Studentsailing program planned for summer

Published on Thu, May 18, 2006 by JackKintner

Read More News

Student sailing program planned for summer

By Jack Kintner

“Here we are in Blaine, right on the water,” said one-time school principal and Hobie Cat sailor Ron Snyder, “and yet a lot of people in Blaine have never been on the water.”

Snyder not only wants to change that, the persuasive and personable former Eagle Scout wants to do it by teaching people how to sail.
He’ll begin with a class of middle school students, working under a grant administered by school counselor Leaf Schumann.

“Our goal is to have a sailing program up and running as a Blaine school activity by the end of this school year and continue through the summer months,” Snyder said.

Snyder’s done this before in Seattle, where he was principal of Alternative School 1 (AS1) for 15 years before retiring to Blaine in 2003.

He and fellow teacher Jonathon Stevens coached the middle schoolers into building their own boats and taught them to sail on Lake Union.
The six boats Snyder used in the program are now in Blaine, and will be stored at the marina in a rack that the Port of Bellingham is letting the sailing class use for free.

The local West Marine store has donated life jackets. Students will start sailing inside the marina breakwater, which Snyder said is safer.

“The tight spaces and fluky wind will actually help teach them how to sail the boat,” Snyder said.

The boats are small – nine feet long and four feet wide – and have a single sleeved sail on an unstayed mast and can carry two kids or two adults “as long as they’re not too big,” Snyder said.

Called Clancy Boats, they’re all built to a set of plans drawn by Boeing engineer Rich Kolin and were initially built by Bob and Erica Pickett, then owners of Flounder Bay Lumber on Fidalgo Bay near Anacortes.
“Bob’s dog Clancy buried bones all over the lumber yard, and he died early in the process so the class [of boats] was named for him. The class symbol on the sail is a dog bone,” said Snyder.

Plover skipper Sam Clemens and teacher Dan Steelquist will share teaching duties with Snyder. Steelquist is currently earning his certification from the United States Sailing Association.

The first class will be offered to Blaine middle school students and is considered to be a pilot program, Snyder said.

He added, however, that he intends to expand the program under the umbrella of Drayton Harbor Maritime, the organization that operates the historical Plover work boat.

The initial class, 25 hours of instruction in the classroom and on the water, runs from June 19 to 24 and is free.

A boat will be on display in the middle school cafeteria in early June, at which time kids can sign up with Schumann.

“Safety is, of course, our highest concern,” said Snyder.

Students will be required to pass a float test involving treading water in a swimming pool with clothes on for 10 minutes, at the end of which they must retrieve a thrown personal flotation device (PFD) and put it on.
They must also show that they can right a capsized boat both alone and with a partner.

“Before we started this program the Seattle school district wouldn’t allow a kid within 100 yards of a dock unless they had on three lifejackets and were chained to an attorney,” Snyder joked.

“When we graduated our first kids from the instruction program, they were allowed to go out on the lake by themselves, as long as there were at least two and they stayed in sight.”

Snyder ran the program out of the Center for Wooden Boats on Westlake, where he also served as a board member.

“We organized the kids into a regular yacht club, with a burgee and reciprocal privileges and all that,” Snyder said.