New Orleans AdventureSail 2017

Not much wind but a lot of progress towards a happy day.

Through the AdventureSail® program the National Women’s Sailing Association strives to establish mentor-ship that empowers girls to develop self-confidence, make positive life choices and introduce an awareness of opportunities involving marine related sciences and the boating industry.

As with most people, my good fortune was certainly affected by mentoring. So many interventions made a difference in my life. I attended summer camp because young adults volunteered to teach crafts, sports and organize activities for kids who otherwise had nothing structured to do all summer. My elementary school principal worked evenings to teach her students to sing and square dance. My junior high counselor intervened when she noticed I was running with a very rough group making me her aide; steering me away from going over a cliff as many of the girls in that group did.

So I get it. Kids need more than parents to help them make good decisions to become good people. If it weren’t for the many adults outside of my family caring about me, it’s unlikely I would have taken a path that lead me to my successes. It took a lot of people helping me make course corrections to keep me in line.

Now, each summer, I have the privilege and delight to point out the weight of their boat to an AdventureSail girl as they stand at the helm. As well as the fact, they are using only the wind and their skill to send that great mass moving across the water. Giving back is magical.

AdventureSails reveal such wonders.

Last summer on an almost breezeless morning, a guest speaker for the New Orleans AdventureSail, meteorologist Kweilyn Murphy singled out two girls. Both were having challenges. One, a tiny girl, was already shedding alligator tears. She told me she came from the hospital. Her father was hospitalized, “again.” The other, a very tall girl, standing separate from the group of chattering Girl Scouts awkwardly inspected the ground around her feet. She was all too aware she stood apart from the group. Neither girl seemed the least bit excited about going sailing. Both were just trying to make it through an ordeal someone thought they may enjoy. “You’re the lucky two coming with us!” Kweilyn beamed as she circled behind them like a sheepdog herding them toward our boat waiting at the dock.

We crept away from the dock with the aide of a trolling motor, Kweilyn assuring the small girl nothing bad was going to happen. “This is so fun.” We made our way onto Lake Pontchartrain, put the sails up and then an amazing thing happened. The girl who seemed so out of place piped in, “I’m scared sometimes, then I notice I can stop being scared and have fun. Being scared is sort of fun; after you get over it!”

I asked the tall girl if she wanted to drive the boat. She had to act brave for her new friend, so she quickly accepted the tiller. Kweilyn took a selfie with the girl at the helm. “Smile!” The petite girl smiled too. Then she was coaxed by the whole crew to take her turn. Suddenly we had a fun and happy boat. A boat-load of fun and big smiles!

AdventureSails produce such wonders.

Susan Epstein told an AdventureSail story at the last board meeting to illustrate why the program is important to her personally. My retelling will diminish Susan’s passion, being second hand, but I’ll do my best. At the conclusion of an AdventureSail in the Boston area, Susan was showing one of the girls how to tie a cleat hitch. There between the boat and the dock Susan saw a small jelly fish.

“Look,” Susan said as she scooped the tiny creature out of the water. “A jelly fish.” The girl stood her nose close to Susan’s hand gazing at the jelly. “You can touch it. But not every jelly fish is okay to touch. Some sting. You need to learn which are okay. This one is okay.” The girl touched the jelly pulling her whole arm quickly away. Then she reached back to feel again.

“Do you want to hold it?” Susan asked as she replenished her handful of water. She poured the jelly into the girls cupped hands.

“Can I take him home to help me remember today?”

“No. He lives here in the water. Would you want to live with him down there?”

“Noooo. I can’t live in the water and I’d miss my family.”

“Okay. Let’s put him back so he can stay home where he belongs. You can come back and visit.”

They stood together gazing into the water as the transparent creature quickly disappeared.

“It was touching,” recounted Susan. “That’s why I love the sails with the girls.”

We all find fulfillment in sharing the joy of sailing, giving a child a slice of the bliss we find in the sport. We see our young selves in these girls. It makes us happy knowing we do this small thing, give a bit of our time, to help the girls learn about an undiscovered part of themselves.

AdventureSails give us such wonders.

Click here to learn more about the NWSA AdventureSail program. To take the first step to establish an AdventureSail in your area, send a request for more info to [email protected].

Debbie Huntsman helped establish an AdventureSail in Phoenix, Arizona and in New Orleans, Louisiana. For information and check list on developing an AdventureSail® in your area contact [email protected] or [email protected]