Sailing foundation keeps the bay busy
The Conanicut Island Sailing Foundation has been around for 11 years now, but recently some new programs have been added that serve to further integrate the organization into the community that surrounds it.
After-school sailing programs, free sailing nights and summer sailing camps have all been established, with the goal of increasing access to sailing for all of the people of Jamestown.
Bradford Swett founded the nonprofit foundation in 2001. Its mission remains to promote sailing for the benefit of the people of Jamestown. When Swett passed away in 2005, he left the organization with an endowment that continues to fund its programs today.
Meg Myles has been the executive director of the CISF for the last two years. Her impressive sailing career includes three Olympic campaigns and a spot of the U.S. Sailing Team at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
“We’ve been giving out grants to sailors for the last 10 years, with a Jamestown focus,” Myles said. “We look at our applicants needs and the goals they’re trying to achieve. We have our own list of criteria.”
Among the new programs is the after-school sailing program that was started last fall. The foundation partners with the Conanicut Yacht Club and the Jamestown Education Foundation for the program. The six-week series was open to students of Lawn Avenue School.
“The kids came to Conanicut Yacht Club once a week and learned how to sail,” Myles said. “They did a lot of swimming and generally had a positive experience on the water.”
The free community sailing program has been going on for about five years at East Ferry, but last summer it moved to Fort Getty for the first time. It is also a sixweek program, beginning after the Fourth of July each year. The sailing takes place on Wednesday evenings from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
“The first week or two is always slow,” Myles said, “and then it gets quite busy. We get 30 or 40 people a night.”
Although the free sailing is supposed to be for Jamestowners, Myles said that she doesn’t check identification, so the program is basically free for any who comes. No one is turned away. Anyone 5 years old or above is welcome. Since there are usually more people then places on the foundation’s boats, a paddleboards and two kayaks have been added this year to keep people occupied while they’re waiting to sail.
Five years ago the Conanicut Yacht Club applied to the CISF for a grant to help buy some boats. The foundation approved the request with the caveat that it be allowed to use the boats for free community sailing once a week. Up until last year, those were the boats that were used on Wednesday night.
Last fall the foundation’s board began to discuss adding a marine science and environment science sailing camp program. They decided to partner with the Audubon Society, Save the Bay, the Jamestown Education Foundation and the Jamestown Arts Center. Once the decision was made to start the camps, it became necessary for the CISF to buy its own boats.
Three Hobie Wave catamarans were purchased, and those are the boats that are now used for Wednesday night community sailing, as well as the camps. Each 15-foot boat can fit three to five people. An instructor is on board each vessel to teach participants the basics of sailing, including the proper use of nautical terms.
This year marks the first summer for the sailing camp. The program runs for six weeks, with 12 children attending each weeklong camp. Camp is in session from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. The Audubon Society runs the marine and environmental science segment of the program, while the foundation handles the sailing side. Each organization provides an instructor.
Each morning at camp there are different scientific experiences around Fort Getty. Twice a week during lunchtime the Jamestown Arts Center organizes a marine-art project at the camp. Afternoons are devoted to sailing. Every Friday campers get ice cream at The Shack at the Dutch Harbor Boat Yard.
According to Myles, this summer the kids have gone over the basics of sailing, done their own mini-America’s Cup, circumnavigated Dutch Island, and sailed to the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography. While there they visited the aquarium.
“They’ve done all sorts of different adventures,” Myles said.
The price for the week at camp is $285. The camps are open to everyone, and campers are split into age groups. Thus far all of the weeks have been full, but there are still some spots open for the camp’s final week. (To learn more, visit CISF.ClubSiteSolutions.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.)
The foundation’s annual fundraiser will take place on Sept. 1. The pool party is open to the public at a house on Seaview Avenue. All of the foundation’s catamarans will be available, as well as boats from the Conanicut Yacht Club, paddleboards and kayaks. Other activities for the day will include a silent auction.