Tuesday, August 23, 2011

There's Just Something About Islands: Quinipet Camp & Retreat Center

When your summer camp is perched on perhaps the most idyllic piece of waterfront land on Long Island, having a terrific sailing program becomes less of a luxury than a necessity. Luckily, this is the attitude of Camp Director Greg Nissen, who began his time at Quinipet Camp and Retreat Center running sailing activities before taking on responsibility for the entire organization.

The Quinipet Gazebo, a Long Island landmark and symbol of the camp.

Under Greg, sailing at Quinipet has not only continued, but flourished. An impressive fleet of boats now crowds the shoreline, centered around a sailing facility that is listed in the New York Register of Historic Properties. Sailing classes quickly fill up each Spring, and this year all sessions were full by the time campers bagan arriving in June. Their extensive array of programs include sleep-away camps for teens, both weeklong and monthlong community sailing day camps, and adult classes.

The historic Sailing Barn. Quinipet is currently trying to raise funds to save this centuries-old structure. If you are interested in aiding in this effort, and ensuring that thousands of children continue to learn to sail at this special place, please contact the camp.

While Quinipet may outwardly resemble other community sailing programs, there is a magical quality to this place that is hard to pin down. It may stem from the camp's location on an island only accessible by ferry. The saltwater moat that divides Shelter Island from the mainland does more than physically separate Quinipet from the rest of the state. When campers come from the "outside world," they enjoy the added sense that they have reached a place where external cares simply do not matter. Everything just seems so far away. All that's left is sailing and sunshine.

Instructor Reilly Bergin-Pugh running a tacking drill.

Few other programs I've seen on our 49-stop tour have been as successful at injecting fun into a curriculum designed to foster seamanship skills. Tacking and gybing drills are puntuated by sunken canoe races, sponge tag, and beach time. Expeditions to nearby Crab Creek offer exciting insights into the marine environment for campers, many of whom are from urban homes. Evenings are highlighted by campfires, singing, storytelling, and talent shows.

Quinipet campers are not only exposed to sailing during their stay, but are immersed in it. They are also welcomed into an amazingly rich and diverse community, which features staff and campers from many parts of the country, and the world.

Instructor Caroline Ruby overseeing sail cleaning.

When you are here, it is not hard to find enjoyment in small things. "Our FJ fleet came from Hobart & William Smith Colleges," said sailing instructor Reilly Bergin-Pugh, explaining the large "HWS" markings on the sails. "So usually I just tell the kids it stands for Hogwarts School."

Personally, I can hardly think of a more apt comparison... Except that Quinipet has a beach, and therefore, at least in my book, gets the edge.

-Will Ricketson

No comments:

Post a Comment