Ahoy, matey!|Sailing program will teach local youth fundamentals

Published 10:20 pm Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Contributing Editor

This summer, six small sailboats will ply the waters off the Washington waterfront when the Little Washington Sailing Club conducts a series of sailing classes for youth.
The sailing club, under the auspices of Downtown Washington on the Waterfront, designed the sailing program’s curriculum to introduce participants to seamanship and sailing fundamentals as espoused by the U.S. Sailing Association.
The program intends to promote self-reliance, teamwork, safety awareness, sportsmanship and self-confidence, said Bill Walker, one of the club’s organizers and volunteers. The club’s mission is to provide a sailing program for youth that encourages them to enjoy recreational sailing along the city’s waterfront and Pamlico River.
“That’s what really inspired me with this program,” Walker said Saturday.
Interest in the club and its program is growing, he said.
“The DWOW office is getting constant calls, and people are coming by to pick up applications,” Walker said. “The first session is about sold out.”
Washington will benefit from the sailing program in at least two ways Walker said.
“It’s going to provide a very worthwhile activity on the waterfront,” he said, adding that students’ families likely will spend more time and money in downtown Washington as the students spend time on the river.
Councilman Gil Davis, a former employee of the Washington Parks and Recreation Department, said anything constructive that brings people to the waterfront is an asset to the city.
“I think it’s a very cost-efficient waterfront activity, because the city doesn’t have to spend any money on it,” Davis said.
Initially, the sailboats will be stored overnight at “Sawdust Beach,” Walker said, referring to the area between Builders FirstSource and the east end of the boardwalk on the Pamlico River. Sawdust from the former Moss Planing Mill is prevalent in that area. Students will board the sailboats at the North Carolina Estuarium’s docks.
Fourteen-foot-long Vanguard 420 Club dinghies will be used to teach sailing to students from ages 10 through 18. Each boat will carry a minimum of two people. The program will be monitored by an accredited sailing instructor with classes taught by trained volunteers.
Volunteers are needed for the club’s steering committee to serve as instructors, supervise gear and rigging for the sailboats and provide administrative and recruiting duties.
“We’ve probably got about 30 people,” Walker said. “On any given day, we probably need three, probably four.”
During a session, one volunteer will be needed to man the chase boat, another volunteer with a VHF radio will be needed ashore to handle any emergency that arises and two people will be needed to “manhandle the boats in and out of the water,” Walker said.
The club’s sailing instructor is Eve Robitaille, an East Carolina University student from Vermont who has extensive experience with and instructing children on Vanguard 420 Club dinghies.
The program has been endorsed by the Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce, the Pamlico-Tar River Foundation and the Historic Downtown Washington Merchants Association.
Session details
Five 10-day sessions are planned, with each session having a morning class and afternoon class. The cost per student for a 10-day session is $200, to be paid when an application is submitted. Each class is three hours.
Sessions have been scheduled for June 15-26, June 29-July 10, July 13-24, July 27-Aug.7 and Aug. 7-21.
Morning classes run from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Afternoon classes run from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Student qualifications
Students must demonstrate their swimming abilities by passing a swimming test.
Students need no prior sailing experience.
Students must submit four forms: an application, a signed memorandum of understanding, a medical information and consent form and a waiver of liability. The forms must be returned to the DWOW office at least two weeks before a student’s session begins.
Application forms may be downloaded at the DWOW Web site, www.washingtononthewater.com. They may also be obtained at McCotters Marina, 179 McCotters Marina Road; Park Boat Co., 1589 W. Fifth St.; and the DWOW office, on the third floor of City Hall, 102 E. Second St.