Skip navigation

Catching Up with the Sail Nauticus Academy

By: Megan Roche

While the chilly temperatures might not make for the best sailing weather, things are still moving full speed ahead with the Sail Nauticus Academy team.

The Sail Nauticus Academy program is a free partnership between Norfolk Public Schools and Sail Nauticus that offers sixth, seventh, and eighth graders a place to go after school. The program is designed to teach sailing skills, but also the importance of teamwork, interpersonal communications, and working toward a major end goal.

According to Dylan Guill, the sailing program coordinator, the academy students stay active throughout their three years in the program.

“Students come to Nauticus once a week from 3:00 to 6:00. The emphasis is on the sailing end of things, but we do a lot of other things. We want to show them life skills, leadership skills, the importance of teamwork, responsibility, and more,” Guill says.

The actual sailing season is from September to November.

While the sailing skills are a major part of the program, during the winter months when it’s just too cold to sail, sixth and seventh grade students transition to learning how to swim, CPR, and First Aid training. Through their training, they build relationships with each other.

“It’s really inspiring to see the relationships that they build with each other and with us. They make lifelong friends and they learn how to overcome challenges together. I love watching that growth with them as they go throughout the three year program,” Guill says.

In eighth grade, the students take all their training and spend much of their time at the Tidewater Wooden Boat Shop.

“The eighth grade students are learning about how to build a boat. Right now, it’s woodworking, working with hand tools and hand power tools, it’s a really cool workshop for them. In the spring, the eighth graders have the opportunity to take their boats out on the waters of the Elizabeth River,” Guill shares.

Beyond eighth grade but a graduate of the Sail Nauticus Academy? There is a place for you too! Sail Nauticus Academy graduates are active within the Nauticus environment. Many of the program graduates are paid instructors for the Sail Nauticus Academy.

In addition to teaching the kids, the Sail Nauticus Academy has also teamed up with Keep Norfolk Beautiful. The students and staff of the academy go out weekly to collect marine debris and trash. Through educating the students about the Chesapeake Bay watershed, students have been tasked with cleaning and identifying trash, learning about landfills, trash management, the importance of recycling, and leaving an area nicer than it was found. The Sail Nauticus Academy students have been beautifying TownePoint Park, the Pagoda, and areas around the Nauticus campus.

Partnerships are stressed throughout the entire Sail Nauticus Academy program and those partnerships aren’t just student to student. Guill and the Sail Nauticus Academy staff learn a lot from their students too.

“The kids teach us quite a bit. They have a different perspective on life than we as instructors do. They remind us everyday of the importance of being patient with someone and how everyone learns differently,” Guill says.

Overall, seeing the students grasp the concepts are what the program is all about for Guill and the team.

“To watch the kids when they first come in as timid sixth graders to working their way up to staff members, it’s really special,” Guill says.

The 2022 Sail Nauticus Academy application process has ended, but for more information, visit