Sailing, Exploring, and Playing Games

Published on February 10th, 2016

The February 2016 edition of SpinSheet is already thinking about summer with several articles discussing youth sailing. Here’s one of our favorites…

Holly O’Hare started the Eastport Yacht Club program in Annapolis in 2004 with borrowed boats, one staff, many volunteers, and no funds. Now they have a fleet of 25 sailboats, three Whalers, eight kayaks, and six paddleboards. Last summer, they had 10 staff and 225 kids, plus adult sailing, safe powerboat handling, and high school sailing. This upcoming summer, they expect over 300 kids to pass through seven weeks of programs.

What’s your sailing background?
My dad bought a brand new Cal 33 in 1972 when I was four, and I have been sailing ever since. I started sailing lessons at the Erie YC in Erie, PA, at age eight, and was teaching by 15. I have been racing some 35 plus years on anything from dinghies, catamarans, to keelboats as skipper or crew. I have taught sailing in some form for more than 20 years. My husband Gavin and I race Snipes together, but I’m looking forward to the day my daughters take over my position.

What’s something creative you do to get kids excited?

Kids love to sing… I love singing with kids. Nothing more fun than singing silly songs while sailing. (Say that 10 times.)

What do you to do keep it fun?

Every lesson plan needs a fun component to reemphasize the skill being taught. Just sailing around buoys is boring. Teaching sailing is different than 20 years ago…kids don’t want to just sail; they want to do other stuff on the water. So at EYC we incorporate kayaking, paddleboarding, and sailing other boats. We added the Sunfish to our fleet, so beginner kids can sail with friends and not be overwhelmed. Our Bay Week program is a huge hit highlighting the maritime industry and exploring the Chesapeake Bay. Plus we look fun on the water with all our colorful sails, the brighter the better.

What do you do to emphasize safety?

The three components to a good program are safety, learning, and fun. Safety is number one. To do this you need a well-trained and professional staff. Instructors need to understand their responsibilities are well beyond just teaching sailing. Just like fun, at EYC we add a safety element to every lesson plan.

What do you wish parents knew about what you do in the junior program?

A lot of parents think I’m a full-time paid employee. They are surprised to learn I am a volunteer with kids and a real job. I do spend a tremendous amount of time with volunteers and staff getting the program prepared, so their children are in great hands. I don’t mind phone calls or emails either. I am happy to answer their questions.

Why do you do this?
Because someone did this for me. I have a tremendous amount of gratitude for all those who give to junior sailing. Junior sailing has given me far more than I can give back…but I will try.

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