On & Off Campus Blog

Not always smooth sailing
Not always smooth sailing
Maia Sandell '20


Over this past summer, I worked as a sailing instructor in Scituate, Massachusetts. I had worked as an intern for the previous two summers, but this was my first year teaching sailing on my own. I was given multiple classes of kids whose ages ranged from seven to fourteen. Before, I had been accustomed to there being an older instructor to create lesson plans, drive the motor boat, and take care of most responsibilities. This year I would be solely responsible for teaching the groups of kids how to sail. Although I was excited for the summer to start, I was also nervous to be in charge.

As the summer progressed, I grew to love the job. I spent every weekday of the summer teaching kids how to sail. I taught them about different aspects of sailing, including how to capsize, race, and tie knots. The majority of the kids loved sailing on the water, while others only came to class for the days that we went to the beach. Two of my main jobs as an instructor were to make sure the kids were having fun, while still staying safe. Most days I was able to keep smiles on their faces, yet not every day was easy on the water. 

One day, I was running races for the junior sailing race team. The kids were middle-school age and they were all greatly passionate and talented sailors. It was a windy day in August, and they were exuding excitement about racing on the water. As they were finishing their last race, I heard one boy yell out, “THERE’S A SHARK ON THE RACE COURSE!” I whipped my head over to where he was sailing, and I saw a large fin poking out of the dark water next to his boat. 

All of the kids began to frantically sail over to me, where I was sitting in the coach boat. As they were sailing, I took a closer look at the shark. It was moving slowly and hovering at the surface of the water. It seemed like a shark, but as it neared the boat I realized it looked more like an Atlantic Sunfish. Sunfish are often mistaken for sharks, and they are completely harmless. I called out to the kids and told them not to worry, that it was not a shark, and that they were all safe. The sunfish ultimately came right over to the motorboat, and we watched it sink back down underwater. 

Looking back on my summer as a sailing instructor, that was one of the moments that stuck out to me most. Each taught me about leadership and responsibility, and I ultimately had a great experience being an instructor. Although not every day was “smooth sailing,” it made me proud to see the kids whom I taught become great sailors by the end of the summer.