bigger than ourselves.

3. “You will make new friends.” Connectedness with other people. In a two-person dinghy, the sailing partner is more than just a teammate. Over time, the feedback loop between trimmer and helmsman creates its own nervous system, a sensory-motor pathway in which two people can move as one.

4. “You will learn something new.” This is a tough sell, especially in summer. Most kids, though, recognize that mastering a new skill—defeating the next boss, as they say—produces its own special thrill.

5. “You will have fun.” This is almost guaranteed, although the level of fun often depends on the camp staff and how well the school fosters an environment of learning and growth. For the young, failure should be a friend—not something to avoid or be feared, but something to be accepted as part of the game. Where’s the game—or the fun— if there’s no risk of failure?

Nearly as important as staff experience is the breeze, and not every camp is meteorologically blessed. The experience of hunting for wind in drizzling rain is quite different from that of ten days of brisk, sunny reaches. In an ideal world, a squall will cause a bit of mayhem on the last day—a capsize, mad bailing, a lost baseball cap—some adventure to spice up the finale.

If you’re looking for kids sailing gear this summer, we’ve tested a wide range of safety equipment, sailing gear, and even boats aimed at the younger sailor: “Testing a Deckvest Made for Children” (see PS July 2017), “Sailing Gear for Kids” (PS July 2016), “Kid’s Life Jackets for Active Sailors,” (PS June 2013), “Practical Sailor Reviews Seven Performance Sailing Dinghies” (PS August 2011), “Practical Sailor Tests a Ruggedly Built Safety Harness and Tether” (PS September 2009), “Making the Best Toddler Life Jacket with Harness,” (PS June 2007), and “Safety Gear for Kids,” (PS July 2006), “Infant Toddler PFDs,” PS October 2006).

If you have a camp to recommend, send us an email at practicalsailor@belvoir.com.

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