By Emily Hart

This week we had our first group of Step 1 students in the sailing school. As the youngest learners, we hope to keep them coming back for years and it’s important to get them excited about Boston Harbor! We had a great discussion about the animals they see in the harbor and played a Web of Life game to create a visual food web. We had so much fun! In our ending discussion, we talked about how all of us can help to protect the animals in the harbor. “Don’t eat the creatures!” was one of our favorite suggestions, along with picking up trash and remembering that the things we do at home can still affect the oceans.

For the next group, I’ll be adding a Boston Harbor species matching game to help students identify the species living in the harbor and a few in the northeast. Check out a great interactive website and follow us in our learning:

One more thing… I recently learned that there are only about 500 North Atlantic Right Whales left in the world. These whales don’t usually join us in Boston Harbor, but they feed off of Massachusetts in the spring. North Atlantic Right Whales were plentiful here before whaling, but populations have been failing to recover because of ship strikes and entanglement with fishing nets. This year, the calf count is up to 11 in 2014—great news! Check out the New England Aquarium’s Right Whale Research Blog to learn more about local conservation efforts:

in Green

Written by Step 4 Assistant Leader, Ian Hay

Today I regained my faith in adolescents’ possession of common sense. The day was intolerably muggy and boat assignments seemed dubious as I watched my students tack deep close reach to deep close reach up out of the Mystic. We had already narrowly escaped a minor uprising after I instructed the student at the helm to bear off sharply while passing under the Tobin so as to not cross beneath the falling stream of an ironworker mid-relief in the netting above. The plan for the day was to race PHRF-style out to G13 around R10 back to G13 and finish at the Tobin. 42.10:52 read my stopwatch as we passed G13 for the first time. Awesome.

“Who wants to learn how to heave-to?”

Lobstah swayed idly along as we waited for the J-22 to round the first mark. We finally spotted them off of Piers Park and decided to de-heave ourselves and go have a chat.

 “So guys what side of this harbor are green marks on?”  “We were trying to find our lay line.” “I take it you’re still looking for it?” “……When are we going in for lunch?”

The chat wasn’t having quite the effect I had hoped for so I instructed the other boat to at least round 13 and then we could head in together for an anchored lunch in the nook. Suddenly the wind came up and I watched something that looked oddly similar to a mainsheet block erupt out of the cockpit of the 22 heading straight for its mate at the boom.

“IAAANNNN! The mainsheet thing is broookeennnn!”

Funny that, maybe they (the blocks) got lonely being so far apart on an upwind leg. I instructed the student at the helm to go into safety and search for the missing pin and ringding. Hailing the Foredeck I prayed my kids would be able to fix it on their own. Sure enough, seconds after my fingers released from the VHF call button I saw the 22 ripping along at an over-trimmed broad reach, the blocks were chatting up a storm but from a kosher distance.

They (the students) had fixed their mainsheet before I even had to think about getting onto their boat. It may seem a small victory for step 4 cruising but it was a victory nonetheless. Today my students showed me that though they may act more like sea cucumbers during chalk talks than human children they can step up and fix a problem during stressful situations without being taught how to fix it in advance. And that put a smile on my face.      

By Emily Hart, 2014 Environmental Education Program Coordinator:

I’m excited for my first summer at Courageous as the Environmental Education Program Coordinator. We’ve had a great first week!

We have two initiatives this summer to encourage staff and students to take positive actions on environmental issues: Meatless Monday and Waste-Free Wednesday. On Mondays, students in each step will receive one point for a lunch without beef, pork, poultry or fish, and on Wednesdays, students will receive one point for a lunch that produces zero waste (reusable containers, real silverware, cloth napkin, lunchbox or canvas bag). Waste and pollution from livestock production contributes to global climate change and damages ocean ecosystems, so we’re excited to help students learn how they can make small changes that have big impacts on their own health and the health of the oceans. Waste-Free Wednesday is in its second summer and it’s great to continue the conversation on how trash from land ends up in the ocean.

This week in the summer youth sailing school, we talked about crustaceans and jellies! We played crab tag and Invasive Species Web of Life to learn more about how the invasive Asian shore crab is affecting ecosystems here in Boston Harbor. In the Summer Learning Program, we explored the simple machines on sailboats, made windmills and used energy from the sun to cook s’mores in solar ovens! Imagine smiling faces and sticky chocolate fingers. I’m excited to work with the Instructors in Training (IITs) to give them a broad base in environmental issues (this week we learned about waste!) and to develop a related service-learning project over the coming weeks. 

in Green

By Judith Krimski

Ladies in da House! This intrepid reporter, AKA Master of the Obvious has noticed that WOAH! THE LADIES are dominating Corporate Challenge 2014.

