By Graham Blundell
The Society for the Education of American Sailors (SEAS) has four chapters, in Monmouth, Bergen and Morris counties in New Jersey and Westchester County in New York. Each chapter operates autonomously, under the guidance of a “national” committee, but they all have the same Mission Statement:
To promote and encourage small craft activity as recreation and sport by providing low cost learn-to-sail programs and to encourage relationships among all persons interested in sailing craft and water safety. All persons regardless of race, creed, sex or national origin shall be eligible for membership.
For over 30 years, SEAS has offered Basic Sailing classes to the general public. With both classroom and on-the-water sessions, we instruct students in the fundamentals of safety on the water, how the wind and the current work to propel a sailboat, and the operation of a small sailing dinghy-type sailboat. Everyone gets an opportunity, with a qualified instructor, to actually sail a boat for themselves. SEAS Monmouth runs our courses through the Brookdale Community College Lifelong Learning program.
For many students, this leads to a lifetime interest in sailing, and SEAS also addresses that. SEAS Monmouth has a fleet of sailboats, not only the boats used in the classes but also an O’Day 28 with an inboard diesel, which sails out of Perth Amboy Marina on the Raritan River, and a Rhodes 22 that sails out of Atlantic Highlands Marina on Sandy Hook Bay. The smaller boats – there are routinely three in slips ready for members to sail – are on the Shrewsbury River in the Oceanport/North Long Branch area. Each of these locations is a wonderful venue for a sail of several hours’ duration.
We have a group of qualified skippers who conduct evening “activity sails” twice a week, for which members (and their guests) can sign up for a nominal donation. There is a skipper qualification process that all members are encouraged to go through; the club offers mentoring to learn and hone the skills needed to operate these boats. Once skippers achieve the qualification, they can also reserve the boats for a private sail and invite friends to join them.
With this fleet available, members can go sailing on a regular basis without owning a boat or spending a lot of money. Members are also encouraged to learn how to do boat maintenance – SEAS is a volunteer organization and the boats need maintenance just like all other boats!
In addition to these local sailing opportunities, the chapter runs an annual weekend-long “cruising course” out of Rock Hall, Maryland on chartered boats in the 40-foot range. This weekend – preceded by four classroom sessions – gives students experience with larger boats, and with living aboard, anchoring out overnight, going into marinas, and dealing with whatever weather the weekend happens to throw at us. Many members, after tasting “the cruising life,” go on to gain the experience necessary to qualify as bareboat charter skippers.
Which leads to something else SEAS offers: weeklong (or longer) charter trips in locations all around the world. Through the years, the club has been to many destinations in the Caribbean, Greece, Spain, New Zealand, Tahiti and Croatia to name a few. Often these trips are combined with a week on land to enjoy the country. With group rates and each person only paying their own share of the charter costs, these trips are a remarkably affordable way to sail in exotic locations.
Of course there’s also an educational and a social aspect to SEAS. We have monthly meetings with a speaker discussing a topic of relevance to sailors, whether it be a New York Harbor pilot describing the task of bringing huge ocean liners and freighters into the harbor, a university professor telling us about the diversity of the local marine life, or a representative of Clean Ocean Action telling us about water quality issues and what we can do to help. These meetings also offer members an opportunity to socialize, share stories, and arrange sailing trips. We have parties several times a year, too.
More information, including a membership form and a Basic Sailing class schedule, is available on the SEAS Monmouth chapter’s website at www.sailseas.com/monmouth. There are also links to the Bergen, Morris and Westchester websites if those would be geographically more convenient. Each chapter offers a similar range of activities and sailing opportunities. Check it out and give us a try! ■
Graham Blundell is a member of the SEAS Monmouth Chapter.