School is almost out for the summer, and if you have kids, you might be wondering how to keep them occupied over the long break. Sure, there’s always television to watch or video games to play, but if you and your family are looking for more active and engaging ways to stay busy, the St. Croix Sailing School has you covered. June through August is prime sailing season, and throughout the summer, the St. Croix Sailing School offers a variety of camps focused on the ins and outs of boat-handling and racing, teaching life skills and character development along the way.
Founded in 2008, the school is a nonprofit organization managed by an all-volunteer board and run through the St. Croix Sailing Club, a group of boating enthusiasts dedicated to sharing their love of the open water with community members, younger ones in particular. From June 12 to August 11, the St. Croix Sailing School holds youth sailing lessons through full-day, week-long camps. Open to children and teenagers ages 7 to 17, the camps are designed to meet prospective young skippers wherever they are, so regardless of skill level or previous experience, there is sure to be a class to fit.
“The main part of the program is teaching the kids in two different types of boats,” explains board member Tom Vandervoort. “We teach the younger students in 8-foot dinghies called Optis, and the older students sail in 420 sailboats, which are 14 feet long.” The sailboats are completely set up and ready to hit the water, but participants should be sure to dress appropriately and bring a lifejacket. Vandervoort emphasizes that even above sharing the love of sailing, safety is the school’s No. 1 priority.
This year marks the school’s ninth anniversary; more than 1,200 children and youth have attended the camps since 2008, and past participants have rave reviews to share. Justin Farner of River Falls, Wis., sent his four children to the sailing camps several summers ago. “Their experience was amazing. I have never seen my children glow so brightly from any other activity they’ve ever done,” he says. “By the end of the week, they were all asking for their own sailboats, and they all want to work at the sailing school when they get older.” Farner himself now serves on the board, working to ensure that other children can experience the same joy his own kids have. “After I saw my children go through the week, it’s worth whatever I can do to make sure that this program stays up and running,” he says.
Accessibility and affordability are key priorities of the St. Croix Sailing School; thanks in large part to donations, all the boating essentials are ready to go. “There has been a huge amount of community support for this,” Vandervoort says. “People contributing to the Sailing Club has been what has enabled us to buy our fleets of sailboats, the sails, the lines and all that goes with them.” Heavily used equipment is a sign of a successful sailing season, so the generosity of community members helps the school cover its day-to-day operating expenses and keep costs reasonable for area families.
Summer sailing day camps run 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, at $280 per week. “It’s really a heck of a deal,” Vandervoort says. “It’s difficult to find a camp that kids can go to for that kind of money.” But if that’s a stretch for your wallet, don’t let it deter you—the school also provides scholarships to cover all or part of the fees. Feel free to stop by sometime to see the sailboats in action, Farner says: “The mood there is very fun, very light, very supportive and very educational. It’s an amazing place.”