Youth Program

Subcategories from this category: Green

For most Courageous students, their first day of step 4 is their first time in a dinghy, a transition from a stabile Rhodes 19 to a more responsive 420. This transition isn’t easy. The rounded lines of 420 belie how uncomfortable it is to sail—you’re guaranteed to sit on a cleat and bump your shin on the traveler bar. Even worse, you have to actually move your weight around. However, students adapt well and get used to the new features. Bruises and capsizes are, after all, just the flipside of a boat that’s exhilarating to sail.

Earlier this summer, one student was uneasy about the transition into a 420. He was afraid of the harbor water and the shadowy creatures that swim in it; he was also afraid of boats that heel over. For him, a 420 was understandably scary. A 420 will not only heel, but also capsize at some point, dumping the sailors into the water. You can’t prevent either from happening, just reduce their likelihood. Since the breeze was building, I sailed with the student for the first half hour to ease his anxiety.

The wind continued to build throughout the morning, streaming in over the Zakim and Charlestown bridges and crashing back down to sea level in splashes of catspaws that sped across the Basin.  The student skippered smoothly. At least until a puff would hit us, then he’d fully luff his sail, saying “I don’t like this, I don’t like this at all.” He also didn’t like the mandatory capsize, or that the wind was just as brisk in the afternoon. By the end of his first day, I doubted he’d want to sail again.

Yet, he came back. He continued to come back, and he continued to improve. Over the next week, Alexis and I watched him begin to roll tack, start closer to the line, and sail upwind efficiently. He even kept his sails in through puffs, hiking out instead of luffing his mainsail.

One afternoon of racing particularly stands out. The student and his crew were our two smallest students. This didn’t stop them from keeping their boat flat in the moderate breeze. In fact, they won a few races. As they glided through the finish line, well in the lead, the student grinned from ear to ear and gave a thumbs up to the coach-boat.

I’m sure he’ll come back next summer.

By: Ben Geffken


For this past summer, and the previous three, I worked in the Swim Sail Science (SSS) program at Courageous. In Swim Sail Science, we work with third and fourth graders from three schools: the Harvard Kent, Orchard Gardens, and the Warren Prescott. Their time in our youth program was split between school, swimming lessons, and sailing which meant, as a sailing instructor, I only got to teach the students for 2 hours every other day. The kids we have are ridiculously amazing and fun to teach; they are so smart and creative and overflowing with positive energy that it's hard not to feel like a kid when you're around them.b2ap3_thumbnail_angelina_20150827-180834_1.jpg

During this summer I had the pleasure of working with a student named Angelina. Angelina is the perfect example of an SSS student, she is energetic, smart, curious and talkative and is a pleasure to be around. Angelina had never been on a sailboat prior to this summer but was soon in love with it and at the end of the first week told my fellow instructor, Hannah, that she wants to be an instructor when she grows up. Over the next 5 weeks, she learned how to rig a boat, raise sails, adjust them, she learned how to steer a boat, and she also learned how to be a crew. She became a great beginner sailor.

On our second to last day at camp, parents and family members were invited to come to Courageous and sail with their children to see what they learned over the summer. While walking with Angelina, she told me that she was upset because she didn't have any family that could come to see what she'd learned but when I told her that she could still go sailing with her sailing instructors, she was over the moon with excitement. "You guys are like my family too" she said, grabbing my hand to pull me onto the pier.

I've always felt like Courageous was my home away from home because I've sailed here for the past 11 years but to hear Angelina, who 5 weeks ago was a nervous newcomer that had never stepped on a sail boat before, say that she felt at home on a boat with her sailing instructors was so heartwarming and made me tear up. She is the perfect example of why this program is important and necessary and why I feel so fortunate to work where I do with the kids that I do. Courageous is a place where kids like Angelina and I can push outside of our comfort zone by sailing on a bustling harbor while also giving us a community that we can call home.

