Life as a Sailing Instructor
'Seeing the smiles on kids' faces and the excitement come through is what makes summer camp special. It gives you this indescribable feeling of joy that you cannot get elsewhere.
I guess the only way to experience that feeling for yourself is to get yourself over to Canada for the best summer ever.'
I spent 3 summers working at summer camp. My first year I was a Climbing Instructor, the second year I was a Sailor, and my third year I was worked as one of the Program Directors.
In between the climbing, sailing, and directing programs. I helped run kayaking, skiing, zip lining, athletics, basketball, arts and crafts, riflery, archery, even drama. You name it, I have probably taught it at summer camp.
I stand by it when I say sailing is one of the best things you can teach at summer camp. Here’s what my days looked like as a Sailing Instructor. I’ll see if you can tell why I loved it so much…
Once a week, my fellow sailors and I would get up early for in-service training. Normally at this earlier hour, the tide is high and the winds are strong, you have no other watercraft to worry about and have all the space to push the boat to its limits and become a better sailor yourself. The better you are, the better you can teach the kids.
After breakfast, that’s when the activities start! The way I would run “Captain Harry’s Sailing School” is a little different to other sailing programs. The first step is every kid needs a sailor’s name. The rank would change, but everyone starts as Captain, then can progress all the way up to Commodore. For example, one of my favourite examples is a camper who struggled to buckle up their life jacket, they were formally known as “Captain Buckles”.
Once everyone has their sailor names, I would get in the water and take them for a sail in the boat I used for training earlier on in the morning. This is all about showing what the parts of the boat are used for, how to tell where the wind is coming from (it’s harder than it sounds!) and how the wind is acting on the sail to make the boat move. Most importantly, this part of the morning is all about having fun on the water and getting the kids hooked on sailing.
I’ll be out on the water as much as I can in the morning having fun, then bring the boat in and give a quick de-rigging demo, then head over to lunch.
I’ve already spent the whole morning on the water, sailing away, heeling the boat, we would even sometimes get pods of dolphins coming up and swimming up along the bow (front) of the boat. All this before lunch? The fun is just getting started!
After eating lunch in the dining hall, the kids go and rest for an hour after a full on morning out on the water. I’ll take this time to have a nap in the hammocks or get prepared for the afternoon. The life of a sailing instructor is pretty chilled out.
Once their rest hour is over, the kids are back and ready to roll. Now that they are (hopefully) hooked on sailing, teaching some of the theory will be easier. The afternoons can be a bit more technical; getting the kids to rig and de-rig a couple of times, teaching them parts of the boat including port, starboard, bow and stern, as well as going over points of sail in more detail.
I try to do to as much of the “teaching part” on the water as possible, with the intention of making this as far away from a classroom as possible. Classrooms are the same, dull, unengaging environment. My classroom is engaging, interactive, a little bit silly at sometimes and unlike any others out there.
What else are you going to do in the evening apart from recreate scenes from Pirates of the Caribbean?! My personal favourite, load up two boats with cannons (super soakers) and cannon balls (sponges) and sail around having a sponge war out in the middle of the bay.
There you have it, the life of a sailor instructor. One day of the whole summer. My biggest concern, after safety, are the kids having fun? Are they enjoying learning about this? If not, let’s do something else!
Promoting the kids to Commodore at the end of every session and seeing the smiles on the faces and the excitement come through is what makes camp special. It gives you this indescribable feeling of joy that you cannot get elsewhere.
I guess the only way to experience that feeling for yourself is to get yourself over to Canada for the best summer ever.