The BOOM sailing camp made their annual appearance in Fort Frances last week, and the result was both fun and educational.
The mobile sailing clinic, established by the Ontario Sailing Association, and brought to Fort Frances with the help of the Rendez-Vous Yacht Club, put seven local children through a week-long sailing training program with the help of two certified instructors.
“It’s a great course,” said Jackson Gillon, 10, one of the seven children who participated all week.
His sentiments were echoed by some of the children’s parents.
“I thought it would be something good to do,” said Dawn Lundy, whose nine year-old son Ryan participated.
“He wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do this otherwise and he really has enjoyed it,” she added.
“It’s good to expose the kids to a little of everything, so when they get older, they can make their own choices,” said Rooksana Randeree, who enrolled her two children Merrek, 10, and Brett, 8.
“They are pretty proud of the knots they learned to tie,” she laughed.
What the parents were most grateful for is the careful instruction their children received.
Jennifer Elderige, of Richmond Hill, Ontario and Genévieve Mak of Toronto were the BOOM instructors here this summer.
Their schedule entails putting on sailing seminars all across Ontario between June and August. Set up with a van and a handful of little yellow, learner-friendly sailboats, the two nautical ambassadors were enthusiastic about the week.
“They’re a good bunch of kids,” said Elderidge, who is currently in her second year of kinesiology at Fanshaw College in London, Ontario.
“We usually have 16 [kids],” she added explaining, that sometimes in smaller groups the kids have the opportunity for more hands-on work.
Both Elderidge and Mak were quick to point out that the program is not just to fill the long summer days; the course is designed to teach valuable skills.
“What we do on the first day depends on how well they already know sailing, and each place is different,” said Elderidge.
The first thing to learn is the names for the different parts of the boat. By the final day, each pupil is confidently using terms like “starboard”-the right side of the boat, and of course, tying a few new knots.
“There are four knots to learn at this level,” explained Elderidge. “Reef, Bowline, Figure 8, and the Round Turn with Two Half Hitches. The Bowline is the most difficult,” she added.
There was only one day last week that the class could not get on the water because of the weather. But, this does not mean the course stopped.
“If it rains, we tell them sailing stories,” said Elderidge. “There is a theoretical aspect to the sport too. There is a test at the end of the week.”
On the final day, it was time for the “Tacking to the Whistle” exercise. This is a drill were the students had to listen for a whistle and change direction each time it blows.
“It’s one of the hardest drills, but they are doing fine for their skill level,” Mak said as she sat in the instructor’s boat and prepared to signal yet another direction change.
As she blew the whistle, she had to laugh.
“Sometimes kids do weird things,” she explained. “Right now, they are all sailing in a different direction than they should be,” she smiled.
As if on cue, a splash rose up for the water. A little yellow sailboat had tipped over and propelled its three rookie sailors into the blue water around Sandy Point Dock.
According to Mak, an important aspect of the course is teaching how to capsize properly. These new skills came in handy as the three children calmly swam back and righted their boat.
“We just turned and the wind hit us just right,” said Jared Cupp, 8, after he got back on dry land. “I hope my Mom’s not mad because my shoes are really wet.”
As the day and the course ended Eric Rude, the Past Commodore of the Rendez-Vous Yacht Club, observed with pleasure the seven new sailing enthusiasts his organization assisted. He was clearly pleased with the program.
“[Sailing provides] a little of everything--life skills and enjoyment,” he said. “It’s a great way to enjoy the lake and it’s a great lake for it.,”
For Rude his organization’s investment in future sailors is well worth it. “It’s good to get professionals in and teach the kids the proper way to sail,” he said. “Maybe they will pull their parents into yachting someday.”