Hoist the mainsail and scuttle the jib!
No, we haven’t taken up a second career as pirates (and Talk Like a Pirate Day isn’t until September). But we’re pretty gung-ho about kids and sailing.
It turns out you don’t have to be a blueblood to take advantage of that giant expanse of water we call Lake Michigan. Kids of all ages and backgrounds can learn how to sail, thanks to the flotilla of sailing options across Chicagoland.
The Chicago Yacht Club’s junior sailing program starts at age 5 with the adorable-sounding “Dinghy Demons” class, an intro to the “sights, sounds and feel of sailing.” As kids age, they learn sailing terms and techniques, safety skills and boat handling. Older kids (up to age 18) can focus on specific skills, such as racing a 420 or day sailing in a keelboat. Soon enough, they’ll be asking to take a yacht out for a spin, rather than the family car.
Charlie, pictured above, got an early start at the Chicago Yacht Club when he was four. He says he likes the friends he’s made through sailing, as well as the opportunity to be outside and “learn a lot.” His dad, Matt, also a sailor, says, “As a parent, I like the independence it fosters in him, as well as that it teaches him that he has to work to succeed at things.”
Other sailing clubs, such as the Columbia Yacht Club, Chicago Corinthian Yacht Club, The Burnham Park Yacht Club and Sheridan Shore Yacht Club, also offer junior sailing training, as does the Chicago Park District.
So even if your kids don’t know their port from their starboard (and can’t tie their shoes, let alone a boat-worthy knot), your mini-mariners can get a five-star education where they’ll end up a little less Gilligan, a little more Skipper. And maybe they’ll even let you tag along—no tow-rope required.