From blustery hours of construction as winter wanes to hoisting sail on a sunny summer day, area youth can explore sailing from start to finish.
For the third winter, the Inland Seas Education Association's Youth Boat Building class pairs adult volunteers with students. The result of the eight-week course is two Optimist sailing prams built from scratch using a kit. The completed boats will be donated to the Northport Youth Sailing School.
Students in the Youth Boat Building class who attend at least five of the eight sessions will receive a scholarship to the sailing school.
Up to eight scholarships are available for sailing classes in July and August. Inland Seas still has room for additional students in the Boat Building class and sailing school scholarships are still available.
"It's fun because you get to build the boats you'll get to sail on later," said Jakob Hester, 11, after class Saturday at Inland Seas' boat shop in Suttons Bay.
The six or so students have been meeting since Feb. 4 on Saturday mornings for two hours.
By last Saturday's session, students attached frames to the pram — detailed work that required attention at each step. They also practiced drilling in preparation for the hundreds of holes they will be drilling at subsequent Saturday meetings.
"It's very fun, fun to work and feel useful — this is actually something that people will be using," said Emma Adams, 11.
Chuck Dickerson guides the Youth Boat Building program, one of a number of Inland Seas' shore-side educational offerings. Another annual program builds a wooden canoe, which is auctioned as a fundraiser for Inland Seas.
Inland Seas' shore-side offerings as well as numerous shipboard educational opportunities are meant to inspire young people's interest in science while also providing long-term interest in Great Lakes stewardship.
More than 90,000 students have participated in the association's programs since it began in 1989. Some 250 active volunteers pitch in to provide the varied educational and stewardship opportunities.
"We're not just talking at them, but they learn by doing," said Emily Shaw, education coordinator for the Inland Seas Educational Association. "The boat building promotes stewardship through a different avenue: Students come in and build canoes and prams and then get to take sailing lessons. This allows the students another way to connect with the Great Lakes."
The crop of students so far in this year's Youth Boat Building class already has some sailing experience. Dickerson said that the two previous years drew students who had never sailed at all.
In either case, the opportunity to build a boat from the ground up — using tools, reading plans, following detailed instructions and general construction — is invaluable.
"It's good because they don't get this kind of training in school anymore," said Dickerson, the boat shop coordinator, adding that The Collectors Foundation* and Easling Construction provided materials.
"This summer we will build three more boats and will be open to more helpers," he said.
Volunteer Sandee Ciesielski said students blossom during the eight-week session, gaining both confidence and skills.
"It's like they come out of their shell; it's very rewarding," she said. "Even working with other children, you see their social skills improve."
The Inland Seas Education Association still has room for additional students in the Youth Boat Building class. Students will meet over the next five Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon. The free program is geared to youth ages 10-14. For more information, call 271-3077 or see www.schoolship.org.
For more information on the Northport Youth Sailing School, see www.northportsailing.org.