Sailing 101: Discovering a New Passion - Eva Varga

September 29, 20141

We recently took part in a week-long sailing class offered by a local yacht club. Their mission is to introduce as many people – particularly youth – as possible to this great sport. They also want to make sure they’re learning in a safe, fun, high-quality environment ~ and it certainly was!

Our lead instructor, Carl, gave all the credit for the course to his brother, whose remarkable story is a testament to the human spirit and an inspiration to all of us. Once an accomplished downhill skier, a severe accident left him a quadriplegic. Not deterred by the forbidding prognosis by his physicians, he persevered and discovered the sport of sailing. Wanting to share his new found love of sailing with others, he convinced his brother to be his legs and to teach sailing each summer to area youth.


Just glancing over the course objectives on the first day, I knew this was going to be an amazing class.

  • Learn the nomenclature of sailing (mast, main sail, main sheet, boom, hull, bow, stern, rudder, tiller, centerboard, cockpit, halyards, etc.)
  • Learn how to sail and demonstrate the points of sail (no-go-zone, close hulled, beam reach, broad reach, and running downhill
  • Learn how to tie sailing knots (bowline, etc.)
  • Learn to set-up a Sunfish, launch it, sail it, break it down, & trailer it
  • Learn how to “right” the sunfish (each kid must capsize the Sunfish and then flip it back over)
  • Learn how to be benevolent
  • Learn not be be imbroglio
  • Paint an Impressionist painting similar to Regatta at Argenteuil by Claude Monet

As the school year was underway, we were fortunate to have a small class – just 5 students all together (two of whom were young adults). Being attentive listeners, they were able to cover a lot of material quickly and to everyone’s surprise – even the lead instructor – they were sailing on their own on the first day! It was such a delight to watch their enthusiasm.

On the second day, they learned what to do in the case of a capsize. This was an incredible thing to watch. My kids weigh less then 70 pounds each so the instructor wasn’t sure they would be able to do it alone (the hull weight of the Sunfish is 120 lbs). They thereby went out together the first time and then tried it again alone.

Swallows & Amazons

We also discovered a delightful series of books as a result of this class (recommended to me by the other mom, who also homeschools coincidentally), Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome. There are several books in the series and each one is sure to delight. Swallows and Amazons are two groups of siblings; one group has a boat called Swallow and the other group has a boat called Amazon. The Swallows and Amazons start out enemies, but become friends rapidly.

“Better drowned than duffers if not duffers won’t drown.”

Their adventures captivated our imaginations – particularly my son who begged me to keep reading when I set the book down. What young child doesn’t dream of sailing his own boat and having adventures on and around an island! Their adventures are not limited to the island, though, they even visit “the natives” back home. What’s best about their adventures is that all of them are possible!

sailingMy kiddos and I have loved this book from the start and are excited to read the next editions. In fact, before I finished reading aloud the Swallows & Amazons, they begged to listen to the audio for the second book, Swallowdale, in the car. Shortly thereafter, my son began listening to the third, Peter Duck, in his room as he builds with Legos each evening. I hope to add them to our library as they are sure to become treasures to pass on to later generations.

Interested in sailing yourself? Follow my Pinterest board, “I’d Rather Be Sailing” for lesson plans and educational resources.

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Integrating living books into your curriculum is easy! Discover more ideas at the iHomeschool Network’s A Book & a Big Idea Autumn edition.


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