Category: Exploration

How American Seafarers Can Help Your Child

The advantages of a summer program are numerous, and far more than those you might just think of. Learn more in this article.

Unlike the perceptible advantages that children gain from our summer expedition sailing program, the intangible advantages are harder to pin down. In conjunction with home and school, and maybe even a summer job, our program works with the many building blocks that create an adult. And while few children realize how much they’ve been influenced by their summer experiences as exploring sailors, as adults they will see how their lives were enriched and layers were added to their development.

A summer program offers communal living

Beyond facilities and activity schedules, the people whom your children encounter — shipmates, offers, and the people they meet at each destination— play an influential role. Kids living in shipboard situations soon find out that when they don’t treat one another well, there are consequences. As they learn and work together, they build a sense of community. If one person chooses not to cooperate, the whole group is affected. When they work well together, the whole teams feels the benefits of a done well done. It happens, and it’s a part of life that even as adults we witness and experience, and of course the experience of the staff is a key factor in guiding the individual and the group away from conflict and rather towards while allowing the kids to be key to a successful resolution. It is almost inevitable that the kids will face social challenges with the new people with whom they are living closely, however; in the end, they will grow through the experience of becoming an important part of the sailing crew, and share a singular unrivaled commraderie with the rest of their crew

Gaining new perspective

Chris Yager takes small groups of teens off the beaten path in Asia with his student summer program Where There Be Dragons. Teens, who are in the throes of questioning their social, political, and economic environment see themselves in another light as a result of being in such a foreign setting, notes Yager. He contends that when teens are far from their normal circumstances, they react in new ways. Kids who have never been leaders take charge. The popular outgoing teen becomes the quiet observer. It is a wonderful experience for a child or teen to come to a place where he or she is an unknown entity and freed from his or her usual context.

Trying new things

Trying out new things is another significant intangible benefit of a summer youth program. At home and in school, children can and often do dodge new experiences. At sea, they can’t. Of course, the primary goal of any well-run program is fun. Independence from parents also exerts a strong influence. The child who is away from home encounters new experiences independently. With the safety net of insightful staff children can risk finding out what works and what doesn’t in interpersonal relationships, tryout new shipboard skills, all while discovering new strengths and new facets of themselves.

Choosing a summer program

Though summer programs and camps can have a deep impact on a child’s development, not all summer programs have what it takes — a well-thought out philosophy, a mature and alert staff, and counselors who provide excellent role models and give kids a fun time. By looking at the intangibles, you can choose a program wisely.

American Seafarers allows your kids to explore their world in an entirely new way, and they develop a completely new set of skills that of course include sailing, but also those other intangible skills that help kids become adults that have a much better sense of how to interact with their peers, and their self worth and character.

Summer Camps by Jeffrey Carter

Jeffrey Carter is the Director of Rockbrook Summer Camp for Girls, a traditional girls summer camp located in Brevard, NC. He publishes the summer camp blog “The Heart of a Wooded Mountain.”
I wanted to share one of Jeffrey’s articles about Summer Camp with you, and draw some comparison with seafaring as a backdrop for some of these experiences. Some of the topics he discusses directly point to the benefits that a team working and mutual benefit program like American Seafarers brings to our youth, while other points he makes have analogs that translate well, but aren’t immediately apparent in the article because the image of summer camp is often thought of a place with cabins in the woods and doing endless activities during the day. American Seafarers is much more than a summer camp, because we are bringing the camp with us on a grand adventure that allows the kids to realize their real value and potential by being the team that makes it happen for all of us. Not only do we teach your kids how to sail, our program experiencially teaches them to be responsible and accountable to themselves and to others, and also that the effort put in gives you the time later when it ok to just let loose and enjoy life and enjoy the fruits of the effort you put in to it.

Parents send their children to summer camps to have fun, to experience new activities, and maybe to see a different part of the country, but there are also some incredibly important, and lasting, benefits that campers enjoy. What can parents expect their children to gain from their summer camp experience beyond the razzle-dazzle entertainment? What will stick with your kids after camp and when they’re back at home? Here are a few of the areas of self-development a summer camp experience can enhance.

Relating to others: Summer camps are highly social environments where everyone is a member of a close-knit community. At the same time, they are often quite diverse. Children will meet others from different families, from different parts of the country, even from abroad. They will also interact daily with children of different ages. These different backgrounds, values, habits and ways of living can be disconcerting at first, but with encouragement and guidance can really help a young person learn to get along with people. Another way to say this, is that by encountering kids who are “different” a child learns to see past those differences and become friends. Learning to relate like this makes it much easier to make friends later in life.

