Sailing Archives - Eva Varga

May 25, 2015

Summer is upon us and I am delighted. I have been battling with a growing feeling of burden upon me. I can’t seem to shake the desire to just drop everything and run into the hills.

My husband says I do too much, that my burdens are self imposed. I know he is right yet the eager beaver within me has a hard time letting go.

As obligations have begun to fall aside with the changing season, we have been giving thought to our summer plans. Vowing to relax and enjoy the sunshine a little more, we’ve settled upon the following activities.

More Art Journaling

Over the past year we have begun to dabble a little with art journaling, incorporating it into literature circle. It has been a fabulous way to express ourselves, combining art and words. We have begun to explore new media, mixing paints and printed papers to create unique art pieces.

Celebrate Summer: Mixed Media Workshop
We are looking forward to celebrating the delights of summertime by turning them into beautiful art under the tutelage of Alisha Gratehouse. Alisha offers a wonderful e-course, Celebrate Summer: Mixed Media Workshop. These projects are not your typical “summer camp” crafts. Each is a unique work of art to encourage your child to explore his or her creative talents.

Heritage Camp

The kids attended the Sons of Norway Heritage Camp last year for the first time and had an absolute blast! They have been looking forward to returning again this year and have been working hard to earn money to help offset the cost of the camp.

heritagecamp1Classes will again include Rosemaling, folk dancing, heritage, crafts, and Norwegian language. This year campers will learn money management with bank books, Norwegian Krone, a daily kanteen for purchasing special treats, and much more authentic Norwegian food at mealtimes.

Junior Olympics Swim Meet

The kids have been a part of swim team since we first moved to California. As is typical, JOs conflicts with heritage camp on the calendar. I thereby gave the kids the choice, “JOs or camp? You can’t do both.”

Last year, they were both in new age divisions and while they improved their individual times, only one qualified for JOs. After a short discussion, they agreed they would rather go to the meet with both competing. They were also eager to experience heritage camp.

junior olympics teamThis year they’ve both qualified in numerous events and their coach is encouraging them to compete. As we expected, camp and JOs conflict once again. Fortunately, camp is only 40 miles away (as opposed to 170 miles as in 2014). We thereby plan to do both – albeit they will miss a day or two of camp.

Lake Days & Sailing

Last year we had the opportunity to take part in a wonderful sailing clinic. The kids loved it so much they have asked to become a member of the local yacht club so that we can utilize the sunfish sailboats all summer long.

sailing101Whether we pursue that option or not, I am not sure. I do know, however, that we will be getting out to the lake more regularly. The kids also want to camp more – so my plan is to pitch a tent a few evenings each month.


I’ve also come to discover that I need to resume training – for both my physical and mental health. I know myself well enough to also know I need a little carrot to keep me on target with my fitness goals.


I have thereby registered for a full marathon in late August. It will be my fourth – but I am building from scratch. I must focus on quality of my runs as well as build endurance and distance. I can’t let myself worry about speed – which was my Achilles heel years ago.

As before, Geneva has expressed interest in also running distance events. We will be running the Moonshine Trail Run again this year (in 2013 I did the 15K and she the 5K). I am excited to run it with her .. her pace, if I can keep up. 🙂

December 9, 20142

My son has been fascinated with planes, ships, and trains for as long as we can remember. What boy isn’t, right? He has expressed interest in working for Maersk and even has a blog where he writes about his passions, A Boy & His Trains.

When we were in the Galápagos, he would often wake before the rest of us and wander about the ship on his own accord. If he wasn’t in his cabin or on deck with one of the other passengers (he really connected with Gary – an older gentleman from Alaska who shared many similar interests), he could be found on the bridge with the Captain.

This post contains affiliate links.


I loved that he had the freedom to explore the Evolution and that the crew was willing to take him under their wing. He learned a lot about navigation on our voyage. I was sure to expand on this real life experience with the help of North Star Geography.


Explorers have always used the night skies to measure latitude by measuring how many degrees above the horizon the North Star (Polaris) appeared. Below the equator, Polaris is no longer visible, and the constellation known as the Southern Cross must be used instead.

Knowing your position and direction are key parts of navigation. It is also important to establish your route. Which route is best? Where do you turn?


 As a Brand Ambassador for Bright Ideas Press we have received a complimentary copy of North Star Geography in exchange for our honest insights about how this program is working in real life with our family.

Tools of the Trade

Tools for measuring position have changed dramatically since the first explorers began traversing the globe. While the compass has not changed dramatically, many other tools have been invented. We loved reading about the tools early explorers used to navigate in North Star Geography and have enjoyed using some of these ourselves.

Compass: a good orienteering compass is important for learning and using a compass. Compass Sighting, or triangulation, uses two points to determine your location using a compass, a map, and a pencil. We use a compass often – we love the sport of orienteering.

Marine Astrolabe: The original tool for mariners, the astrolabe was a circle, held by a ring at the top, with a  movable sight. The navigator would hold the instrument by the ring to determine the angle of a star relative to the horizon. The navigator would often sight multiple stars and consult reference books or Star Charts for accuracy.

Quadrant: Similar to a Marine Astrolabe but only a quarter of a circle and with a longer sight, allowing for greater accuracy.

Sextant and Octant (1700s): Instruments similar to a Quadrant but smaller (1/6 and 1/8 of a circle) that relied on two sights – one for the horizon and another for the sun or stars. Mirrors were used so that someone could see both objects at the same time.

Radar: A modern device that uses radio waves bounced off distant objects and calculates the time it takes them to return to calculate distance.

Sonar: Another modern device that works the same way underwater, but using sound waves instead of radio. We have utilized sonar on a few occasions – while fishing with family on the North Sea, while enjoying water sports on Shasta Lake, and most recently in the Galápagos. It is fun to see what the surface looks like below the water.

Topographic Maps: In modern mapping, a topographic map is a type of map characterized by large-scale detail and quantitative representation of relief, using contour lines to show elevations and landforms. We love looking at topographic maps and have even used them to create 3-dimensional models, Build Geography Skills with Topographic Maps.

Other tools used by navigators include a Chip Log (piece of wood tied to a rope with knots at regular intervals), GPS, and Binoculars.

navigationBring it Home

Map the sky:  Learn to recognize constellations through the seasons and how navigators used the stars to stay on course.

Use a sextant to sight the north star to measure your latitude. You can determine this using the maximum height of the sun during the day and the maximum height of the north star at night. It is easiest to do this on a beach (large lake or ocean) where you can site off the water, but you can do it in your backyard using a level as well. The trick is finding a sextant! See How a Sextant Works for more information.

Navigation where you are:  How was your state or area explored? Here in California, Sir Francis Drake is linked to the earliest exploration here, though some historians dispute he ever landed here. Who is a famous explorer where you live? Study more about him. Where was he from? Who traveled with him? What navigational tools did he have at the time?

Determine Magnetic Declination:  This is the difference between magnetic north (or south) on your compass and true north (south). This will vary depending on where you are and over time. You can usually find the magnetic declination on USGS maps for wilderness or navigational use. We have one of some local forest lands which include the magnetic declination as part of the map’s key. If you can’t find out specifically what it is where you are, just investigate what it means and how to find out what it is and why it’s important.

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.