In the summer months, the waters of Marina del Rey rarely flatten and becalm, as they are constantly being stirred by all the boating activity that the season brings.
Families finally make it down to the boat again, racing season is in full swing, water temperatures become perfect for fishing, Catalina Island beckons and kids are darting around everywhere involved in the various youth programs the area plays host to.
One of the newest of these programs is Santa Monica Windjammers Yacht Club’s Junior Jammers — which is currently in the pilot stage and is one of the new Junior Big Boat pilot programs being tested across the nation.
US Sailing hopes that by offering a youth cruising alternative to junior racing, other kids who drop out of racing may stick with boating.
Most youth boating programs involve kids being taught sailing or kayaking by being given a small boat and receiving instruction throughout the course of the program.
In the Junior Jammers, the kids are given the opportunity to operate a 40-foot keelboat together under the supervision of certified instructors.
The first method, of kids operating their own vessels, has been tried and proved to instill confidence and independence in the children involved, but this new type of program has some interesting educational potential.
Both means have the same fundamental ideal of imparting the responsibilities and tasks that boating encompasses with the hope and aim that they will someday manifest into applicable life skills, but the keelboat method inevitably forces the focus to be more interactive and team-oriented.
Another benefit of the keelboat experience is that the satisfaction of collectively managing an 18,000-pound vehicle as it gallops through the swells of the Pacific is an impressive and indelible life lesson for a child.
“Obviously, the idea is to, of course, teach the kids how to sail,” said Santa Monica Windjammers Yacht Club (SMWYC) vice commodore David Lumian, who is spearheading the program. “But it also speaks to teamwork, self esteem and critical thinking.”
The other promising element within the concept of the Junior Jammers is its ability to stand alone as an independent program or work with other youth programs.
Although it doesn’t need a prerequisite, it can act like the next step for kids who have become bored with small boat sailing or children who don’t enjoy the racing aspect that sometimes gets introduced when a certain level of proficiency is reached.
“It takes things to another level,” said Lumian. “The kids who have already learned to sail on the smaller boats can get a chance to learn something new by moving on to larger boats. So it can act like an entry or a second step for the kids.”
For these young sailors, both styles of programs are rooted in simply having a good time. In the two weeks they spend being introduced to the world of boating they learn sailing and seamanship skills such as safety, knot-tying, tacking, jibing, sail trim, steering and piloting.
“It was wonderful and remarkable how quickly the kids adapted to a new and alien environment,” said SMWYC member Rick Dinon, who lent his Hunter 40, Attitude Adjustment, to the Junior Jammers. “It reminded me how fast kids learn at this age.
“It must have taken me ten years to remember ‘port’ and ‘starboard’ — they learned it in ten minutes.
“They formed small teams to get things done. I think the most important lesson they learned was to work together to get a job done.”
As for the future of the program, Lumian said, “We look forward to expanding Junior Jammers next year.
“It is a natural next step for the Boys and Girls Club kids that started sailing with the “Fast n Fun” program on Mother’s Beach [another youth program Lumian started] and the after-school program at the Marina Sheriff’s Station.
“At the same time, kids that have never sailed before can jump in and start learning on this kind of a keelboat program.”