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We Paused, We Tacked, We Innovated

There is no doubt the past six months have required all of us to redesign how we work. What has not changed is Wind & Oar’s commitment to engage and inspire young people through experiential learning. 

2020 began as expected with great kids, great partners, and a series of great projects. We were working once again with Faubion Elementary and Farmington View Elementary building Bevin’s skiffs with 120 5th and 6th graders. Our Trees to Sea project, a  high school credit program in partnership with Alliance at Meek High School and Hyla Woods began in fall 2019. The project, building a complex sailboat had students working in the Wind & Oar shop 4 days a week.

The March 13th decision to temporarily and ultimately close in-school classes necessitated the switch to model building via online instruction with students at home. It was a huge challenge to step away from building the sail boat and create individual model kits complete with tools, and video instruction. The challenge was met by the students and staff at Alliance at Meek High School with students completing the course in June, including several seniors, now high school graduates. 

The Faubion project was completed pre-school closure, yet the promised May launch allowing students the opportunity to actually row their boat had to be canceled. Although Farmington View Elementary’s 7th boat with W&O is essentially mothballed until in-school classes can resume; our hope is to return then to allow the “crew” to complete the boat, and ultimately launch/row it during the school’s 2021 Environmental Field day next spring. 

We paused, we tacked, we innovated, we’re resilient…and as we truly believe, kids are too. 

"One big thing I’ve learned: problem solving. There’s always a lot of problems with boat building, every day,”  - Prairie student on Ebihen build in 2013. 

With summer on the horizon, we continued our plans: to host campers from Camp ELSO, an environmental education camp, and to plan for a joint boat building/learn to sail camp with the folks at the Willamette Sailing Club. When it was clear the COVID restrictions were continuing into summer, the award of partial funding via the Juan Young Trust prompted yet another pivot. This time, a collaboration between all partners: Wind & Oar Boat School, Camp ELSO, Oregon Youth Sailing Foundation and the Willamette Sailing Club.

Camp was scaled back for safety to two two-week sessions for 10 campers. Camp ELSO campers and children of essential workers built rowboats in the mornings and learned to sail in the afternoons.  Each camper was assigned their own tool kit—masks were mandatory. The bonus of the riverside class allowed onsite exploration of the Willamette River ecology and geography. Campers learned the Willamette River has daily tides, evident many days with the disappearing mudflats where blue heron and geese perched daily. Resident osprey greeted campers as they flew above the cottonwoods. The impact and importance of the Willamette River watershed was explored and, on the last day, celebrated as the campers named and blessed their boats. Two new boats rounded up the W&O fleet to 44 boats built by kids since 2011. "Rose Petal" and the "USS Camp ELSO" are now the newest addition to the fleet. 

Everything about this year’s summer camp was a delight (save for several 90+ degree days) and we can’t wait to bring versions of this back in 2021. Kudos to the kids, partners, and very special thanks to the supporters from Oregon Youth Sailing Foundation, the Portland Yacht Club and the Juan Young Trust. This support assured these kids an extraordinary experience in an extraordinary summer.

And many thanks to this summer’s campers who started the preparations for W&O’s 3rd annual Root Beer Float-tilla, coming your way Sept 16-30th at These kids know how to build: root beer floats and boats!