We racing sailors are all cognizant of the fact that sailing is a male dominated sport. I am reminded of this every time I go to a Laser Masters regatta and I'm the only woman competing. Recently, as a joke, I page through the June issue of Sailing World magazine counting men to women pictures. Granted I didn't get beyond page 3 (all those ads in the front - so boring) and I didn't count pictures of people when they were too small to discern the sex of the person. Still, my tepid attempt at scientific process yielded a ratio of five men to one woman. Pretty darned pathetic if you ask this lady sailor.

But that means nothing in the face of THE LADIES conquering the Corporate Challenge. Most notably one lady representing Fidelity boat two. "I'm just a mom." That was the response I got when I spoke to Kristina Stooken of after racing Monday night. As it turns out the "Just a Mom." raced 470's. Mark Lindsay was impressed. "That's a very technical boat." Technical or not Kristina shows her chops on the water with consistent top finishes. It's a rare person who can make a tubby boat like the Rhodes 19 go but she does it well for "just a mom." Here's hoping she shows up all the fellas and takes the big prize. My money's on that filly.

Everyone who sails the Corporate Challenge knows by now that funds raised go towards providing scholarships for Courageous kids. We've been fortunate over the weeks to have several of our "Courageous kids" racing. As someone who's been affiliated with Courageous over the years, working first as an adult instructor and later as racing coach in the youth program, I've had the privilege of coaching and working with many of the kids. I can say without hesitation that our Courageous kids are, by far, the finest people. Monday night I watched Jack Flaherty—one of my coaching "prodigies" and now a member of the BC sailing team—sailing around the race course. I felt like a proud mama. I first coached Jack in 420s when he was in 8th grade. Jack was a lively child. Still is. "You were the most annoying nice kid I ever coached." I say that pretty much every time I see Jack. He always smiles.

Then there's Ben Ringrose - one of the two Bens who sail for the Boston Public Schools sailing team. Ben R. and I worked Courageous frostbiting race committee this winter. We spent Saturdays together driving around in an Eastern moving marks and yelling at sailors when they tried to out run the good ship Odyssey. We commiserated on how miserably cold we were, saying stuff like, "This sucks." and "What were we thinking?" Standing on the cold deck of the motorboat watching the snow swirl by with every weekend getting colder. Ben, with his great conversation and ready laugh, made it all bearable. I have finally blocked out memories of the cold, the freezing rain, the icy needles of snow piercing my face as I drove around the race course. I will never forget the fun I had with Ben.

Monday, June 16. By resident Challenge Blogger Judith Krimski. 

Yes, there was more of that sailboat racing stuff on Boston Harbor. Winds veering from easterly sea breeze to SW.

It never fails. Just another stellar night on Boston Harbor and my "happiness quotient" is a solid 9.99999. Every time I venture out from Courageous Sailing, whether in a motor boat or sailboat, I think "I am the luckiest person." As I park on Pier 3 and pull the requisite sailing gear out of the car; PFD, hat, jacket, sunglasses, I sniff the air, squint my eyes and search down Pier Four for the American flag perched on the top of the Courageous boathouse. Sailors like myself are always looking for breeze.

It never fails. Breeze is the first thing most sailors think of when we wake up in the morning. Slowly lifting our heads from the pillow, we come to consciousness. Yawning, we automatically pivot towards the nearest window looking for signs of wind. The flicker of leaves in the morning light. That soft rustling that heralds a light breeze. Sniffing we sense the direction: northwest = gusty clear air; northeast = possible backdoor cold front; southwest = a hot strong wind that tells us summer has arrived. I wonder what non-sailors first thoughts are when they wake up in the morning, probably stuff like, "Arrrgh, another boring staff meeting to attend today." or "I need a donut."

Everyone should spend a night hanging out on the RC Boat with our able PRO Carl Zimba. PROs are in charge of making sure races are run smoothly. They communicate with mark boats to get the course set square to the wind, they run starts and call boats who are over early. That's why Carl's voice is always hoarse at end of the night, "FOUR! FOUR IS OVER!!!!" And they record finishes which can be quite a challenge when there's more than a few boats finishing. That's why Carl is so good. He always gets it right.

"I got my mojo back." Becky Wheatland from Step Ahead Physical Therapy was happy to announce over drinks and and dinner aprés sailing. After two weeks of great finishes Becky's team came away with a second place for night three. Another team who improved tremendous was Boston Private Bank who earned a bullet in race one. I had noticed this team on the first night of sailing. They had good boat speed but were obviously struggling a bit with boathandling. That's why is great to see such a big improvement.

After three nights of racing there are five teams vying for top spot. Kudos to them. But you know what? The real story behind the Courageous Corporate Challenge is all the other teams. The BPB team who gets a bullet and says to themsleves "We got this." The Alphagraphics team whose skipper Carmine just helmed his second night. And all the other teams who are just coming out for the fun of sailing and most importantly to support Courageous programs.

It never fails. Courageous Corporate Challenge. Sailboat racing. Tons of fun and good competition. Turning non-sailors into sailors. Helping really awesome kids learn sailing and do other cool stuff. Happiness quotient? A solid 9.99999.