On the South Shore, kids learn early to sail
Jody Feinberg The Patriot Ledger Friday Aug 17, 2018 at 10:56 AM
As gusts filled the sail, 12-year-old Sara Menesale welcomed the windy challenge that once frightened her as a novice sailor at Hingham Maritime Center. Like kids throughout the South Shore, Sara has come to love the pleasure and freedom of moving across the water under her own direction with the wind.
“I like that I’m sailing the boat by myself, but I’m also sailing near friends,” said Sara of Hingham, who competed this summer in races in Hingham and Duxbury. “In the regattas, I learned that you can’t win by following someone. And they’re really fun, even if I don’t win.”
In sailing programs run by town recreation departments, non-profit programs and yacht clubs, hundreds of kids have not only become accomplished recreational and competitive sailors, but have returned as teenagers and college students to give younger sailors the opportunities they had. Once a hobby available only to the well-to-do, sailing can be enjoyed by anyone thanks to the bargain prices of town programs and the commitment of non-profits Hingham Maritime Center and Duxbury Bay Maritime School, as well as some yacht clubs, to keep rates reasonable and offer some scholarships.
With its sheltered lagoons, bays and harbors, the South Shore is a near perfect place to learn and nearly every coastal community, including Cohasset, Marshfield, Scituate and Plymouth, has programs. Black’s Creek, for example, is a salt water lagoon separated from the ocean by Quincy Shore Drive, and Hingham Maritime Center is in sheltered Hingham Harbor.
“The lagoon has the winds and tides of ocean sailing, but if someone makes a mistake they just end up in the marsh,” said Barry Welch, director of the recreation department in Quincy, whose 62-year-old program is among the oldest in the state.
In most cases, children can start at age 6 or 7 and continue through high school, advancing through levels of recreational sailing and handling a variety of sailboat models. Some programs offer competitive sailing as well, preparing kids for area regattas. Options are flexible, with different length programs, but all require children to pass a swimming test.
“Since we’re a coastal town, I feel really fortunate that my children have this opportunity,” said Nadine Donovan, whose 15-year-old twins and 12-year-old have sailed every summer since age 8. “The loyalty of the counselors speaks to the quality of the program, and sailing is a great pastime that my children can take into adulthood.”
Luke Donovan, a Quincy High student, said he loves the feeling of peace and closeness to nature when he sails. The three siblings said sailing is second nature to them now, though docking the boat in the changing wind can require a lot of patience and flexibility.
The programs also foster cooperation and responsibility, since even the youngest children are taught to prepare their boat for sailing. In pairs on a recent day, young sailors carried the mast and sail down the dock at Hingham Maritime Center, while others brought down the tiller and dagger board.
“There you go, you can do it yourself,” encouraged counselor Mollie Manning, as she watched them put the equipment on their Optis, seven-foot long boats with a single sail.
Afterwards while they waited on the dock to go out with a counselor, Manning, who learned to sail in the program now run by her older sister, Kate, told them, “I need you to understand that it’s windy and your Opti is going to move fast. It’s not going to be easy to hold the tiller steady, but use gentle movements and you’ll do fine.”
While some kids are the first in their family to sail, many children have a parent who sails, and family members can sail together at designated times.
By the end of eight weeks, even the youngest kids typically can sail independently on a relatively calm day. Counselor Max Slane, a college student who also learned to sail in the Hingham program, is proud of the development he’s seen in his students.
“I’ve taught Sara for four years and in the past she wouldn’t have wanted to get on the boat when it’s windy,” Slane said, as he watched her catch the wind and zip past the anchored boats into Hingham Bay. “Now she’s so confident and has become a really good racer.”
Sara said she is also happy about the friendship she’s made with fellow racer Diana Won of Norwell. As the two sailed parallel to each other, Sarae could be heard sharing her surprise at a particularly strong wind gust, exclaiming, “I didn’t expect that.” Perched on the boat edge, Sara adjusted the sail and the friends receded from view as they headed toward World’s End.
Release 230 DC
As a recreational activity these days, fishing isn’t the only leisure time option for the modern boating family. Plenty of boaters, especially those with large or growing families turn to the water for a host of various other reasons. Water tow/sports, coastal cruising, sand bar activities, picnic rides, snorkeling, (and yes even fishing) are all popular pastimes and finding a boat to wear so many hats might not seem easy. The “Dual Console” style boat has always been a practical choice for this type of mixed use boating and the Release 230 DC proves to be a very capable platform for each of these hobbies.
Starting with the need to carry plenty of passengers, the combination of both forward and aft lounge seating, along with the dual helm-area seating addresses this requirement, accommodating 6-8 passengers easily. The aft seating features companion aft-facing single seats which are perfect for safety spotters while pulling riders behind the boat on water toys/boards. A swim platform with a boarding ladder is standard and an optional Transom Mount Ski/Tow Kit is available. A forward facing bench seat in the cockpit folds down to open up some space aft for fishing and while not specifically a fishing boat, it is certainly capable if the situation calls for it. The forward lounge seating is well suited for cruising and socializing and while large enough to carry a group, the size of the 230 DC doesn’t prevent passengers located forward and aft from communicating with each other without shouting. The seating all around features comfortable padded cushions and cockpit bolsters trim the backrests nicely. The interior space within both consoles allows for plenty of dry storage with easy access and plenty of room for an Electric or Porta-Head as well.
This boat handled exceptionally well when we put it through its paces and proved to be a perfect vessel for our sand bar visit and inland waterway cruising with multiple riders (and a dog) over our two-day test run. For pleasure boat shoppers with a large family and lots of friends, this is definitely a serious option to consider.