Learning to sail – tall or small

Tall ship makes stop in Kincardine, OSA lessons continue this week

By Josh Howald

Learning to sail is a bit like skinning a cat – there’s more than one way to do it.

And Kincardine was a good example of that last week.

The Brigantine St. Lawrence maneuvers around the Kincardine harbour Friday evening. (Josh Howald photo)

The Brigantine St. Lawrence, a tall ship from Kingston, arrived at Kincardine Harbour Friday evening to lay over for the weekend. The Brigantine is a tall ship, built in 1953 with the sole purpose of training youngsters to sail. The Brigantine, a 60-footer, was designed to be as difficult as possible to get from point A to point B for training purposes.

Eighteen teens between the ages of 13 and 18 were wrapping up a two-week training stint on the Brigantine Friday in Kincardine. The ship left Toronto two weeks ago, and the crew woke up Friday morning in Goderich. The Brigantine set sails at about 5 a.m., and arrived at the Kincardine Harbour at 6 p.m. Friday.

“It’s a lot like a summer camp in a way,” said captain Dugald Henderson. “No experience is required. They learn everything from running the sails to cleaning the toilets. It’s all about life on the water.”

Henderson noted that there is still room for local youths to join up with the Brigantine. The ship left Kincardine Sunday for Collingwood. From Collingwood, the ship will head for Port Pelee and Parry Sound. Anyone interested can check out the website http://brigantine.ca/.

Henderson, who has been with the Brigantine since the beginning, said the students come from far and wide to take part in the program. For example, a youth from Kazakhstan was on board in Kincardine. Most of the teens that take the program are interested in pursuing careers in the marine industry.

One of those teens is Will Allen of Toronto. Allen, who just finished Grade 11, wants to join the Coast Guard after high school.

“I was looking for a challenge,” he said. “It’s great to be outside all day, out on the lake. It’s a great way to spend a summer and see a bunch of new places. We’re forced to work together and co-operate so much, the camaraderie is really great too. I get to meet all kinds of interesting people.”

The Brigantine will continue to tour for the remainder of the summer.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the harbour, the Ontario Sailing Association (OSA) has been running the annual BOOM Sailing lessons, with significantly smaller vessels. The demand for lessons is so great in Kincardine that, for the first time ever, the Kincardine program was extended for an additional week. The first week of children and adult lessons wrapped up Friday afternoon. Children’s lessons will run again all week during the day, with adult lessons set for evenings.

Instructor Kaitlyn Riordan directs her students on removing the safety boat from the water Friday afternoon at the conclusion of the week’s BOOM Sailing Lessons run by the Ontario Sailing Association (OSA). Lessons for children and adults continue this week at the foot of Harbour Street. (Josh Howald photo)

“We love it here in Kincardine,” said first year OSA instructor Kaitlyn Riordan Friday afternoon. Riordan, from Ottawa, is instructing a summer of sailing lessons in Bellwood, Ottawa, Port Stanley and Cornwall along with Kingston’s Nick Allinsun.

“The lake conditions get a little windy for the children but are usually pretty good for what we’re doing.”

Last week, 15 children took the day-long classes, while eight adults took evening courses on sailing in the eight-foot BOOM boats. A typical day for the kids features some games, some dry land training and a pair of two-hour sessions on the water.

 “It was a great time out there,” said Shane Vollmer, a student in last week’s classes. “We have a catamaran at home – I’m not sure if I’ll be allowed out on it yet, but we’ll see.”

Vollmer said the toughest thing he learned, and the most important thing, was how to recover from capsizing. The most fun part of the lessons was playing capture the flag on the water.

“They are all at different levels, but they all should have the basics (at the end of the week),” said Riordan.