Doris and Steve Colgate of the Offshore Sailing School have been perfecting the art of sailing instruction vacations and sailing lessons since 1964.
Here they provide some insight about family sailing for US SAILING:
* How is learning to sail as a family a positive bonding experience?
Doris & Steve: Learning to sail together as a family creates respect, communication and interaction with one another as the instructor helps each member achieve a shared goal. Many families who take our courses say it is the best experience they’ve ever had together. They learn to work as a team; to rely on each other and become self-reliant at the same time. The experience of driving a sailboat using wind alone is inspiring and exciting.
They tell us the time they spend aboard together is fun and fulfilling.
Family members become “friends” rather than parents and kids. And we are often told their relationships (between a father and son, a mother and daughter for instance) have been greatly enhanced by the experience of learning and sailing together.
* How can we ensure that sailing remains a life-long sport at a recreational level?
Doris & Steve: We must create an enticing vision of sailing wherever we go; talk about it to friends and associates; and stop calling it a “sport.”
Sailing is a lifestyle. It opens the doors to a multitude of adventures. You don’t have to own a boat; there are yacht clubs and commercial sailing clubs to join, and fabulous charter companies with so many places to sail a family can take a different vacation every year without having to go back to the same location.
* What do instructors need to focus on when training a family, as opposed to an individual or group of individuals?
Doris & Steve: The instructor should treat everyone aboard equally and follow the curriculum just as he or she would with an all adult group.
Obviously, some of the younger kids will not have as much “staying power” or retention, so if they want to take a break and go below to play that’s fine.
Engaging everyone, rotating positions so kids steer just as much as their parents (if they want to) is very satisfying for all. Likewise, kids should be rotated into the other positions on the boat so they understand team dynamics and are inspired to learn as much as their parents. Diplomacy, understanding and encouragement are key – just as they are with adult groups. When the kids are treated with respect and given a lot of encouragement, parents beam! And everyone is happy.
Complete interview: