2012-01-05 / News

Sailing education to catch more wind at Fort Getty this summer

Town Council grants CISF permission to hold six weeks of camps beginning in July
BY PHIL ZAHODIAKIN


Above, children have trouble keeping their sailboat afloat during the Conanicut Island Sailing Foundation’s fall afterschool program that was run in conjunction with the Conanicut Yacht Club. Below, enthusiastic sailors line the beach at Fort Getty during the CISF’s free sailing day in August. 
PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE CONANICUT ISLAND SAILING FOUNDATION Above, children have trouble keeping their sailboat afloat during the Conanicut Island Sailing Foundation’s fall afterschool program that was run in conjunction with the Conanicut Yacht Club. Below, enthusiastic sailors line the beach at Fort Getty during the CISF’s free sailing day in August. PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE CONANICUT ISLAND SAILING FOUNDATION The Town Council this week granted the Conanicut Island Sailing Foundation permission to hold six weeks of educational camps at Fort Getty for kids in the 8-11 and 12-16 age groups. The camps, which would include marine and environmental education as well as sailing instruction, will be far more elaborate than the sailing classes offered by CISF at the park last summer.

The expansion beyond free sailing classes (which are coming back as well) won’t be shouldered by CISF alone. The group, whose mission is promoting sailing and sailboat racing at every age and experience level, is partnering with the Audubon Society, the Lawn Avenue School, the Jamestown Education Foundation, the Herreshoff Museum and (tentatively) Save the Bay for its suite of 2012 programs.

CISF president Hannah Swett said, “We would love to have help from even more partners,” pointing out that she sees her group as “a spoke in the wheel in the creation of a public marine center at Fort Getty.”

The council motion supporting the CISF request passed unanimously on Jan. 3, with the only question raised by the councilors involving boat storage. The group’s executive director, Meg Myles, explained that CISF would store two or three boats – each having space for up to four kids apiece – on dollies secured to the kayak racks across from the boat ramp. Myles added that the stored boats wouldn’t affect any of the nearby parking places.

Unlike the sailing classes that CISF brought to Fort Getty last summer, there will be a charge for the camps. Although the number isn’t set in stone, Myles said that she estimates that the cost for each participant in the one-week camps will be $300 – with a proposal for locally funded scholarships still in the works.

CISF is a charitable group that holds a fundraiser every Saturday of Labor Day weekend. Myles said the group, which was founded by Brad Swett in 2001, donates all of its fundraising proceeds directly to sailors (among other beneficiaries) who have applied for CISF grants. The group, she added, raises $15,000 to $18,000 during each of its Labor Day fundraisers.

“Our ultimate goal at Fort Getty is to have a public, marine facility for the people of Jamestown,” Myles said. “We’d like to create and establish a curriculum for each grade of Jamestown schools so that every Jamestown student passes through the center and learns about their marine environment, sailing included.”

For the summer of 2012, the group would like to use the concrete slab near the boat ramp or the Rembijas pavilion (whether or not the replacement has been built) for its camp classroom. Myles said a Newport business has offered a substantially reduced rate for a tent, but added that she’s “still looking around for a free, 20-by- 40-foot tent to go over the [north end] slab.”

Eventually, Myles would like to see a year-round educational facility “with enough space for other learning opportunities, whether it’s yoga or dance or theatrical rehearsals. I’ve also talked to the International Yacht Restoration School, and I think it would be great if we could have a boat-building class for the kids in Jamestown schools.”

In fact, one of Jamestown’s schools – the Lawn Avenue School – is already partnering with CISF and the Jamestown Education Foundation for the purpose of teaching science with “land yachts,” which are miniature sailboats with wheels enabling them to “sail” with the “wind energy” from fans. (More information on land yachts is available at Model LandYachts.com.)

CISF will hold its free, Fort Getty sailing classes every Wednesday from 5 to 7 p.m., starting on July 11. The one-week camps will start on July 9 and run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with the afternoons devoted to sailing lessons and the mornings slated for environmental education, which will be handled by the Audubon Society.

“The kids will spend the mornings with Audubon instructors, learning about marine science and things about the environment at Fort Getty,” Myles said. “They’ll spend the afternoons going sailing and, while they’re sailing, the instructors can incorporate the morning lessons into the afternoon sessions.”

Currently, it looks like there will be a sixth week of camps, with the afternoon sessions handled by Save the Bay – assuming the group decides to participate in the CISF camps. Myles said she wasn’t totally sure, at this point, if Save the Bay will sign on.

Either way, the camps will mark a major milestone in the progression of CISF’s sailing programs, which started five years ago at the town beach at East Ferry. Myles said that, after weak attendance during the first three years, “We moved to the new [East Ferry] dock and, thanks to stronger advertising, we had 40 people lining the dock to go sailing. Last year we moved it to Fort Getty and, once we got the word out, we had probably 30 people per week.”

Asked if East Ferry was a good location for sailing instruction, Myles said, “East Ferry is OK for sailing, but Fort Getty is fantastic. It’s a much more secluded spot, the water is nice and flat, and it’s a really safe environment in which to learn because you’re essentially enclosed on three sides.”

Myles added that “there isn’t as much traffic – foot or car – as you would have at East Ferry. There will be some boat traffic to and from the boat ramp during the days we would operate, but I don’t think there will be very much because, from what I saw last year, the boat traffic tends to be most active [on weekdays] before 9 a.m. and after 4 or 5 p.m. So, to me, Fort Getty is just a gem for sailing instruction.”

Once CISF solidifies its calendar, there will be a link to information, including registration information, for the CISF and Audubon camps on the Parks and Recreation Department’s webpage. For now, the calendar is shaping up like this:

• Week of July 9: Audubon marine science in the a.m., CISF sailing in the afternoon (grades 3-6).

• Week of July 16: Audubon marine science in the a.m., CISF sailing in the afternoon (grades 3-6).

• Week of July 23: Audubon marine science in the a.m., CISF sailing in the afternoon (grades 7-10).

• Week of July 30: Audubon marine science in the a.m., CISF sailing in the afternoon (grades 7-10).

• Week of Aug. 6: Tentatively Save the Bay in the a.m.; CISF in the afternoon (grades 3-6).

• Week of Aug. 13: Audubon marine science in the a.m., CISF sailing in the afternoon (grades 7-10).

CISF is also planning to offer instructional camps in a partnership with the Herreshoff Museum. In this program, Myles said, kids up to age 13 “would be taught navigation, and they will then navigate and sail from West Ferry to Fort Getty, where they will overnight. They will make all their own meals and sleep on the boat learning all skills associated with that type of independence.”

For more information about the CISF programs, contact Myles at 855-6643 or CISFSailing@gmail.com

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