FSDB students set sail for unique experience


For the past four years, St. Augustine Sailing has partnered with the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind (FSDB) to provide a unique experience. FSBD is a fully accredited, tuition-free state public school for eligible pre-K and K-12 students who are deaf/hard of hearing, blind/visually impaired and deafblind. On June 18, St. Augustine Sailing welcomed 14 of FSBD’s summer campers with vision impairments and six companions on board two of their yachts for a morning of sailing.

But this wasn’t just a passive boat tour. The captains and crew engaged the students in all aspects of running the boats, using learning techniques devised from many years of teaching sailing to students of all abilities.

“We try to go all out to give them a really great experience,” said Toste Muniz, office manager at St. Augustine Sailing. “We have a photographer come on the sails, so each child gets a beautiful photo behind the helm. It’s just a really special sail, not just for the kids, but for us, too. One of the little girls hugged me so tightly at the end and told me she loved it so much she never wanted to leave. It’s really an indescribable feeling.”

St. Augustine Sailing captains Chris De Hart and Dale Edgar departed the docks on the sailing yachts Wind Dancer and Far Niente. The crew tied different knots and allowed the kids to feel each turn of the line, learning the shapes through touch. The captains talked about the wind, and the children experienced tacks and maneuvers by feeling the wind on their faces. They used sounds to learn how to adjust the sails, and every child got a chance to take the helm and feel the pull of the water on the rudder.

“As a captain and instructor, it really reminds us how important it is to utilize all the senses,” said De Hart. “So much of sailing is being in tune to the sounds and feel of the boat, engine and weather.”

Back at the dock, the instructors used custom-built miniature boats with tiny sails that moved and gave each child their own small block of wood with a little cleat and piece of line to keep.

“This is an experience we return to each year because it’s exciting and interactive,” says Jenny Enache, FSDB summer camp director. “So often, our kids end up being passive passengers. St. Augustine Sailing takes the time to provide true hands-on learning, allowing them to explore and ask questions and giving them time to process and get comfortable. They’re not just learning about sailing, they’re gaining confidence. Rose Ann [Points] and her staff are always incredibly kind and thoughtful, and they consider the kids’ safety.”