Coping with COVID


The COVID-19 pandemic has forced sailing organizations around the country to adapt to social distancing guidelines and stay-at-home policies. Here’s how two are dealing with the problem.
We recently received feedback from one of our regular contributors, John Kettlewell, who is also executive director of Sail Martha’s Vineyard, “a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting and perpetuating our island’s maritime heritage, culture, skills and the sea that surrounds us.” Like most community sailing initiatives, Sail MV’s big programs involve sail training for children and adults. With the ongoing pandemic, Sail MV has had to make major adjustments. Back in late April, Kettlewell wrote in an email, “We decided to cancel our regular summer programs, and we’re now trying to figure out how to fundraise enough to be back in 2021.”
Employing some creative thinking, Kettlewell and the staff of Sail MV put together an online version of its annual seafood buffet and auction, generating $105,000 of its goal of $200,000. “We couldn’t have our big party on the harbor like we do every year, so we went online and invited our loyal supporters to join together from the comfort of their own homes,” said Sail MV board president Peggy Schwier.
Board member and ESPN videographer John Wilson produced a video that included details of the sailing and rowing programs offered by Sail Martha’s Vineyard. Sail MV youth sailors told their stories of accomplishment and adventure on the water.

Earlier this year, Sail MV decided to suspend regular youth and adult summer sailing programs due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. However, during this difficult time Sail MV opted to virtually conduct its Maritime Studies program at the high school, and began a virtual fundraising campaign called “Support Sail MV.”

This summer, instead of large classes, Sail MV is offering one-on-one private sailing lessons for youth and adults. Participants need to join Sail MV to sign up and purchase hourly lessons. Full information can be found at

Another sailing organization that has had to trim its sails is Sailing Ships Maine, based in Portland. Sailing Ships Maine focuses on sail training for high school students. According to Erin Crotty, director of development for Sailing Ships Maine, the group cut back its trip size from more than 20 students to just six. “They start with two weeks of quarantine ashore before coming aboard and doing two weeks on board,” Crotty said. “Our standard program for high schoolers was five days and four nights. This season, it’s four weeks.”

By Ocean Navigator