Developing Creativity: Most summer camps provide numerous opportunities to make things, to practice different crafts, and to explore the arts. From woodworking, to fiber arts, to ceramics, to knitting, to blacksmithing, and so on, there are fantastic ways to be creative. Plus, kids are encouraged to try new things, to not worry about how “good” they are, and to be excited about the process of participating. Everyone realizes that we can create some pretty cool stuff if we give it a try.

Self-Confidence: Summer camps are supportive places, communities where everyone will look out for each other, and usually encourage each other. This kind of positive peer relationship is the perfect recipe for trying new things and being proud of your accomplishments. Kids might think they won’t be able to do something (like climb a ropes course, for example), but when they try and succeed, it’s strong evidence that they can do it. Doubt is transformed into bravery, fear into confidence, and the result is an enhanced sense of self-worth.

Independence: It’s almost inevitable when a child goes to camp and sleeps away from home, away from the watchful eye of his or her parents- she will gain greater independence. Kids at camp make a lot of their own decisions, make choices about what to do, how to behave, and how to spend their free time. Of course, they also get to see the consequences of their choices too, and when it’s their choice and not their parents, those consequences are all the more meaningful.

Being suddenly responsible for their own choices, is a very formative experience in a growing habit of independence.

Social Etiquette: Being around so many people and interacting with them so closely day after day, summer camps also require kids to develop certain social skills. Sharing, recognizing others’ interests, dealing with arguments, showing empathy, being kind, offering to help, making honest suggestions- all of these are key ingredients. Every quality summer camp will create an environment where all of this is fostered and taught.

Of course most of these areas can develop at home and at school during the year, but summer camp provides an opportunity to practice these qualities, develop these aspects of a child’s personality, and further develop the mature skill that make them effective. It’s really remarkable how powerful the summer camp experience is in this regard. Sure it’s fun, but it can also be so crucially formative too.

At American Seafarers, kids gain confidence because of their successes in their accomplishments as a team, by working together to develop a plan and charting the next leg of our course, and thinking creatively about the best way to approach new challenges they haven’t experienced yet. I think Jeffrey would agree there is nothing more powerful than your kids’ successes contributing to the success of the whole team and its ability to get something real accomplished from start to finish and enjoying the end results, whether that seeing a new beach, or visiting an amazing landmark. This isn’t running the ropes course, but being part of how the entire group gets to visit one amazing location after another, and being relied upon and enjoying the sense of accomplishment by being a member of the crew that made the summer such a grand adventure, there can be no other real sense of being independent by virtue of trusting in yourself and you ability to be responsible when needed.

The Second Leg to Kittery, ME

Boy it sure takes a while to get back into the swing of things after the holiday season. I and we have been so busy cooking and spending time with family, spending time with our own kids, and me working from my sailboat in Kittery, ME it has been near impossible to find time for my own personal projects. For instance, it took me several days to upgrade the electricity on the Fernweh, but that’s another story for another time. Right now, I am forcing myself to sit down and regale you with the challenges and adventures that occurred after docking in Plymouth, and sailing away again the following weekend.


As I mentioned, we pulled into Plymouth. When we pulled in, there were a few people working in the yard shrink wrapping vessels on the hard. I spoke to one of them about having pulled into the service dock, and what was going on and what the symptoms were with the engine runs fine for a while, but then loses RPMs and finally shuts down. I told him about changing/inspecting the fuel filters and going through the other troubleshooting steps described in my previous post. He said he’s one of the mechanics anyway, and to just call Monday to have a work order made up, and that he’d be able to service it before next Friday. I called first thing on Monday and had the work order created with the need to be able to ship back out on Friday. They said they’d get right on it and let me know as soon as they knew what was going on.


To shorten a long story that could probably be a post all on its own, they didn’t look at the boat right away, but when they did I was asked if I put gasoline in the tank. I said, I haven’t put any fuel of any sort in the tank. It was topped off by the previous owner before he sold her to me. The guys asked me if I am sure I didn’t put gasoline in the tank, and I assured him that if I didn’t put any fuel in the tank, then it didn’t matter what kind he was asking about. Anyway it turns out the tank has gasoline in it. Now one, this posed a serious problem on the water, the engine could have been seriously damaged by running gasoline. I am pretty sure it was just a top-off of gasoline in there, but it was enough to cause problems. So this is what was happening. Diesel engines run at a different compression rate, and have a different ignition cycle than gasoline engines do. Gasoline will ignite a lower temperatures than diesel will, which means when it’s in the fuel mixture, the fuel can ignite too early in piston cycle. So, that’s why the engine would run perfectly and like a top when it was cold, but when the engine reached top operating temerature, the gasoline started to ignite too early which caused a slight loss of power which translates to losing RPMs, and when the engine was warm enough it would finally just cut out completely and couldn’t be restarted for another 2 hours, it needed time to cool so that the gasoline diesel mix wouldn’t pre-ignite.


