We have seen some pretty amazing sights on our tour so far, but watching 240 kids eagerly swarm into the water at Cape Cod Sea Camps ranks amongst my favorites. The camps, which play host to over 700 kids at a time (about a quarter of which are sailors), boast one of the largest and most diverse sailing programs in New England, and a tradition that spans nearly a century.
Under the leadership of Associate Director Garran Peterson and his staff, the program has undergone a renaissance in the last five years. A gorgeous, four-year-old boathouse is the center of waterfront activity, and includes spacious teaching areas, a workshop, sail loft, and office. The fleet has also grown, and is based around the venerable Cape Cod Mercury dinghy. Each morning, the whole camp descends on the beach, wading hundreds of feet into the shallow bay to catch a ride out to the mooring field.
One prominent aspect of the camp, and of this area of Cape Cod in general, is the startling tidal activity. Each day, the Bay recedes hundreds of yards away from the high-tide line, creating a temporary, and beautiful, marine desert. Oftentimes, the Mercury fleet finds itself isolated in a temporary "pond," the mooring field suddenly cut off from the open sea. Overall, the effect is to give the kids a fascinating, ever changing, and educational sailing environment.
A sure sign of the quality and success of the sailing program at CCSC is the loyalty it engenders in both kids and parents. Many current campers come from families who have sent multiple generations to learn about sailing and life, on the shores of Cape Cod. My skipper for the day, high school junior Lexie Kentros, was introduced to the program at age eight by her father, a former camper, even though he had settled with his family in Alabama. Another instructor, Elizabeth Crunb, has been a life-long camper despite living in Colorado during the year. In short, people flock to this special place from just about every corner of the nation.
The kids in the sailing program are taught more than just the basics of sailing, however. They are also given extensive leadership training. All of the more senior campers become "CIT's" or counselors-in-training, as a standard part of the curriculum. In learning how to teach their younger counterparts, these teenagers not only reinforce their own skills, but develop the patience, maturity and compassion that teaching requires. The result is well-rounded kids and a wonderful camp atmosphere that continuously renews itself.
If you stand in the middle of all of the activity at the boathouse and close your eyes, you can hear the best of sounds: Happy kids, yelling, laughing, and just doing their thing. The "sound-test" is, in my opinion, the best way of separating the good programs from the truly great ones. If the goal of all junior programs is to foster a lifelong connection between the kids and the ocean, Cape Cod Sea Camps, without a doubt, falls into the latter category.