The Windward Bound Sail Training Camp is not your typical summer camp.
It's a camp where teens get the chance to live out a voyaging experience on one of the famous tall ships, proving them the opportunity to sail to some of the most breathtaking places on the Great Lakes.
The program is for high school students ages 14 to 18. The teens sail aboard the Appledore IV, an 85-foot schooner, and the Appledore V, an 65-foot schooner. The two ships are widely recognized in the Great Lakes Bay Region.
While on the voyage, teens are involved in every aspect of running and maintaining the vessel –– from navigation, seamanship, and the art of traditional sailing to learning the importance of freshwater science and the ecology of the Great Lakes.
Captain Matthew Tkatch explains this program also teaches teens how to have real life, face-to- face conversations, which is something some teens struggle with these days.
“The biggest thing is character building, self-realization, and cause and effect to their actions,” Tkatch says. “It's a huge thing. I’ve watched six kids come to the boat not knowing each other, all standing four feet apart, not talking to each other, not knowing what they are doing.”
Once the boat sails beyond cell phone signals, the teens are forced to talk to each other.
“We put them in situations where they have to engage with one another and work as a team,” Tkatch says. “Interaction is the first valuable thing they learn. They are engaging with each other, finding commonalities with each other from all walks of life.”
Along the way, the teens learn responsibility, good work ethics, and the art of observation.
“They can take those anywhere in the workforce. They are learning a craft, they are learning communication, and, most importantly, they are learning self-awareness.”
First Mate Sydney Bickerstaff echoes Tkatch’s thoughts on what the teens learn.
“This program gives teens a good hint into other careers,” Bickerstaff says. “What you can glean from this is that you can work in the tall ship industry. You can go the educational route, teach science, teach history.” Ships also need mechanics and engineers.
“There's so many different avenues that you can go from working on a ship like this. Career development is huge, being able to show teens what else is out there is key.”
Delaney, a 17-year-old former Windward Bound Student, was recently hired as a full-time crew member. She says life on the tall ships is exciting.
“I like being able to go to all different places and travel,” Delaney says.
“My favorite mode of transportation is by boat, so it was cool being able to see it from a whole new perspective. I was also able to learn a whole lot. My favorite thing to do is raising the sails."
Delaney says she also made. At first, she says she was a little shy it was hard to start a conversation. As the trip progressed, it became easier to talk to others. "The camp is a really cool experience and I recommend it to other teens."
Royce, a 15-year-old returning Windward Bound student says the experience was a great fit for him because of his love for sailing. “I like sailing a lot. I go sailing in the summer with my own boat, so it's really cool going on a tall ship."
During the winter, Windward Bound trainees still have the chance to get involved by signing up for routine maintenance days. Maintenance days take place a few times a month.
"We just get them involved in some of the projects we are doing over the winter,” Bickerstaff says.
“We are varnishing the spars right now, and working on the standing rigging, building new blocks, etc. We just try to make it as hands on and engage them as much as possible, so it's more of a learning experience.”
To be considered for the program, teens must complete an application before midnight April 3. Applicants should be in high school and 14 to 18 years old. They should be interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education and will need a teacher’s recommendation. Sailing experience is not required, but campers should be comfortable aboard a boat. Campers should be able to swim 50 yards and tread water for 5 minutes.
Those who are selected will receive a full scholarship for their voyage, thanks to the generosity of local donors.
Voyages last anywhere from six to nine days, and will take students throughout Lake Erie, Lake Huron, and Lake Michigan for the 2020 season. Voyages take place in June, July, and August.