Kids catch wind at new sailing program in Onset

By Matthew Bernat | Jul 17, 2017
Photo by: Matthew Bernat Tanner Rosa of the Community Boating Center gives a lesson on Monday as part of the Buzzard Bay Coalition's Pilot Sailing Program.

A handful of boys and girls are learning that sailing can be an exhilarating – though sometimes fearful – experience on Onset Bay this summer.

“The first few times the boat tips they’ll be scared,” said Hanna Hausladen, an instructor with the Community Boating Center. “Once they know I’m in control, it becomes almost like a rollercoaster ride for them.”

The New Bedford-based nonprofit and Buzzards Bay Coalition have teamed up for the Pilot Sailing Program. As a Coalition initiative, it's designed to get kids who don’t have the means an opportunity to learn how to tack and jib.

The program is the Buzzards Bay Coalition’s “toe in the water” according to President Mark Rasmussen. Currently, the ecologically-minded nonprofit is raising funds to refurbish the Onset Bathhouse into the Onset Bay Discovery Center, which will offer programs similar to the sailing one in the future.

Plans call for transforming the bathhouse into a headquarters for a myriad of water programs, designed to get kids exploring and falling in love with Buzzards Bay. Coalition officials estimate construction will begin in 2019.

On Monday, young sailors, ranging from ages 6 to 12, navigated the bay with help from Community Boating Center instructors.

Kids in the program (there are 12 total) took turns steering and happily scrambling across the boats as they cut across the bay.

“They’re starting to get a feel for how to till,” said instructor Tanner Rosa on what was the program’s fourth day.

Cassie Lawson, a senior educator at the Coalition, is overseeing the program. She said the kids involved are all part of the Wareham Boys & Girls Club Summer Fun Program.

Lawson, who trails the sailors in a small motorboat, said the Coalition’s trial run was a success so far. The nonprofit started with a small group to test the waters, literally. She said its important for instructors to become familiar with the bay's currents and find which coves are too shallow. There’s been no problems, she said.

“The goal was to get the kids on the water and having fun,” said Lawson. “I think we’re accomplishing that.”

Boats are launched from Coalition-owned land at Burgess Point. When there’s little wind, as was the case one day last week, they explore Wicket’s Island, another recently purchased Coalition property, and identify wildlife.

Community Boating Center Program Director Greg Pimentel said his group provides three boats and was glad to partner with the Coalition.

“It’s a good collaboration,” he said. “The Coalition has a fantastic program and they really know their stuff.”

For one of the program’s participants, Joy Allen, she chose to learn to sail over some other Boys & Girls Club’s classes for a simple reason.

“I like sailing because I love being on the water,” she said. “I got to stick my feet in the water.”

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