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Flagship Sailing Academy Celebrates Graduating 2022 Class  

By Allie Wood

Looking out onto the crowd, Sail Nauticus Instructor Dylan Guill reflected on his first year as the Academy’s coordinator last Saturday during the graduation ceremony. Fifty students and their family gathered in Sail Nauticus’ pavilion to celebrate their achievements over the past year. 

During the 2021-22 school year, the Academy served almost one hundred middle school students from Title I Norfolk Public Schools. In its ninth year, the program has impacted over 2500 students. 

While waiting for the ceremony to commence, students introduced their families to Sail Nauticus instructors and enjoyed a catered breakfast. Many parents were meeting their children’s classmates and instructors for the first time.  

Sail Nauticus’ Manager Sarah Linden-Brooks started off the ceremony by reading excerpts from the student’s sail logs. The crowd chuckled as she recounted windy days, first-time sailing failures, and eventual triumphs. 

One by one, each class was called to the podium. Out of fifty-four 6th graders, only one received her crew card along with all 7th grade graduates. Executive Director Tom Brandl of the Tidewater Wooden Boat Workshop was onsite to help christen the wooden rowboat built by the 8th grade students this past winter. With the help of the students, he installed a wooden painted plaque engraved with the chosen name, “Mist.”  

The 8th graders also received their mate cards. Over their three years of instruction, they have shown that they can predict weather and tide patterns, pick up someone who has fallen overboard, safely get the boat on and off the dock, and operate the boat almost by themselves. 

After the ceremony, parents and siblings looked on warily as the 8th graders prepared the boats for a sail. Their expressions turned into awe and excitement as their children smoothly navigated out of the docks and glided into the Elizabeth River. The remaining Academy families lined up to watch the students parade back and forth in front of the pier.    

Throughout the school year, the students transition between sailing, water-safety and STEM education. The 7th graders worked in partnership with Keep Norfolk Beautiful to build a pollinator garden and the 8th graders learned how to row the boats they built. 

Current 6th and 7th grade academy students will return to Sail Nauticus this fall, while the graduating 8th grader class are encouraged to return as a volunteer and eventually a paid instructor.  

Thanks to the support of Nauticus’ supporters, Sail Nauticus members, and the community, that the Sail Nauticus Academy has continued to be a free after-school program. We look forward to welcoming new and returning students this fall. 

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