During this very busy holiday season, a season that brings to mind family, traditions, and renewal, a wonderful story comes out of Erie, Pennsylvania. It is about sailing and children, a topic that is in the forefront of sailing these day, especially for those sailors who avidly read Scuttlebutt, a daily online sailing newsletter. Lately there has been quite a bit of dialogue about how to encourage children to embrace sailing as a life-long activity, and there is some concern that pushing children to compete at an early age might take the fun out of sailing for our youth. And, above all, sailing should be fun for kids. That's where the story from Pennsylvania comes in. A group of men who sail on Lake Erie demonstrated a great way to get kids passionate about sailing, and it didn't come from being top on the junior sailing leader board. The story centers around the building of a mini, a 6.5 meter boat, and goes something like this (note that this story is a few years old, but is just as applicable today as when it first appeared): On the shores of Lake Erie in Erie, Pennsylvania, there's a new Mini taking shape. A very unique Mini. By the time she sets sail, sometime in June 2004 if all goes well, more than 1,000 kids will have taken part in her build. The project is the brainchild of Mini Class US members David Hyland, a professor at nearby Mercyhurst College (www.mercyhurst.edu) and Jim Stewart, Executive Director of the Bayfront Center for Maritime Studies (BCMS) in Erie (www.bayfrontcenter.org). Dave is an avid sailor with a lot of Great Lakes distance events along with the Newport-Bermuda race and Annapolis-Newport Race under his keel. Dave has been a long-time follower of the Mini Transat and traveled to La Rochelle in 2001 for the start of the race. Rounding out the build team are Richard Eisenberg, director of boat building at BCMS and educator Ramon Mancha.
A year ago, Dave approached Jim with a plan to enter the 2005 Mini Transat. Expecting Jim to be receptive to the idea but not prepared to get behind it, Dave was more than a little bit surprised when Jim said "Great idea. Let's build it here." That's where the kids come in. The mission of the BCMS is to design and deliver unique, maritime-based educational, vocational, and recreational opportunities for the local community. BCMS provides programming for all the juvenile placement facilities in Erie County and seventeen public school districts in northwest Pennsylvania. In six years, BCMS has provided programming for nearly 11,000 youth. These participants have built 65 boats including canoes, kayaks, skiffs, and the Erie Boat, an authentic replica of the two-masted cat-ketches that used to fish the waters of Lake Erie.
If a Mini was to be built at BCMS by kids, it had to be fabricated out of wood, as that is their primary area of expertise. Enter Dudley Dix Yacht Design of South Africa - (www.dixdesign.com) who offers the only kitted Mini design in the world made out of wood. Last fall, Dave purchased the plans from Dudley and the kit from CKD Boats in Hout Bay, South Africa - it was shipped on Christmas Eve, arrived in Newark in early January, and finally arrived at BCMS on Feb. 12. Construction began the following week. Readers may want to follow the action of the 2005 Mini Transat at: www.miniclassus.com/build/Dix/dix_build.htm
For those of us who somehow manage to put off buying holiday gifts to the last minute, below are a few sailing books that may be of interest to family and friend or to put on your own holiday list. Don't forget books by local authors that have been reviewed in this column: The America's Cup and Me: Recollections of 83 years and 7 Campaigns by Edward du Mouliin and Boats by Purdy by Alan Dinn. All these books have been recommended by fellow sailors. After the Storm, by John Rousmaniere. An incredibly well researched exploration of storms at sea and their impact on sailors. All This and Sailing Too, Olin J. Stephens. Insightful autobiography by the living legend of 20th century yacht design. It is beautifully produced with many glorious photographs and illustrations. Berserk - My Voyage to the Antarctic in a Twenty-Seven-Foot Sailboat, David Mercy. An exciting true story and a gripping drama. This book is definitely not about sailboat racing, but anyone who has ever sailed - and those who have not - will become quickly immersed in this fast paced adventure story. Desolation Island, Patrick O'Brian (the Aubrey-Maturin Series). These novels are set in early 19th century, during the Napoleonic Wars, featuring the naval officer Jack Aubrey and his friend and ship's surgeon Stephen Maturin. All 20 volumes are full of action, set in historically correct context, with tons of naval lore and naval language. Fatal Storm, Rob Mundle. In 1998, the 115 boats jockeying at the starting line for the annual Sydney-to-Hobart Race had been warned that low-pressure weather systems were conspiring to guarantee a wild and chancy race. Yet few sailors anticipated the ferocity of the storm that descended around two o'clock the next morning, which quickly devolved into the worst sailing disaster in recent memory. First You Have to Row a Little Boat: Reflections On Life and Living, Richard Bode. This little volume is a wonderful blend of one man's youthful development of love for the sport, and the life lessons that came from that experience. If you know sailing as an avocation, or want to introduce someone to the love of the sport, this is the book to provide. My Old Man and the Sea: A Father and Son Sail Around Cape Horn, David Hayes and Daniel Hayes. An account of a father and son's trip on their small boat around the horn. It was funny and touching and should be read by anyone who sails in Long Island Sound. Sail Like a Champion, Dennis Conner and Michael Levitt. A great racing book for advanced sailors. It's a bit like an America's Cup level text for those of us who aspire to sail at the highest possible level, but don't have the time or opportunity to sail in an Around the World Race or America's Cup, or the resources to hire professional crew. Taking on the World: A Sailor's Extraordinary Solo Race Around the Globe, Ellen MacArthur. Ellen's early sailing experiences and her single-handed and crewed extreme sailing adventures. Ms. MacArthur shares her thoughts and emotions at all stages of her preparation and racing, and she gives enough technical information and detail to satisfy both novice and experienced sailors. The Riddle of the Sands: A Record of Secret Service, Erskine Childers. This is the original English spy novel. It alerted the British to the potential threat from Germany. Three Men in a Boat: To Say Nothing of the Dog, Jerome K. Jerome. A classic short read for anyone who has spent 24 hours on a boat in the company of another person. Very funny. Weather for Sailors, by Bill Biewenga. Discusses the topic in terms that a sailor can immediately apply to cruising and racing. Covers the essential elements of meteorology, synoptic scale climatology, local weather conditions and oceanography that as sailors care about. Winning: The Psychology of Competition by Stuart H. Walker. The best thing any sailor can do to improve his game is to unlock the mental aspect of winning and losing. Good examples.