By John Lynds
Last Thursday evening, Piers Park Sailing Center’s (PPSC) Louisa Conklin stood on the dock of the sailing center surrounded by eager sailors waiting to race. Conklin was giving the group instructions and rules on the upcoming regatta sailing race that was set to kick off. A half hour later the sail boats filled with teams of sailors were off and PPSC’s summer of sailing had begun.
“We will be doing races every Thursday at the sailing center from 6 to 8 p.m.,” said Conklin. “Sailors can register when they get here, take out a boat and participate.”
The weekly regattas are just one part of PPSC’s full schedule of summer activities that includes adult and youth sailing lessons, the summer long sailing summer camp that teachers Eastie youth how to sail for free, adaptive sailing for those with disabilities as well as an exciting new program, ‘The Sceince of Sailing’.
“Summer is off to a great start here,” said PPSC Program Director Jason Mayer. “The new program, Science of Sailing, has already been popular among both students and staff. On day two or three I saw one of our instructors sitting in front of a whiteboard with a group of children around her, using the word anemometer, and it warmed my heart.”
Surprisingly, despite being a free program for Eastie children, there are still many slots still open for sailing lessons and the Science of Sailing program.
“Yes, we have space left in a lot of our programs,” said Mayer. “We’ve actually started to over enroll slightly, to compensate for no-shows, like colleges do.”
On the Science of Sailing, Mayer said the pilot program was started to meet the growing needs of the community and families by offering a full day option to students aged 10-18 for the summer.
The program incorporates the U.S. Sailings “REACH” curriculum, focused on teaching students the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics that are inherent to the sport of sailing
“Our new Science of Sailing program, based on the US Sailing STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) curriculum, takes East Boston kids out of the classroom and engages them with the world,” said Mayer. “They learn that science is about exploring mysteries with their hands as well as their minds.”
Through this new program, youth will learn not only the standard PPSC sailing curriculum, sailors and their team will choose two “REACH” modules to be completed during their session. Modules can focus on any of the STEM skills like wind power, upwind sailing angles, buoyancy, land vs sea breezes, and water quality testing.
The fabric of the community is weaved by programs like PPSC and since losing a lions share of its funding from Massport in 2001, the dedicated staff have been raising funds to keep the Sailing Center afloat.
With no city, state or federal aid, the sailing center relies primarily on grants, corporate contributions and private donations to underwrite the costs of the free youth programs.
Past fundraising events have raised tens of thousands of dollars through donations and auctions for programs that have helped local kids get the experience of a lifetime, have fun and learn important life lessons about teamwork, leadership and strategic thinking.
While running a community sailing center may be expensive. PPSC has helped get kids off the streets and into productive programming. The center has built a population of confident young people with social and leadership skills that connect them to their natural environment, their community and to each other.
The sailing center is a non-profit community sailing facility on Eastie’s waterfront that offers free programs to youth. Kids work closely with instructors, and learn everything from sailing basics to advanced racing, boat maintenance, and navigation. Besides learning to sail, kids learn how to work as a team, build self-confidence, gain leadership and character skills, and develop a deeper appreciation for the sea and its natural surroundings.