DraytonHarbor Maritime to offer sailing instruction

Published on Thu, May 5, 2005 by ack Kintner

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Drayton Harbor Maritime to offer sailing instruction

By Jack Kintner

Drayton Harbor Maritime board member Ron Snyder recently announced that a six-boat fleet of sailing dinghies for use in a youth sailing program will be coming to Blaine this spring. He’s already brought one up to Blaine and will bring the rest once storage is secured.
Snyder moved to Blaine last summer after retiring as principal of Alternative School #1 (AS1), a kindergarten through eighth grade alternative school located in north Seattle that was a part of the Seattle public school system. One of the primary activities was wooden boat building, focusing on pond racing models, full-size native cedar dugout canoes and small dinghies called Clancy boats.

“We didn’t have an associated student body,” Snyder said, “Instead we had an officially recognized yacht club. We had reciprocity with most other clubs in the area.”

When the president of the school’s club was invited to lunch with the president of the Seattle Yacht Club Snyder said, “We passed the hat, because she really didn’t have just the right nautical clothes. She ended up with a red blazer, blue skirt and white blouse, and was a knock-out.”

She was also just 14-years-old and in the eighth grade, and as far as anyone knows was the first African American female to be president of a recognized yacht club anywhere in the country.

A Philadelphia native whose voice still carries that smooth south Philly twang, the gregarious and chatty Snyder is a life-long sailor who found ways to involve his love of the sport in his work as a principal of the 200-plus students at AS1. Though he and his wife, local artist Cathy Taggett, sail a Ranger 26 built in Kent, Washington, he’s sailed mainly in highly competitive Hobie Cats and various other small boats generically called one-designs, boats like Lightnings and Stars and all the Olympic sailing classes that are built to be as identical as possible. If all the boats in a race are built to one design, the thinking goes, winning will depend more upon tactics and skill, which is why one designs are used to teach sailing and races are used to measure a student’s progress.

Snyder, who served on the board of the Center for Wooden Boats at South Lake Union (CWB) in Seattle, used sailing as a vehicle to teach other subjects. “You can’t build a boat without using math, without reading, learning about teamwork, about the history of sailing and so on. It was a great metaphor and our students were quite eager to learn,” Snyder said.

Students were taught to sail in 10-foot Clancys, boats they built themselves at the school based on a design drawn up by CWB faculty Rich Kolin. “His dog was named Clancy,” Snyder said, “and it died while he was designing these boats, so he decided to name them after the dog. Clancys are a registered one-design with a dog bone for the insignia,” Snyder said.

Clancys are easily built with simple hand tools, and Snyder’s classes built two each year. Over-all length is nine feet, eight and a half inches, the beam is four feet and the mast is an inch under 17 feet tall. The sail area is 54 square feet and is easily handled by one or two people. The boats are light enough to transport on a car top rack, weighing between 85 and 90 pounds, but carry over 500 pounds of built-in flotation. Complete kits are available from Flounder Bay Lumber in Anacortes for about $1,750.

Acquisition was funded by the Northwest Marine Trade Association and the city of Seattle. “When we began this you couldn’t even take a school kid out on a dock with six life jackets on,” said Snyder, whose persuasive enthusiasm led the school district to not only approve the program but actually fund part of it.

The boats are coming north because the CWB is switching to slightly smaller flat-fronted El Toro sailing dinghies, designed in southern California. “So the AS1 Yacht Club’s boats are coming up here,” Snyder said, because with Drayton Harbor Maritime we’ll have a place to store them, and we’ll use them this summer for youth sailing instruction.”
The program joins the local Sea Scouts as one of two youth-oriented sailing programs based in Blaine. Officially called Ship 4096, the Sea Scout unit meets locally at Grace Lutheran Church when not sailing on board their 30-foot sloop Charee.

“As a board member of both the CWB and now of Drayton Harbor Maritime, my first concern is safety,” Snyder said, “because a safe program sets you free to have fun.” He said that each member of the yacht club at the school Snyder led could earn a sailing license that allowed them to take a boat out by themselves, “though they had to have a buddy, either in the boat or in another one,” he said.

Requirements to earn the license were to pass the city of Seattle swimming test, take capsize training so they could right the boat and sail away in it, take 25 hours of classroom instruction in sailing and pass a practical test. Snyder envisions much the same kind of requirements in the program he’ll develop here. “Those kids in Seattle? It changed their lives. And if they got their license they could still come up here with their license and sail a boat. They’re into it, and these kids will be, too.”