A view of summer BayCamp from the Captain’s seat
by Meghan Kelly, Save The Bay educator
Summer out on Narragansett Bay is probably the best summer one could ask for. What is better than heading out on a boat, going to an island, dropping anchor and getting to explore and swim for the whole day? At Save The Bay’s summer BayCamps, that is exactly what we do! This summer, I got a new look at our BayCamps, from a different seat on the boat.
For the past four summers, my view of our summer camps has been from the educator’s perspective. Spring would roll around, and I would get excited to find out what camps I was on and start planning what we would do each week with the campers. The schedule for each week would be full of games, swimming, exploring habitats and learning and seeing all the different animals that call Narragansett Bay home. As an educator, I always knew it had been a good day at camp when parents told me the next morning at drop-off that their camper was so tired they couldn’t even finish their stories from the day because they had fallen asleep. Some of my favorite summer days have been when we take the campers to a salt marsh. At first, as I put peat, or salt marsh mud, all over my face and arms, the campers look at me like I have 10 heads. But within minutes, the campers are elbow deep in the peat with no signs of wanting to stop. I may smell like peat for the rest of the day, but seeing the smiles and hearing the campers’ laughter makes it all worth it.
My view of summer camp changed a little this past summer. I was fortunate enough to use my captain’s license to drive our education vessel, Swift, a 26-foot Old Port that can hold up to 15 campers. For five weeks, Swift is based out of Wickford and spends its final week of summer in Bristol. As boat captain, my mornings were a little quieter than past summers. I’d arrive at the boatyard before camp, hop into my kayak with my gear—trying not to start my day by falling in the water—and paddle out to the mooring where Swift is kept. On many of these mornings, the harbor was glass calm, and I’d have the chance to enjoy the stillness around me. On several mornings, a cormorant would pop up right next to me on its morning swim. When I got to Swift, I would do my daily checks and prep for the day, then take it over to the Wickford dock to wait for the campers to arrive from Wilson Park. I could always tell when they were getting close because I could hear them talking, and on some mornings even singing!
When the campers were all settled on Swift, we headed out of the harbor for a new adventure. We got to explore places like Cornelius, Prudence, Dyer and Rose islands. Anchoring Swift was a whole new adventure for me! Learning the water’s depth and where the rocks were around the island was a task that brought me closer to the Bay. I also developed a love-hate relationship with the wind; the best kind of wind was no wind at all. On the few occasions when I was approaching the dock and got blown off, the kids would say “where are we going?” I would reply with, “We were having so much fun, we wanted to go back out for more!”
Knowing that I had a wonderful team of educators at my back made my job a lot easier. The campers would work together to help offload all the gear, and then their exploring would begin. During my first four summers at Save The Bay, as an educator, I would offload the boat and not give it a second thought for the rest of the day. This summer was a little different. As the tides shifted, I would have to adjust the boat; sometimes we would dock at Prudence and have to raft up with one of our other education vessels. When the day was coming to its end, we would all work together to load up Swift again and head back to the dock. Many times our boat rides home were much quieter than on the way out, as many campers were so tired from their day’s adventures that they’d fall asleep. My view from where I was standing during summer camp this year may have changed, but one thing that didn’t change was the fun and excitement that Save The Bay Summer Camps offer to everyone!