By: Caroline Ward



BBQ with the Mayor

Today the 2015 summer youth programs come to an end. We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who helped make this a summer a success. Our incredible instructors have taken the time to write about their experiences at Courageous, which we will be sharing weekly throughout the off season. In the meantime, here are some of our favorite moments from the past two months. ‪#‎Bossummerlearning‬‪#‎Courageoussailing‬‪#‎CHV‬‪#‎JamaicaPond‬‪#‎schooneraventure‬

b2ap3_thumbnail_BUnny-photos-009.JPGStep 2 Pirate Day

b2ap3_thumbnail_bunny-011.JPGStaff at Camp Harbor View

b2ap3_thumbnail_eagle.jpgTouring the USCG Barque Eagle

b2ap3_thumbnail_end-of-summer-bbq.jpgSSS Showcase/BBQ

b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_7355.JPGStep 3 sailing the harbor

b2ap3_thumbnail_JP-Staff.jpgJP staff dressed up for Make-A-Mark

b2ap3_thumbnail_spectacle-island-trips.jpgStep 1 at Spectacle Island

b2ap3_thumbnail_Step-171.JPGStep 4 racing Piers Park

b2ap3_thumbnail_summer-004.JPGStep Program Family BBQ

b2ap3_thumbnail_superintendant.jpgSuperintendent Chang visiting SSS andtweeting about his sail

b2ap3_thumbnail_staff.jpgStaff enjoying a sail in the harbor

b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_0344.JPGBring your pet to youth program

b2ap3_thumbnail_crab-trap.jpgPulling up lobster traps and learning about marine life

b2ap3_thumbnail_IITS-adventure-schooner.jpgIITs aboard Schooner Adventure

“I’ll clear one question up for y’all before you ask it because I know you’re going to eventually,” said the thin and soft-spoken cadet, “that fuzzy stuff up on the rigging is called baggy wrinkle; we make it from old dock lines and it’s used as chafe protection for our sails.” From the aft deck of the USCGC Eagle eight young necks, including my own, craned up to get a better look at what our guide was pointing to.

I imagine hundreds of people will be told the same thing in the same spot and look upwards in the same way this weekend, but their experience will be different. They will not look up to see two headsails and four staysails trimmed for a westerly breeze. They will not look over the rail to see water streaming past the massive white hull. They will not be cooled by evaporation of salt spray from the bow wake of the 45 foot response boat that shuttled us across to the Eagle.

At Courageous young people not only learn to sail, but also gain a truly special new perspective on their home city. From the tiller of a 19 foot keelboat the harbor seems massive to a young person, made more so by the few inches that separate them from the water. On the deck of the 295 foot Eagle, one feels small again, not from ferries and pilings but from the three massive masts supporting all 22,280 square feet of her sail area.

I have never heard the word “explore” used more on a sailboat than I did from the three campers and four instructors in training that accompanied me on the Eagle yesterday. We wove through the clusters of sharply dressed big wigs and dignitaries who dotted the fore and aft decks. While the other guests stayed close to the rails for pictures of the harbor, the kids poked around on the lower main deck leaving no open door or hatch uninvestigated. Their interest was understandable, they see the skyline from the water every day, how often do you get to see a Laundromat behind a waterproof steel door?!

Despite being the youngest people aboard the IITs and students were given a great deal of respect and attention from the crew. One of b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_7663.JPGthe students asked our guide if the coast guard ever raced and he immediately brought another cadet over to us who introduced himself as a member of the coast guard’s offshore racing team. He asked the students and IIT’s about their sailing experience, about racing and what it was like to learn to sail in Boston. He put in one last plug for offshore racing before being pulled away for his duties preparing the dock lines.

As we approached the navy yard excitement grew and we found an open spot on the starboard rail. “Is that really step two down there?” one student asked, “I didn’t know we looked that small!” Fingers were pointed and waving hands exchanged between us and our fellow campers and coworkers below.