So, on Thursday I call to make sure the boat was going to be ready, and the answer was it was going to take longer to polish the tank (the gasoline made all the diesel algae fall off the sides), and it wouldn’t be ready which of course wasn’t acceptable. I had them give me and hook up an auxiliary fuel tank and I would deal with the fixing the fuel system when I got to Maine. THe hooked it all up, called me and said it was ready and running like a top. The captain I hired for this leg of the trip and I arrived Friday morning, and we go to start the engine and it wouldn’t start. Ok…So although it Saturday, the marina manager happened to be in the catch up on some paperwork, and since I just paid a lot of money to get the engine running, I asked him if he could do something about it. He called the mechanic and asked him to come in, and he got it running. Since the auxiliary tank is below the engine, gravity pulled the fuel out of the fuel lines, so the system needed to be bled again. Sigh…

So, the engine is running, we have everything ready to go, we start breaking the ice behind the boat, back up 2 feet, break some more ice, and so on until we have worked out way our of the marina and into the open water where the ice hadn’t formed. Off we go…


The trip itself was relatively uneventful, but because of the delay in getting underway, we spent the last several hours piloting the boat in darkness. Crossing the Boston harbor we saywsome giant car carriers, and boy they move really fast for such a huge ship. We were dodging lobster pots all night long until we reached Pascataqua River, the river which runs between New Hampshire and Maine and is also known as the Portsmouth Harbor home of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, and Badger Island where we will be docking and where I will be staying for the rest of the winter.

When we arrive the current is running upriver about 4 knots. The memorial bridge is only about 200 feet down current from the face dock of the marine where you have to dock when there is a current and move your boat to your permanent slip when the tide slackens. So we motor up close to the bridge, and turn the boat toward the dock and into the current, and we drift sideways across the river toward the dock. Everything looks really smooth until we actually dock…When we hit the dock and my captain hops off to begin securing the lines, a neighbor comes out to help, and starts tying down lines, but something we hadn’t noticed is that the current runs out from under the dock…I.e. it’s pushing the boat away from the dock and it’s doing it very swiftly. We get the boat tied up, but the bow was pulled a good 8 feet away from the dock with the current trying to push it out farther. The current is running under the boat almost broadside, and its way to strong to the pull the boat in. The propeller and rudder are too far away from each other to gain an steering benefit while the stern lines are secured, so after struggling for about 30 minutes, I decide we’re going to release the springs, and lastly the bow line while the stern line is payed out just enough for the boat to dock on the other side. We release the bow and the boat swings out away from the dock until it’s against the dock after turning 180 degrees. We tied up, check everything is secured, and end our frustrating end to our journey. We finally get to bed about 0200, and let Elyse know we arrive safely and we’ll see her in the morning and we go to bed.


The next Tuesday after work the tide is just slack and I move it to my permanent slip and there she stays. In the last few weeks I have been working on projects to upgrade her a little at a time in the afternoons after work, but otherwise the Fernweh has been a great place to stay so close to work that I can walk to work in the morning. Not too shabby. Maybe I’ll lose a few pounds walking to work and back.


The Underbelly of the Marina

I figured you’ve seen enough afternoon and sunset pictures. When I came into work is was just a few minutes before dead low tide, so you can see under the docks and where the sea walls have pulled away over the decades.

I find it very interesting to see what the tide brings in and deposits the stuff that gets trapped when the tide changes. 

You can see some of the driftwood and old dock and pier detritus gathered behind the piers.

In the following pictures is the underside of a larger dock where boats up to 100 tons get hauled out, it’s hard to tell the scale, but you could kayak under there if you wanted to. I bet there are some good fish in there.

Next you can see the public water access for dropping smaller tailered boats. I wouldn’t want to drop or pickup anything larger than a small skiff, and I personally haven’t seen anyone use it yet. There are other, more easily accessed ramps not too far off that can handle larger boats and trailers.

Here is a dock that was replaced by a floating dock, but for permitting reasons, the old rotting dock and piles can’t be pulled out.

Finally, below are some poor pictures of some Moss Bunker aka Menhaden that have been swimming around here all summer. The are pressed up against the surface of the water by schoolie stripers below them which stun the bunker with their tails before swallowing them whole.

I show these things, because it’s not something you see every day. American Seafarers wants to promote youth exploration of the coast, and we don’t have to go very far to explore. Just being here at low tide to see things that are normally hidden is really interesting. It’s not exotic and it’s not something I want to spend days looking at, but having the chance to just look and see what it’s all about before moving on is really neat. This is the sense of exploration we want to promote, and show the kids that life doesn’t have to be mundane, that we can be excellent by looking for what not always in plain view. It give everyone something to look forward to knowing that even right here where I work every weekend, there is always something new to see and new people to meet.