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Ten Weeks, Five Boats, Fifty Campers: Summer Camp 2021

Summer camp ends today!  Ten weeks of building five boats with fifty young people coming to us through four wonderful partner organizations. Beginning with two sessions with Portland Public’s Alliance at Meek HS and ending with our first project with iUrban Teen since summer 2016.  By all accounts, this has been a memorable, successful summer.  Not the least factor of which has been our partnership with the Oregon Youth Sailing Foundation and the Willamette Sailing Club (WSC). 

That’s right, you’ll recall camp is on site at the WSC with kids building boats in the mornings and learning to sail in the afternoons. It’s not just kids building boats, or simply learning to feel comfortable in sail boats, it’s the richly developed curriculum both programs offer…. ending as one of our favorite sister boat schools say…..with "boats building kids!"

Imagine arriving at camp with little knowledge of boats, let alone the skills required to both build and to sail. Orientation begins with getting to know one another, doing a walkabout through the site and down to the docks, before arriving back under the tents to begin the build. Each camper is assigned a tool box complete with driver, drill, measuring tape, hand saw, bevel gauge and more. Next is a review of the plans, and then simple tool practice. The importance of math cannot be understated and so all campers create their own magic inch on paper to reinforce fractions and their use in building.

Building is the main activity, but orienting campers to the river, the river that runs through their city, is another part of the allure of camp. From the bluffs above the docks, campers can view downtown Portland to the north, and learn that Ross Island and little Toe Island lie directly east. Each camper learns a bit of navigation with a handheld compass, getting the lay of the land and learning to distinguish magnetic north from true north. When time allowed and the sun appeared, the campers built primitive sun dials to refer to, and confirm, yes indeed it’s lunchtime.

The shore line of the river is an excellent place to view nature, from the clouds in the sky to the leaping fish in the river. Blue heron regularly perch on the lowland exposed each day with the tides, and osprey, (and this summer a pair of bald eagles) regularly perch in the cottonwoods overlooking the docks. Each school year since 2012 we’ve been building boats in school buildings across the metro area, but it truly is hard to beat the rich environment of being on the banks of the Willamette River. 

This summer began with likely the last real rain of the summer, and today’s cool and cloudy start belies the truth that this has been one of Portland’s hottest summer’s ever. With perseverance as a trait inherent in learning any new skills, these kids and staff persevered as they adapted to the challenges of the weather as well as to the many challenges inherent in building a wooden boat ~ broken chines, center frames, mis-cut pieces ~ it’s all a part of the process. And although each build is unique, through the guided discovery teaching techniques of Wind & Oar staff (and no doubt the sailing instructors as well) campers were encouraged to be the problem solvers. Many brought new solutions to old problems, making the entire experience true collaboration among all the participants, staff and campers.

New this summer was the opportunity to identify students as potential interns for both summer camp and into the school year. Our first intern participated in the final session, and we hope to see her again during the upcoming school year.  And as we say goodbye to this memorable summer we give a shout out to the campers, partners, and supporters. Looking forward to summer 2022!

Summer Camp Partners 
Wind & Oar Boat School, Oregon Youth Sailing Foundation, Willamette Sailing Club.  

Participating Youth Organizations 
Portland Public Schools Alliance at Meek High School; Camp ELSO (ELSO, Inc), Blueprint Foundation / POIC, and IUrban Teen.  

Thank You to Our Funders
And last but not least funding support from the Oregon Community Foundation, Portland Yacht Club, Juan Young Trust Eastern Division,  Multnomah Athletic Foundation, and US Sailing. Thank you all!