Volume 17 • Issue 9 / July 23 - 29, 2004

Downtown Express photo by Ramin Talaie

Students aboard the Shearwater, docked at North Cove.

Teens learn sailing aboard B.P.C. yacht

By Deborah Lynn Blumberg

As part of Battery Park City’s Teen Marine Adventure program, junior high school students from across the five boroughs learned to sail this week aboard the Shearwater, a 75-year-old yacht that once patrolled the Chesapeake Bay during World War II.

Sixth, seventh and eighth grade students navigated and steered through the waters of the Hudson River Monday during the three-hour educational cruise sponsored by Battery Park City Parks Conservancy, the not-for-profit organization that oversees the parks of Battery Park City. Sailing on the Shearwater was one of the 15 events that comprised the July 6–July 29 Teen Marine Adventure program. During the program, students learned about the river’s history and ecology from scientists at the River Project, representatives from the 1931 historic fireboat John J. Harvey, and dock masters working on the Hudson.

Shearwater Captain Angus McCamy, a Tribeca native, instructed students on boat terminology — starboard, port, stern, and bow — but said participants learned much more than sailing terms and techniques during Monday’s program.

“One of things we do with Shearwater is corporate team building,” McCamy said. “This [program] encompassed all of the same elements — taking people from land and orienting them to the vessel. The way you handle yourself [on a boat] is very different. It requires teamwork.”

After a brief orientation, students split into two watches or groups, and each chose its own name—one picked “Jolly Rogers” and the other “Cyclone.” Even a task as simple as name choosing can help team members bond, McCamy said. “To come up with a name and agree on it, these kids have to communicate with each other.”

Students then helped hoist the sails, took turns steering the boat using a compass and learned the proper procedure to use when turning over steering to a fellow sailor. “Learning how to raise and lower the sails was the best part,” said Zach Herman, 12, who participated in the program with his brother Woody. “We actually got to do things on the boat.”

“We also took turns turning the boat around,” said Ogie Ulmer, 13, who lives in the Financial District. “I liked steering because I felt like I was in control.”

Others simply enjoyed learning about life on the high seas and playing games with new friends from the neighborhood. “We had an ‘arring’ contest and I won,” said Kimberly Gallagher, 12, who donned a black, gold-rimmed felt pirate’s hat as she and her new friends imitated pirate sounds.

Shearwater Sailing owner Tom Berton runs charter cruises and corporate programs on the yacht throughout the year — employees from American Express and Merrill Lynch have recently held events on the yacht. “It’s something different to do with a group of people other than just having hors doeuvres and cocktails,” McCamy said. “If you put [an event] into a team building context you get a lot more out of it.”

The Conservancy offers free events for families, children, teens, and adults from May 1 through October 31.  For a 2004 program calendar, e-mail info@bpcparks.org.

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