A day on the water with SailMaine instructors and students on Casco Bay.
It's hard not to notice SailMaine's fleet when you walk along Portland's Eastern Promenade. In the summer, between Ocean Gateway and East End Beach, the bay is spotted with sailboats. This isn't a yacht club, this is the Junior Program at SailMaine.
SailMaine's mission is to provide affordable access to the water through sailing and educational programs. This past year they gave out over $55,000 in scholarships to youth. This summer about 200 students participated in the SailMaine Junior Program in Portland.
I grew up Downeast and, for me, sailing was never an accessible pastime. Sailboats and marinas seemed synonymous with wealth and leisure, not for folks like me. SailMaine works to break down those barriers in Southern Maine. Some of the students at SailMaine have never been on the water, let alone operated a boat, until their two week course here. The organization is getting youth out on the water and, in the process, providing them with the confidence to navigate Casco Bay and instilling a sense of belonging on the harbor.
During my interviews, I heard stories about SailMaine students going on to Maine Maritime Academy, the Landing School, and Portland Yacht Services. The sea has a way of getting into your bones and some students go on to become active members of the working waterfront. In the words of one of SailMaine's signs: "Maine is full of coastline - more coastline than anywhere else so why shouldn't all kids be sailors?" Better yet, why shouldn't all kids feel confident that, when they grow up, they can work and play on Maine's many miles of coast?
To hear SailMaine's story, watch the slideshow above. If you prefer audio only, go here.
Thanks to Griffin Gent, Bridget Ruff, and the staff and students at SailMaine for sharing their story.
Wharfside: Stories of Portland Harbor's Working Waterfront explore the people, places, and work in Portland Harbor through photos, audio stories, and video. This project is made possible by the Waterfront Alliance and Casco Bay Estuary Partnership. Photos for this story by Jenny Rebecca Nelson. Music for this piece provided by Ross Gallagher. Animation assistance from Lake Buckley.
Produced by Galen Koch © 2016