The sky is blue, the air is warm, and there’s a soft breeze off Lake Huron. Fifteen children ranging in age from eight to 14 are heading down River Road toward a set of sailing dinghies. They’re off on their second day on the water, as part of Sail Ontario’s Boom School, a learn-to-sail program. Among them are three children who are enjoying this big adventure on the water thanks to bursaries provided by Grand Bend Community Foundation.
“We focus on safety, having fun on the water, and getting a good first-time experience,” instructor Melanie O’Brien says. “We want to introduce kids gently to the sport, and hope they fall in love with it.”
The program runs Monday to Friday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Most of the children are first-time sailors, so instruction starts at a very basic level — learning the parts of a boat, safety procedures, and some basic knots. But much of each day is spent in the boats.
Instructor Kim Moffat says the program is about more than sailing. “They’re learning to enjoy the outdoors, work with Mother Nature, work in teams, build self-esteem and make friends– the same lessons that come with any sport.”
She adds with a smile. “I just happen to think this is the best sport!”