Over the years, we’ve witnessed a lot of feel good programs, where local groups and organizations come together to help others overcome adversity. Recently, I learned that The Buffalo Yacht Club had teamed up with the WNY Maritime Charter School, to offer cadets from the Maritime Careers class a chance to learn how to sail, courtesy of the Buffalo Yacht Club Foundation.
The other day I swung by The Buffalo Yacht Club, to talk to club member Howard Hain, who is an advocate for the program. Hain was standing with Master Chief Petty Officer (USCG Ret.) Scott Pugh, who was orchestrating the program. Pugh teaches Naval Science at the school, and feels that there are important life lessons that go hand-in hand with getting students out on the waters, instead of simply learning in the classroom. The program also includes boat building exercises at The Buffalo Maritime Center, via the Hand to Hand program. The diverse programming offers students a chance to get their hands dirty one day, before getting their feet wet the following day.
What is especially important to remember is that these young people have never sailed, or even interacted with the water for that matter. Most of them have had no training in building anything from scratch, yet they start by building their own tool boxes, which they get to take home with them once the course is over. After building the toolboxes, the next step is to build an actual rowboat – the same rowboats that can be seen floating in the middle of Delaware Lake. Pugh told me that some of the students were deathly afraid of the boats that they were making, and could not comprehend that they would one day be able to say, with pride, that they had built them, and could row them.
By the time they are finished with the three week program, the students have built boats, and learned to sail on Lake Erie. None of this would be possible without the incredible working relationship between the Buffalo Yacht Club, The Buffalo Maritime Center, and the WNY Maritime Charter School. This is a brand new program that is being implemented with hopes that it can be replicated in years to come. The joint effort just goes to show that anything is possible, as long as you have the tools, the expertise, and the facilities that all three institutions retain, and share.
On the day that I witnessed the students learning to tack back and forth along the Black Rock Channel, I could not believe that this was the first time that any of them had ever sailed. Sailing instructor Katie Braungart, who designed the sailing curriculum for the students, was genuinely impressed with their ability to take the knowledge that they had learned in the classroom and apply it to the real world. As I followed behind the sailboat in a dinghy, I noticed one student look over the edge of the boat and exclaim, “Is that seaweed?!” I also heard that another student had to be reassured that there were not sharks in Lake Erie. This is how far removed these students have been from a waterfront that is mere minutes away from where they grew up.
Moving forward, the students will be intimately familiar with the waterfront. They will have a practical understanding of math and science. They will also be better candidates for employment, which is the end goal of any program of this nature. Most of these students are not dreaming of college. Rather, they are bent on finding a good job, using the trade skills that they are learning. Those skills include being able to listen, follow commands, understand safety regulations, work with tools, work together, think on the fly, make important decisions, and deal with their fears, while broadening their horizons.
These types of programs are funded through the BYC Foundation, which is always in need of donations to fund the innovative programming. The Buffalo Yacht Club Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization and contributions are tax deductible subject to applicable law.