by Jane HK
He may play banjo while sitting on a high ropes platform, but sailing is Michael’s true calling! Michael Marks has been at camp for 10 summers and his upcoming 11th summer will also mark his third year as sail staff. Learn about why Michael loves cruising Maple Lake and how he learned to sail in this week’s blog!
When did you learn how to sail? Who taught you?
As a camper I had always loved sailing and had always tried to learn more and more each summer. But it wasn’t until my first year in Barak when the head of sail, Ilya was my cabin’s specialist that I really learned. In every chug, cabin period, and many Menucha’s and Chofesh’s (free time), he really made an effort to teach me the ins and outs of sailing. It was that summer that I decided I wanted to be sail staff.
What made you want to work as sail staff?
Sail was always my favorite activity at camp. And as staff, to be able to do it every day, I couldn’t ask for a better summer job! I get to see the whole camp come through and teach campers about something I love. And as an added bonus I get to spend all day hanging out at (in my opinion) the most beautiful spot on camp.
Can you think of a time when you taught someone to sail/ got them to go sailing when they were really scared to?
It was towards the end of my first summer on sail when a group of youngest Lehavot boy campers asked to take a boat out on their own. I had sailed with this group of boys before and I knew that they were pretty confident in the basics of steering and how to operate the sails. We decided to let them have a go and that we’d coach them from the motor boat that we use to follow sailors and ensure safety on the lake. Everything was going great for the first half of the period, but eventually the wind started to pick up. When the wind caused the boat to tip towards capsize-like conditions, many of the campers got really scared and wanted to get out of the boat but we encouraged them to stay and with the support of their cabin mates they sailed on. By the end of the period they had the boat under control and were really rippin’ it. They were probably the youngest group of kids to ever take a boat on their own. We gave them the “cabin sailing award” at the end of the session banquet.
What’s your favourite part of sailing on Maple Lake?
The sail docks are perfectly positioned to teach sailing because of the way the wind usually blows on the lake, the sail area is fed through the channel between the point and Durbin Island. This makes the sailing area a little calmer which is great for teaching inexperienced sailors, and makes docking and rigging much easier. What I really like about this funny wind pattern is that to get to the main lake, you get the little navigation challenge of getting through the channel with a strong headwind. I like to challenge myself to get out of the bay in as few tacks (turns through the direction of the wind) as possible. We even make a little competition of it sometimes!
What’s a favourite memory you have of sailing at camp?
One visitor’s day, my younger brother Robbie and I (we were 11 and 13 at the time) were really excited to show our dad, who was a sail specialist for Camp Northland (when Northland was on Maple Lake!), our new sailing skills. We were just getting away from the dock when a strong gust hit us. I leaned way out of the boat to try to balance us and without warning the gust died and I fell right out of the boat. My dad and the sail staff all watched from the dock as Robbie tried to get the boat back under control and as I struggle to climb back in while the boat spun in circles. We all had a good laugh about it later and now I’m very excited for Robbie to join me as sail staff for this summer.
Can you give us any sailing tips?
I think the best tip I can give is what Ilya always told me, you have to feel the boat. It’s all about finding the perfect balance and making little adjustments to hold on to it. And if you’re ever a little scared, remember that the worst that can happen is tipping over, and even that’s pretty fun!