Camp's new sailors navigate water war

After learning boating basics, kids celebrate with counselors by getting wet.

Howard Live

Arts and entertainment in Howard County

August 19, 2005|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

Under yesterday morning's sunny, blue sky, 19-year-old Abby Uhteg stood on the Lake Kittamaqundi dock and held out her hand to a group of sixth-grade boys to reveal an array of colorful balloons - ready to be transformed into water weapons.

"If you can fill them, you can use them," Uhteg, of Ellicott City, said to the three boys dressed in swim trunks and life vests who eagerly grabbed the balloons and rushed over to a water hose.

Matthew Hartung, 11, of Columbia then walked up to 19-year-old David Gers, and, with giant Super Soaker water gun in hand, taunted: "I'm going to get you, Mr. David."

After two weeks of learning how to sail and learning new vocabulary - jib, mainsail, bow, stern and gunwales - these sixth-graders were ready for some pure fun out on the lake: a water war with their camp counselors to celebrate the end of the camp.

"The idea is that they've learned to sail already," Uhteg said. "Now, we're going to have some fun. We just hope they don't crash into each other."

At the sailing camp, part of the Columbia Association's nature camp, about 60 kids learned to sail this summer, going from no experience to knowing how to handle a boat on their own.

Throughout the summer, about 2,000 youngsters have participated in Columbia Association camps, which focus on a variety of topics, including basketball, tennis, lacrosse or art.

At the nature camp, children learn archery, canoeing, crafts and fishing. And sixth-graders can choose to study the basics of sailing, where they learn how to work as a team, as they set up and take down the sails and build their confidence and discipline, said Charlie Thomas, the association's camp manager.

"It helps kids broaden their horizons. Not everyone learns how to sail in a place like Columbia, where we're pretty much land-based," Thomas said, adding that some parents feel a little safer letting their kids sail on small Lake Kittamaqundi, instead of on the more intimidating Chesapeake Bay.

On the JY15 sailboats, the kids also learn how to rescue someone who has fallen overboard and how to right a capsized boat - a favorite of the kids.

"It scares everyone else in the [nearby Columbia Association] building; they don't know if it's real or not," Thomas said. "But [the kids] really like the drill."

The campers used all those skills as they set out on the water yesterday, with little knowledge that they were about to be pummeled by their counselors in the water war.

It was the 11 kids in three boats versus the camp counselors in one boat. And the odds were against the kids.

"We always win - it's one of the rules," Uhteg said, bragging of the counselors' 23-0 record.

The kids were allowed only one Super Soaker per boat. And the counselors had a number of surprises.

Once on the lake, Uhteg blew her whistle to signal the beginning of the game, and the kids slowly maneuvered the three boats to encircle the counselors' boat.

But then Uhteg revealed one of the counselors' first surprises - a large bucket. She dipped it into the lake and doused the campers with water. The kids shrieked; the small streams of water from their water guns were not much of a match.

Uhteg then hung on each of the sailboat masts, causing them to tip over. The kids calmly floated into the water until they were able to pull the boat upright and settle back in.

The counselors also took 11-year-old camper Christi Schnorf hostage by pulling up to her sailboat and tugging her into their boat. The counselors then made her shoot the other kids with water before letting her go. But she got the counselors back by pouring a bucket of water on them.

After a little more than an hour on the water, the boats returned to the dock. The kids, laughing and soaked, took apart the boats, and yelled out who was in charge of taking down the sail and the jib.

"They got clobbered," Uhteg proudly declared, making it 24-0 for the counselors.

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