Nestled among North Carolina pines and bordered by 3,000 feet of Neuse River coastline, Camp Sea Gull and Camp Seafarer provide preteens, teens and families with great sea and land experiences. These YMCA branch camps are located in Arapahoe, 25 miles from New Bern and 30 miles from Beaufort.
Camp Sea Gull for boys began in 1948, and in 1961, Camp Seafarer for girls opened three miles downstream. Sea Gull holds over 700 kids, while Seafarer holds 575. The camps’ mission has remained the same: to foster character building within a safe, nurturing environment for campers hailing from all over the world.
“We use seamanship as a tool for character development, independence and confidence,” says Brandon Blackman, the camps’ Director of Marketing and Communications. “We teach you how to sail, but we also teach you to make decisions on your own. Sailing is our premier program, but character development is the prime reason for the camp.”
Sailboat and power boating are taught by U.S. Coast Guard licensed captains. Training encourages good seamanship, safe boating, navigational skills and maintenance. Boating experience is not necessary. “We’ve got kids in Lightning training who only get on a boat at camp,” says Blackman. Kayaking, canoeing, skiing, windsurfing, swimming and wakeboarding are also available.
Campers focus on the experience. “We are Unplugged. We allow them to bring something like an iPod to listen to music, but that’s allowed only at rest period and before bed. No cell phones allowed or Internet,” says Blackman.
“Each counselor has 12-14 kids. [The] cabin counselor, the one who lives with them, keeps track of their goals. Each cabin provides a small community; campers are learning to live with 12 different people with different backgrounds, and values. When they come home, they come back different people,” continues Blackman.
Campers share meals, cabins, and camp wide events, but choose individual activities daily. “Winds are usually lighter in the morning and the younger kids sail then, while the older kids do land activities. In the afternoon, they switch,” says Blackman.
Tennis, archery, climbing, golf at Camp Sea Gull, and horseback riding at Camp Seafarer balance the sea options. Campers develop a respect for their environment, learn consideration of others and develop a sense of sportsmanship. Each camper records his or her progress and skill level in “Land and Sea Manuals” to acquire ranks.
Four program types are offered: day programs for campers living in the area, overnight weekly programs, off-site cruises for Adventures in Leadership, and Family week and weekends.
“If a family is really interested in learning about sailing, they would want to try the Family Camp week. They can check out sunfish and sailing; but our weekends are more like, try everything once, weekends,” says Blackman. Mother/daughter or father/son weekends also provide unique camp experiences.
Overnight programs include one-week STARTER camps for ages 6-9, a two-week transitional MARINERS’ camp with four age groups including campers from 7-16. The most popular four-week, premier SEAMANSHIP camp covers ages 7-16. Additionally, the CAMPER in LEADERSHIP TRAINING (CILT) for mentoring younger campers, and two-week ADVENTURE cruises are offered.
The camps have a fleet of over 300 boats which includes Sunfish, Lightning, Opti, 420s, Flying Scots and Chill Boats. Campers begin with the Sunfish, progressing through the ranks of Sailor, Skipper and Master, including a proficiency in terminology, water skills, rigging, docking and capsizing procedures.
Blackman explains that some ranks include written tests. “Our Lightning is our premier boat. It can take years to get the training, and the training lasts 2-3 weeks. [The] certificate is a big deal. Kids set their goals 3-5 years out and keep coming back. We don’t just pass you. When you’ve passed Lightning training, you’ve earned it.” Of course, U.S. Sailing and U.S. Power boating certifications are offered.
Campers aging out at 16 may choose an Adventure cruise, the “Sail-On,” to the North Carolina Outer Banks, or “BVI”, to the British Virgin Islands, for 2 weeks, with 2 counselors and a captain. Twelve campers live on a 71-foot gaff rigged schooner, the Jeanie B. or a 50-foot mono hull boat in the Caribbean. With a sailing proficiency prerequisite, they cook, clean, sail, learn and explore, earning the US Sailing certification, Coastal Navigation and Cruising.
Camp costs vary with the different programs, and scholarships are available; alumni and parents provide most of the funding to keep the camps going. “The camps are always filled and there’s a need for camps like these, more than ever,” says Blackman.
http://www.seagull-seafarer.org Camp Sea Gull, 218 Sea Gull Landing, Arapahoe, N.C. 28510 Tel: (252) 249-1111 or Camp Seafarer, 2744 Seafarer Road, Arapahoe, N.C. 28510, Tel: (252) 249-1212
OCTOBER 10 – 17
Camps Seafarer and Sea Gull will host the 2014 Sunfish World and Youth Worlds Championship. “Arapahoe is ideal for racing venues. The water is safe for kids to sail. There are no rocks anywhere, and the deepest areas are about 12 feet. The current is minimal with about 1– 1 1/2 knots at the most, and the wind is usually constant from the SW,” says Jeanie B Captain Paul Del Rio. www.jeanieb.com