For many in and around Gig Harbor, there is more recreation done on water than on land. While plenty of locals enjoy a good walk, hike or bike ride, many also enjoy paddling their kayak or stand-up paddleboard, a good hard swim or a relaxing cruise around the bay with the wind as propulsion. Sailing can be as relaxing or as intense as you would like it to be, and volunteers from the Gig Harbor Yacht Club are helping introduce this way of life to the next generation.
Started in 2010, the Gig Harbor Yacht Club Junior Sail Program is a place where young people in the community can go to learn the finer points of sailing. More than 700 kids and teens ages 6 to 18 have taken part in the program whose vision is to inspire local area youth to have a life-long dedication to and love of sailing.
Whether students have never stepped foot on a boat before or are looking to improve their skills and techniques enough to enter racing, there are experienced sailors eager to help local children gain confidence on the water. One of the more popular programs put on through the youth sail program is its summer camps. During the week of camp, children are divided into age groups and are taught skills based on their experience level. Guppies camp is designed for ages 6 to 8. Here the goal is to get younger children comfortable around water and boats, so the camp is a mixture of land and water-based education. Students learn basic knot tying, terminology, how wind and sails work together to move the boat, and basic water safety skills. Novice camp is for 8- to 11-year-olds with little to no sailing experience. These students again learn basic water safety and more advanced knot tying as well as basic sailing skills like being able to tack, gibe, steer and trim. Teen Sail Camp is for ages 12 to 18 and teaches young people all the basics as well as working together in two-person teams. More advanced boat-rigging and seamanship lessons are taught, and this is often when teens decide whether they prefer a more leisurely sailing journey or wish to pursue the racing program.
Racing in a regatta is thrilling for all involved as it takes mental sharpness as well as physical endurance. From the 8th grade on, teens who want to add a competitive edge to their sailing skills can join up through the Gig Harbor Yacht Club with summer and/or school-year racing programs. During the summer months, students from the greater Tacoma area join together to form the Narrows Race Team and participate in several competitive regattas. The program runs June through August with students practicing twice per week in preparation for at least five competitions throughout the summer. As school begins, classes and races don’t end for those who are truly developing a passion for the sport. The Northwest Interscholastic Sailing Association holds both a fall and spring competitive series. Students will again practice two to three times per week after school and compete throughout the year. This program is open to grades 9 through 12, and students must be enrolled in a local high school to participate.
No matter what program your child enrolls it, they will be given instruction by knowledgeable locals who are very familiar with the local waterways. The Yacht Club has three styles of boat for kids and many tracking boats for instructors to closely monitor the activities on the water.
But who says only the kids should have all the fun on the water? Whether you have a vessel docked in the harbor, paddleboard, kayak, paddleboat or no watercraft at all, mark your calendars for the first weekend of June for Maritime Gig Festival. The annual celebration of local maritime history, passions and civic pride will be held the weekend of June 3 and 4. Music, vendors, food, drinks and tons of activities dot Harborview Drive next to Skansie Brothers Park. The Maritime Gig Festival has been a local favorite for years drawing people from all over the Northwest to enjoy a beautiful fun summer celebration of one of the most beautiful communities in the area. Back again this year is the Yo’ Ho’ Harbor Grand Parade. Typically around 100 businesses, officials, civic groups and others line up for a fun family parade. If your business or organization wants to participate, you have until May 12 to register if space allows. Savvy locals should already be on the hunt for the perfect natural circle to enter in the ever-popular round rock contest. Cash prizes will be doled out to the five people who find the smoothest and most perfectly rounded rocks or stones. The family fun run is a great way for little ones to burn off a little excess energy before the parade gets going. The short run travels along the parade route as people who’ve lined up early for the parade help cheer on families to the finish line. The first 100 registrants get a fun run T-shirt, so don’t delay. Beautiful customs and factory-restored classics will also be on hand at the annual Wheels on the Water Car Show. Guests can mingle around the park looking at some incredible machines, often with the owners on hand so you can ask questions about their unique rides. There are 14 categories these vehicles are being judged by, and winners are announced Sunday afternoon. For more information on the Festival, you can follow them on Facebook or check in with the Gig Harbor Chamber of Commerce.
The waterway is the lifeblood of the Gig Harbor community as it’s used for both commerce and recreation, drawing visitors to the area which helps grow the local economy. Residents have a passion for water-based recreation, and whether it’s programs teaching kids at an early age to enjoy the lifelong hobby of sailing or a family friendly weekend celebrating the local maritime history, there is clearly great pride in this community. Enjoy another summer on the water!