Southwest Florida Yachts


The New Summer Camp
y Barb Hansen
March 1, 2006

One of my fond memories is two summer weeks as a pre-teen at Camp Gallahue Valley in Southern Indiana. I recall it fondly now but at the time I think I complained to my long-suffering parents about icky insects, latrines, cold lake water we were forced to swim in, and horseback riding in the heat of the day. Life is so hard when youíre a girl of a certain age.

I was homesick, most of all. I could not let them know this.

Yet even after all these years I can still see the campfires, hear the songs, see the faces of my new friends, and recall my excitement when the camp leader called my name to pick up a letter or a box from home with cookies-to-share. Summer camp Ė I know this now Ė taught me a lot of new things, gave me more confidence, helped me get along with lots of different people, and helped make me a better adult.

I confess that all of this was on my mind when the staff and I at Florida Sailing & Cruising School drew up plans for a new summer boating camp here at Marinatown Marina in N. Fort Myers for boys and girls from ages 10-15.

We call it Camp AHOY! Itís a week-long day program emphasizing boating safety and an appreciation for nature and the marine environment. Each five-day camp session begins on a Monday in July and concludes on the following Friday. Five day-campers will be assigned to each vessel, a 32-foot trawler-style cruiser. Their ďcamp counselorĒ will be a U.S. Coast Guard licensed marine captain and boating instructor.

Theyíll learn about the vessel and what makes it tick. Theyíll pick up some proper boating terminology, tie some knots, learn about tides, make calls on the marine radio, learn emergency procedures, get a lesson in chart reading and maybe get to steer the boat in the channel. These campers are going to learn some things their parents donít know and for some Iím sure that will be a terrific highlight for the week. They wonít get to sing around a campfire, or short-sheet cabin mates, but Iím sure theyíll think of something just as hilarious.

They might get to see how a real live fire boat works or observe a lock tender as he assists the vessel in locking-through along the Okeechobee Waterway. The emphasis is on safety so instead of ghost stories round the campfire, the captain may tell some boating accident horror stories up on the flybridge.

I want students to learn to appreciate the marine environment and the birds and wildlife that depend on it. When their vessel leaves its slip each morning and cruises down the Caloosahatchee River the captain might point to a bird and ask the students to identify it. No, itís not a heron, he will say. Itís a great blue heron. Or heíll say thatís not an egret; itís a snowy egret.

Learning to appreciate and respect our beautiful tropical world canít start early enough in a young personís life.

In the hindsight of a camper with some years behind her, I believe what makes youth camps work is fun mixed with lighthearted discipline. Like the roux in a good seafood gumbo, this helps the other lessons go down well. Without them being aware of it, young adults-to-be learn how to follow directions and how to give directions. They learn teamwork. They learn how to direct and motivate others. These are the stock-in-trade skills of a good boating captain and crew. In fact, they are the basic skills for a productive and happy adult life. Boating just happens to be one of the best ways to teach it.

Camp AHOY! will be everything Camp Gallahue Valley was, even more, but without icky insects, latrines, cold swimming water. A box lunch is provided. Hey, maybe weíll even pack some ďsímoresĒ in the box lunch. That will make this camper smile and keep the tradition alive for a new generation of summer campers.


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Southwest Florida Yachts
3444 Marinatown Lane N.W. • North Fort Myers • Florida 33903
(239) 656-1339 (800) 262-7939 Fax (239) 656-2628

Marinatown Marina 26° 38.5'N 81° 53.0'W
Burnt Store Marina 26° 45.71' N 82° 04.20'W

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