My son was 13 years old when I put him on a flight to St. Martin, alone. He was off to discover the world of sailing without his family. He had already logged plenty of time on the family boat but this experience was different. This was a summer program with kids his own age. He would spend two weeks on a catamaran with 12 other teenagers and they would sail, SCUBA dive and explore the waters and islands around St. Martin and St. Barts.
It would prove to be highly beneficial to my son, not only to experience the time on a boat with other inquisitive teens his own age, but time away from his family was valuable to gain independence and self-awareness. The group sailed the waters off St. Martin, visiting St. Barts, Saba, Il Fourche, and Tintemarre. All of these teenagers also earned their SCUBA certifications as this trip was designed to both sail and SCUBA dive.
More importantly, this group of teenagers and every teenager on these summer programs develops an appreciation for the ocean. They develop a respect for nature and find a reason to work as gatekeepers for an environment that needs protecting. As these groups of teens live on the water for two weeks they learn the importance of conservation and awareness when it comes to the world’s oceans.
And they sail. A lot.
The Benefits of a Summer Sailing Program For Teenagers
You can send your teenager on a summer program and claim that it will look good on a college application. While that is true there must be a bigger goal. For us, we wanted to expose our teenager to a destination while working on his social skills and independence. Upon returning from his first summer program aboard a sailboat we realized that his organizational skills had improved. He cooked breakfast, he gathered his clothing and he seemed far more willing to help with ordinary household tasks. The first week upon returning he began explaining some basic yet critical concepts about ocean conservation. He made us more aware of single-use plastics. He explained the nuances of bycatch and helped us discover where our food was coming from.
Send your teenager away and he returns to make you realize that even though you thought you were doing your part for the environment you are shocked by how much more you can contribute. He returned a conservationist. He made us more aware of what we could do to do our part for the environment.
- While my son loved to sail before he went on this trip, he returned with a different approach to sailing. He became the skipper of our own family boat. He took more responsibility. He made more decisions while out on the water.
- The sailing instruction on this summer program was about an appreciation for sailing. It was not a certification course but it was taught by instructors. My son returned with an understanding of how to introduce others to sailing in an inviting manner. Caution, this means that you’ll have a lot of people on your boat all learning about the sailing lifestyle while you scramble for a spot on your own boat.
- Some summer programs work on life skills while others work on passion projects. My son learned to SCUBA dive, he researched shark behavior in Fiji and he did a photojournalism fellowship in the Grenadines
- These summer programs expand upon their social skills. Kids on these summer programs will interact with other teens from all walks of life. Their new friends will be as diverse and bring norms and behaviors from every corner of, not only the US, but many different parts of the world.
- Summer programs often help teenagers earn college credits.
- Summer programs offer community service hours that can be applied to their high school requirements. Our own personal experience with this was trail building in Saba, working with elementary school children on reef conservation in Fiji and helping at an animal rescue facility in St. Lucia.
- Yes, summer programs show colleges that your child is ready to take on the world without their parents beside them.
Both of my sons have benefited from taking courses with Broadreach (https://www.gobroadreach.com/) They are not associated with ASA and do not teach ASA certification courses but they do a good job of encouraging a lifelong relationship with sailing and the environment and that is reason enough to talk about them.
Sail Caribbean (https://www.sailcaribbean.com/) offers the opportunity to obtain ASA 101 Basic Keelboat certification out of the British Virgin Islands and the Leeward Islands.(St. Martin, St. Barts)
Looking for a Day Camp?
There are plenty of community sailing groups and summer sail camps available around the country. These, in particular, are associated with ASA:
- Teen Sailing in New York City
- Take a look at Sail Buffalo Junior Sail Camp
- Sail Montauk Summer Sailing Camp