In one of my recent interviews with Tony Davis of Arey’s Pond Boatyard, we talked about how Tony had the desire not just to be a premiere New England boat builder, but to also be the community boatyard where folks come to get their boats worked on, drop of their kids for sailing lessons, and generally rely on for their sailing needs. In that discussion, we began talking about the Sailing School offered at APBY. Kids go through classroom and on-the-water training in APBY’s own 14′ catboats (pictured left). They are truly beautiful boats. Lessons include man-overboard drills, capsizing, reefing, games, and general sailing tactics.
For the previous 2 years, I had signed Maggie (8) up at our local yacht club in West Yarmouth, MA. They primarily sail Cape Cod Knockabouts (pictured right) at Maggie’s age and eventually graduate to Lasers. The kids go out to the boats, help rig a little, and then just sail around for a couple of hours. At the end of the class, picking up the kids from the moorings can take some time as there are usually 2 age groups sailing at the same time and many kids to ferry back to the docks. I didn’t have a problem with any of this and the Cape Cod Knockabout is a beautiful boat as well. At least she isn’t out in one of those bathtub Optimists. I wasn’t overly impressed with the level of instructing going on, but it was only 5 minutes from the house and Maggie seemed to enjoy it enough.
When Tony Davis told me that they learn on catboats, I was instantly sold. We all know my preference for catboats. Even though APBY was 35 minutes away, I figured I’d give it a try. Here are some facts that made the APBY class far and away the better choice:
- 2 kids and 1 instructor per boat. This is not the norm and there are usually more kids, but there are never so many kids that they have to wait to be ferried back to the dock
- Day 2 they gave the kids tennis balls and they would try to hit the other boat. If the ball dropped into the water, they would have to navigate back to pick it up
- Day 3 was capsize drills. I would say that the #1 reason that kids shy away from sailing is fear. The fear of tipping over and drowning or at least not being able to right the boat. As we know, the catboat is not the easiest boat on the water to capsize. So they tow what looked like a Hunter style sailboat out to the open water and they use that to practice capsizing.
- Day 3 was man-over-board drills. One of the students would jump in the water (or they would drop a life jacket) and they would practice emergency tacking/gybing back to the person.
- On the 4th day, the win was light and I was able to take my boat out to their sailing area. It is truly a beautiful spot to sail. It is a small bay protected by majestic sandy cliffs and a small river leading back to APBY.
As with any decent sailing school, safety is the first concern and the instructors take all of the necessary precautions. Each day, my daughter came back with a giant smile and some new accomplishment she wanted to share. “Daddy, I was the man overboard!” “Daddy, I raised the sail by myself with BOTH halyards!” “Daddy, we practiced jibbing!” “Gybing?” “Yeah, gybing!”
I will surely be signing her up at Arey’s Pond Boatyard again next year!
Thank you for reading!