Soon we were tied to pier 4 and looking down at the roof of the boathouse. Though the docking was fascinating, the taunting aromas that wafted from the galley skylight below us and from the courageous barbecue made our departure from the ship a fast one. We thanked the cadets and the captain and made our way down the steep gangway thus ending a truly wonderful and unique experience.

I will never forget the day I sailed the Eagle to my home pier and I doubt the campers and IIT’s will either. Hurricane Harry said a child’s life is improved with 50 yards offshore; I bet 50 feet above the water helps too.

By Ian Hay, Courageous Assistant Site Director


I asked all of the Youth Program staff to write blog posts for me that show what Courageous means to them and/or about a story that embodies their time at Courageous. I feel it is only fair for me to do the same…

I came to Courageous in 2011 after calling Kate, the Youth Program Director, and asking if she was interested in hiring an Environmental Educator. She enthusiastically said yes. So in 2011 I started as the Step Green Program Coordinator, took a hiatus in 2012, then returned in 2013 as the Courageously Green Environmental Education Program Director- a continuation of the Step Green program. From there, I moved on to become the Youth Program Outreach Coordinator where I assisted the Youth Program in all aspects including hiring staff for the summer of 2014, finding at-risk Boston Public School students for the SwimSailScience program, and helping with program design, organization, and public relations.

Even with all of those titles and responsibilities, Courageous meant more to me than just a job. Courageous is a place where I learned, under the guidance of the Youth Program Director and Executive Director, how to become a fair, respected, and kindhearted leader. Courageous is a place where I honed my strengths in multitasking and delegation. I will always remember my time at Courageous as more than just working at a sailing center, but as a place where I made a community and witnessed one of the strongest, most sincere, hardest working non-profit organizations in the community sailing world.

Over the three years I have worked here, I have held the hand of a fearful little girl from Dorchester and helped her conquer her fear of sailing, inspired instructors to study Environmental Studies in their college careers, and hopefully acted as a role model for how to be a successful woman in the sailing and science communities. This is what Courageous really is- a spot where one can both be inspired and be an inspiration.  

And the sailing instructors and educators that I worked with at Courageous this summer are truly inspiring. They all care so deeply about the mission of our work and about changing lives by encouraging and teaching a passion for sailing. I will miss all of their random stories at the end of the day, their laughs about the weird activities that I plan, and their insightful questions about recycling and the environment.

As I move across the country and say goodbye to Courageous, I have no concerns about the future of this wonderful nonprofit. The leadership, instructors, and sailing students will keep this place thriving for years and years to come. In the end, I have to thank the two people who could never possibly understand how much what they do matters. Kate, the current Youth Program Director, is hands-down one of the hardest working people I have ever met. I will forever wonder at how she does so much, juggles so many boats, personnel, grants, and other various details. Kate has been an exceptional mentor, teaching me how to let go of the things that don’t matter and how to be passionate about the things that do matter- such as giving urban youth the opportunity to experience sailing and benefit from a fun, engaging summer youth program. I am truly lucky to have had Kate for a supervisor and even luckier that I can call her a friend.

And Dave, our current Executive Director, who is the other hardest working person I have ever met. I have to thank him for always believing in me and appreciating what I do. It is very rare to find a boss who has so many things on his/her plate yet still takes time to show how much he respects and values his employees. Dave has shown me how important it is to be a patient leader- that taking your time with certain decisions really does pay off. Having an Executive Director who is grateful, rational, and strong makes the employees work harder and better so they can live up to his example and make him proud, and in the end his leadership is what makes Courageous so successful.

Courageous Sailing is really the warm, sometimes a little wacky, community that everyone says it is. It keeps people returning year after year, looking for the meaningful purpose, the environment, and the heart that is at its core. I can’t wait to return after some time away to see all of the incredible things that is group has accomplished. Fair winds and see you all again soon :)

-Rebecca Inver, Youth Program Outreach Coordinator