Island Rec program teaches basic seamanship

By Katie Schmidt
Special to The Journal

You know it’s summer when Island Rec sailing classes hit the water on Percich Pond. And last week they were running full sail.

From Monday through Friday, a slew of young sailors tried their hand on the San Juan Island Sailing Foundation’s sailboats at Percich.

Two classes ran last week; Intro, for 8-year-old mariners, for three hours in the morning; and Basic, for older students, in the afternoon.

Felipe Lopez, Zach Chan and Miles Cobos taught the classes. All three are island sailors and alumni of the Island Rec classes. One of the main goals of the classes is to create sailors like these three, to encourage young people to develop a love of the water that will carry on as they grow up.

Being an instructor can be a rewarding experience. This was Chan’s first time helping teach a class.

“It’s great,” Chan said. “It really keeps you on your feet always looking for something to do.”

All of the students had a good time this week. Not only did they catch great weather — every day was sunny with consistent breeze — they also got to try out a new kind of sailboat never before seen on Percich Pond.

The Sailing Foundation received a new kind of boat called an O’pen Bic on loan from West Coast Sailing this year. As the name implies, the O’pen Bic was designed by the Bic Pen Company. It is a small, light boat designed for smaller sailors.

Lent to the Sailing Foundation as part of the plan for promoting this new design, the O’pen Bic will be used in the sailing classes for the rest of the summer. Usually, the classes sail in older El Toros.

The students enjoyed having the opportunity to sail the O’pen Bic. Grace Willows, one of the Intro sailors, was particularly keen to go out on it a second time.

“It’s really fast,” she said, “It takes a while to get going, but once you do, it’s awesome.”

Besides getting to sail different types of boats, the students ran various drills to teach them about safety and seamanship. They learned to rig boats, sail a triangle course, rescue a man overboard and do capsize recovery. Sailors had to master these skills to move on to the next class.

Intro sailor Kai Herko said capsizing was one of the highlights for him. “I’m pretty good at it,” he said.

Sailing classes will continue this summer at Percich Pond and in Griffin Bay. For more information, call Island Rec, 378-4953.