ROCKLAND, Maine — Clubs outside the youth sports mainstream, such as sailing, have issues that parallel those that crop up in mainstream sports.
Erica Crain of Warren, whose twin daughters, Isabella and Louisa, are in the Rockland Community Sailing program, feels people draw the wrong conclusion about her girls’ sport.
“Part of the problem with sailing for me is that it has an upscale image,” she said. “I don’t want sailing to have a reputation for being expensive.”
KC Heyniger, waterfront programs director for The Apprenticeshop, home of Rockland Community Sailing, hopes people realize that he and his organization are trying to keep sailing expenses down.
“High school sailing, per sailor, per season, is $175,” said Heyniger, adding that the sailors meet twice a week for the six-week fall program. “The after-school program [five weeks, 10 practices] is $150.”
“It’s priced to keep it as affordable as possible,” Heyniger said.
The 30-hour summer program is $280 for five full days or 10 half-days.
Money goes toward the cost of putting the large, wooden floats in the water in the spring and taking them out in the fall, cleaning up after storms and keeping the docks, other infrastructure and boats in good condition.
“Water is free, but operating on the water is not,” said Heyniger.
The boats purchased by the program are used and volunteer help from Rockland Yacht Club members aids in keeping overall costs down.
One of the most expensive pieces of personal sailing gear is the drysuit. The suit, which retails for about $500, keeps the wearer dry no matter how long he or she is in the water.
The intermediate step some people take, depending on which season they sail, is to get a less expensive wetsuit instead of a drysuit. Because it needs to be wet to work properly, a sailor can’t stay in cold water as long before getting back in the boat or being rescued.
“In my daughters’ second season, we set up a group purchase [of drysuits],” said Crain. “If we bought a minimum of six, we’d get a 10 percent to 15 percent discount.
“We didn’t buy the recommended shoes, we bought canvas shoes. … And everybody has to have life jackets. Slowly over the years we’ve accumulated most of the gear. It’s expensive.”
Heyniger found another company, run by a former high school coach, that offers 20 percent off to people who can prove they’re part of a high school program.
Crain and other sailing parents have had to turn to car-pooling to away matches, just like their hockey and soccer colleagues, because sailing isn’t recognized by their schools as an official varsity program. That means no buses for road trips.
“We usually send full cars, so every child who needs one is able to get a ride,” said Crain.
She even sailed into the spirit world while trying to save money.
“I did have a premonition that I would go into Goodwill and find dinghy booties,” she said.
Crain had searched many times before with no luck.
This time, she popped into the Rockland store and there they were, in the size she was looking for.
“My dream came true!” she said.
Sailing also has its scholarship program, which Heyniger finds especially important since the sailing program was founded in 1998 by Ruth “Woofie” Parker and others in order to provide Rockland youth with a low-cost opportunity to sail.
In that vein, the yacht club helps Rockland Community Sailing put on the youth Red Jacket Regatta, which consists of teams from 10 programs and up to 80 sailors.
It works out well for everyone, according to Heyniger.
Rockland Community Sailing puts on the regatta, the sailors become familiar with the yacht club — and one day may become members — and some of the money from the entry fees goes to the sailing program’s scholarship fund to get more boys and girls sailing.
“The key for us is we never prevent anyone from sailing who doesn’t have money,” said Heyniger.
“Most of the time, people don’t need a free ride and don’t want it,” he said. “They just need a little bit of help.”