First class dives into sailing, swimming, and exploring through inaugural Onset Bay summer program

It’s a gusty, humid day in late July, and ten middle schoolers are waiting eagerly on a floating dock off Burgess Point in Onset as instructors from the New Bedford Community Boating Center (CBC) help them to rig two small sailboats. The wind is strong, sending clouds scudding rapidly by overhead. But when senior instructor Erik Reuther asks if the group would rather take a short trip to Wickets Island to keep out of the wind, the kids overwhelmingly vote for the opposite: “We want to sail!”

Boys and Girls club participants on a boat with a Community Boating Center instructor.

CBC instructor Hanna Hausleden steers as Elliana Berriault, Alexis Kennedy, Kim Morissy and Maddy Spencer grin and enjoy the ride.

This group of sailors is the second of three that will pass through the Coalition’s first summer of full programming on Onset Bay, in partnership with the Boys and Girls Club of Wareham and Wareham CARE. Remarkably, it’s only this group’s third day out in the water. Though this is for most of them also their first time out on a sailboat, they’ve jumped into sailing — and all aspects of the new program — with unbridled enthusiasm.

Mornings at the Onset summer program start with either kayaking or shoreline exploration and ecology, led by a member of the Coalition’s education team, or swim lessons with instructors from the Gleason Family YMCA in Wareham. Each afternoon is dedicated to sailing with the CBC, where kids learn everything from rigging and launching boats to points of sail, hiking out, and steering. Despite some initial hesitation, both classes so far have developed a love for capsizing (tipping) their boats into Onset Bay.

Kids in kayaks in Onset

Kids from the Boys and Girls Club of Wareham learn how to kayak from instructors at Nemasket Kayak.

“This program is a great extension of what we do at the club and how we partner with our surrounding neighbors,” said Kenny Fontes, Unit Director of the Boys & Girls Club of Wareham. “The Buzzards Bay Coalition has stepped up, and we’re excited that we are part of what we hope to be a long relationship. The parents are excited, the kids are learning things that we could not offer at the club on our own — it’s a win-win for all.”

After a successful pilot program with the Boys and Girls Club last summer, the Coalition green-lit the program as a central component of its developing Onset Bay Center. This center will provide a community space and educational space in the renovated Onset Bathhouse, and free high-quality programs that will help locals connect with their environment and their region.

This summer’s programming will run until mid-August. Next up, construction on the Onset Bathhouse and the restoration of Wickets Island is expected to begin early fall.

Categories: On the Bay, On the Land

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The Buzzards Bay Coalition is a membership-supported organization dedicated to improving the health of the Buzzards Bay ecosystem for all through education, conservation, research, and advocacy.

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