September 23rd, 2016Childhood is filled with new experiences and opportunities to learn new things. The WFC specializes in these experiences. Our Junior Summer Program is packed with discovery – of sea life, unfamilar habitats, the changing marine environment. There is so much excitement right on the shores of Beekman Beach, the WFC docks and in the southern part of West Harbor. But what lies just beyond? With overscheduling becoming the new childhood norm, including a multitude of extracurricular activities and school pressure, even summer vacation has taken on a new meaning. There are so many programs and activities to engage in, it seems impossible for a kid to be bored these days. Yet, with all the variety of programming and options for things to do, what some kids crave most (and some may argue, what they need), is a good adventure. While the WFC covers the educational and skill development aspects of youth development, we also specialize in the world of adventure. WFC First Mates are 9-11 years old. They are learning to skipper an Optimist pram on their own. On their own. Yes, of course with the help and constant support of instructors, but with the end goal of self-reliance and sufficiency. Our sailors learn to set up their boats, maneuver their boats and captain by themselves. And, after 8 days of practice, we send them on an adventure sail to a destination 2 miles away. The First Mates Adventure Sail is the culmination of hard work – tacking, gybing, trimming, rolling sails… Then, with confidence and the promise of the horizon ahead (well, it’s not that far…), they sail to the other side of the harbor. No small feat for a young person in a small boat. Skippers are 11-13 years old. They are learning to sail with a partner, building teamwork and communication skills. They take on advanced marine science topics, learning problem solving and environmental stewardship. Skippers build ROVs – remotely operated vessels – to explore the benthic zone. As the culmination for their hard work, they paddle WFC kayaks out of West Harbor to Oyster Bay Cove. Navigating through the channel and busy Oyster Bay mooring field, Skippers look out for one another and practice no-man-left-behind, as they all work towards a new destination, the Teddy Roosevelt Sanctuary, and achieve a new goal. Mariners are 14-17 years old. Most of their time at the WFC is preparing for an overnight on cruising boats to Huntington Harbor. Before getting on larger boats, they sail on 23-ft Sonars, working as a cohesive team of 3 to 5. In addition to exploring Oyster Bay harbor on SUPs, studying water quality and plankton, etc., they do all the preparation for their trip. They plan their provisions, perform safety checks and learn basic navigation. What tops the trip prep checklist is the spirit of adventure. Once at anchor in Huntington Harbor, Mariners SUP to the shores of Caumsett State Park to cook out under the backdrop off the Huntington Lighthouse lit by firelight and dimming sunset. For most Mariners, sleeping on a boat in the middle of a new harbor with no electronics – that’s right, no phones allowed – is an adventure like no other. Whether it’s raising sail for the first time aboard Christeen, completing a man overboard drill, falling off a SUP or sailing and paddling to a new destination, WFC programs are full of adventure. With novel voyages, more distant horizons and greater goals, we’re keeping the fun in summer break and the adventure in childhood.