At Close Quarters
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At Close Quarters

Part 8 — Bugging Out in Clipper Cove

Written originally for Latitude 38 — Sightings

With the Treasure Island Sailing Center’s youth summer camp coming to an end, you would think their hard working staff might choose to take a breather. After all, it has been a tricky summer season for both kids and staff to navigate. Social distancing rules and safety provisions have meant that classroom activities have had to move outdoors — even throughout some of San Francisco’s hotter days. The kids have had to spread out a lot more, and well — how do you stop kids from the touchy, boisterous and social people they are?

But, TISC staff Laura DeFelice and Hana Kim Rupnow have shown no signs of wanting to luff their sails. As TISC’s Program Manager and STEM Education respectively, they’ve taken youth participants around the Bay, despite the pandemic — through “field trips” that teach navigation and seamanship.

As part of a recent field trip filming session, I was invited to play “Captain Kai”, a sailor with a less-than-convincing resemblance to the notorious Captain William Bligh of “Bounty” fame, albeit far more likeable (hopefully). Hana Kim explained that she chose the name Kai, not for its rhyming with “Bligh”, but because it means “water” in the Hawaiian language. With the exception of my homemade period costume, it all clicked.

Of course, a TISC field trip wouldn’t be complete without actual sailing. From TISC’s fleet of boats — ranging from Optis to J24’s — I requested “whichever one is quickest to rig, quickest to get out there”. We scooted over to TISC’s 9-strong fleet of Laser Performance Bugs, being 8.6” rotomolded plastic bathtubs which require nothing more than plugging in a mast and boom to the deck by hand, then lashing the whole lot together.

While Sailing World has previously dismissed the Bug as “too small for adults to sail”, I can tell you that’s not true. Perhaps too small to sail without immediately getting a wet backside, but ducking the boom doesn’t require any real gymnastics, either. Furthermore, the Bug’s cockpit comes with a built-in beverage holder; a feature of the most respectable pleasure craft.

Off the dock, it was a joyous couple of tacks over to Clipper Cove’s “beach” — a hidden gem in the City! — where we would film some of our field trip segments. The Bug moved effortlessly in light air when I shifted my weight to the low side; it was simple and intuitive, the most carefree sail I’d had in a long time.

After filming had wrapped up, the TISC team invited my husband to also take a turn at the helm. Made brazen by my experience, I bundled myself under the boom — “where the kids sit as crew”, Laura explained — and sat backwards in something like the Happy Baby yoga pose. With the Bug’s optimum crew weight being in the range of 66 and 154 lbs, we weren’t optimizing for hull speed — but she still managed to canter around under our combined 310 lbs.

Well, Sailing World, we called your bluff. The Bug may not be a boat for adults, but a pair of big kids can have a lot of fun in it!

After hauling out our tiny launch, I got to business with Laura. I was like a kid looking headily at their last days at summer camp, not wanting it to end. “Can’t we host a Bug regatta here on Clipper Cove?”, I pleaded, “it would be safe and LOTS of fun!”

Laura smiled serenely and said she would consider it. And hopefully with that, the deal was done. After all, I could tell that both she and Hana Kim have the small boat sailing bug, too.




True sailing stories and salty tales by Ros de Vries — a small boat bowgirl in San Francisco.

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Ros de Vries

Ros de Vries

I’m an avid sailor and community firebrand.

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