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New camp on Captiva helps children sail into summer

By Staff | May 28, 2010

Children will have a chance to learn to sail this summer at the Captiva Island Yacht Club’s inaugural Junior Sailing Camp.

The Phoenicians did it. The Egyptians also did it. And so did the Romans and Greeks, too.

All of these people of different nations shared the common love of sailing.

Sailing — or the art of controlling a boat by using water currents and the wind — is an activity of many civilizations, ancient and modern. The idea of being able to move with the wind draws people of all ages to try and harness a bit of nature.

The Captiva Island Yacht Club is hoping to help the area’s younger residents learn to master the art of sailing this summer when it is featuring its first Junior Sailing Camp. The program is open to children of ages 8 to 14 in all skill levels, said Chris Heidrick, Chairman of the Sailing Committee at the Yacht Club. However, children must be able to pass a swim test.

Heidrick recommends that parents who are not sure of their children’s swimming ability take them to the Sanibel Recreation Center and have them swim a lap back and forth in the lap pool. If they can do this, then they should have no problems passing the swim test, Heidrick said.

The sailing camp program will help children develop the vital sailing and navigating skills needed to be a sailor. Campers will learn how to operate three types of boats — in adddition to a sailboat, a power boat and kayak.

Rigging, navigating and tying knots will also be taught in the program.

“Your child will be able to sail single-handedly,” Heidrick said.

Heidrick, who sailed competitively for 20 years, said he wanted to find a way to incorporate the sport of sailing with summertime fun. And as the leader for the Captiva Island Yacht Club’s new Sailing Committee formed in April, he also wanted to draw more young families to participate in sailing.

In addition, he said that once the children’s summer camp is up and running there is a chance they might develop a sailing program for adults as well.

Heidrick pointed out that the area poses an ideal place for learning to sail.

The sailing program which runs in two sessions — Session 1:  July 12 to 22, and

Session 2:  July 26 to Aug 6. — is being taught by the Edison Sailing Center in Fort Myers.

During the program, campers will have their own boat — either an eight-foot Optimist Pram dingy with one sail or, for the older children, a Sunfish, slightly larger. Campers will learn to sail on their own and glide into quiet and safe areas like Roosevelt Channel. And, as they progress, they will be able to head to Buck Key.

“Your child will learn something concrete,” Heidrick said.

Ross Webb, the Commodore of the Edison Sailing Center in Fort Myers, said he has noticed an increase in children taking up the sport of sailing. He attributes the surge to economics — gas is more expensive to use than wind — as well as an interest in competition.

Students at nearby high schools, Bishop Verot and Fort Myers High — schools which local students will some day attend — have sail racing teams.

“The kids are more interested than ever,” Webb said.

But it’s not going to be all business and no fun… after all, ithis is summer camp.

“It’s meant to be fun,” Heidrick said. “But there will be a result.”

Children will be able to use the beach near the Yacht Club. The Club is equipped with shower facilities as well. Children must bring their own lunch.

Heidrick also said the sailing camp also gives parents another alternative in choosing camps for their children.

“We’re so lucky to have so many options for summer camp,” he said. “It’s one more way for the child to enjoy the atmosphere where we live.”

At completion, kids will know how to sail single-handed and will be certified in powerboat safety. Each child is assigned his or her own boat for the session. On the last Thursday of each camp session, family and friends will be able to come and see what the campers have been doing and skills they have learned. 

Registration is $600 per two-week session ($300 per week).

To enroll in the Junior Sailing Camp or for additional information, contact Chris Heidrick at 579-0660 or the Captiva Island Yacht Club at 472-4133.