Sail Away

The sun is shining. An onshore breeze churns teal waters to a mild chop. Out by Bumpkin Island, rowers dip their oars. Rhodes 19’s and Lasers sail out by World’s End. Closer in, the islands, Button, Ragged, Sarah and Langlee, stand watch over a fleet of tiny Opti’s as they jibe and tack under the supervision of an idling motorboat. If this sounds like a day at summer camp, think again. This is one of the many scenes launched from Lincoln Maritime Center, based at the edge of the rotary at Hingham Harbor.

By Liza Carens Salerno | Photography By Jeff Cutler

Founded as the Lincoln Sailing Club in 1971, the center was one of the first community sailing clubs in Massachusetts. Rowing was added to the curriculum in 2002, and in 2005 the name was changed to Lincoln Maritime Center to reflect this added dimension. The center maintains a philosophy of accessibility with a goal to connect people with the water. Classes are posted and filled online, and while 85 percent of the population comes from Hingham, the rest come from the surrounding areas to participate in over 45 courses and activities offered from spring until fall. As a licensed non-profit, LMC doesn’t charge membership fees. Instead, participants pay by the class.

“Program fees cover 70-75 percent of our operating costs. The rest comes from donations,” says Rosamund Conroy, executive director of the center. “Our operating costs are high—they have to be, to ensure the safety and professionalism of our program. We can’t cut corners. We have the cost of insurance and marine liability to cover, and we have to make sure we have the right staff-to-student ratio. You can’t play games when you’re out on the water.”

Housed in a weathered wooden building perched on Hingham Harbor, the center has come a long way since its early days when all activity took place on a dirt wharf. In 1988, center trustees constructed the Curtis Pavilion, named for one of the original founders, and later gave it to the Town of Hingham for use by the whole community. LMC’s three-season clubhouse was built in 2003 and is used to hold classes during inclement weather, for storage and repair work. By 2007, LMC was so well established they hosted the Sailing Junior Olympics. That year they earned the Massachusetts Bay Sailing Association’s Yacht Club of the Year Award—all the more significant an achievement given that LMC isn’t a “club” at all.

Conroy, a former competitive rower who began her association with the center in 2005 and accepted the position of executive director in 2014, calls the center a community. “We have about twenty junior sailing instructors, many of whom came up through the program.” According to Conroy, most of the LMC board members have traveled similar paths. “It’s competitive to get a job here. Kids want to come back. We interview for the right fit. It takes a lot to work on the water for eight hours, and deal with kids and boats and safety.” As for the rowing instructors, the standards are just as high. “They need to have competitive rowing experience at the college level. It’s a skilled seasonal job. Only a unique set of people can do it. It’s a big ask.”

CONTACT INFO: Lincoln Maritime Center • 23 Summer St., Hingham • 781-741-5225

Those lucky enough to be hired at LMC will work with students who vary in age, from 7 years-old to adult. Conroy is especially pleased that during the summer of 2014, a 78-year-old woman took up rowing for the first time. “It was a great example of how community boating works and how important it is to have these programs so that people of all ages and backgrounds can connect with the harbor and these sports,” she says.

Leasing 30 moorings from the town of Hingham, the center is a hive of activity in the summer. With a fleet of Opti’s, Lasers and 420’s, the programs include sailing classes for beginners and intermediates, along with race instruction for those more experienced. LMC holds adult classes in the day and evening, as well as recreational sailing opportunities. During the school year, Notre Dame Academy rents boats and sails from the center. Hingham High School’s sailing team races from there as well.

LMC’s rowing program balances coastal rowing with fitness and education. The center has a fleet of Hudson Open Water Quads that go out as far as Bumpkin Island. Rowers are required to take turns as coxswain, where they learn how to steer the boat and navigate the channel. “It’s a finicky harbor,” Conroy says.

Along with the Hudsons, the center owns two coxless racing quads and a fleet of singles and doubles. Participants are required to pass swimming tests and prerequisite training before they are allowed to row in open water. Winter training for rowers is offered through the center at the New North Church in Hingham. “We’ve had former participants from our programs compete in the Head of the Charles Regatta,” Conroy says proudly.

LMC also maintains eight power boats. “They’re the safety boats,” Conroy says. “A power boat is always on the water with the smaller boats, and one stands at the ready in case there is trouble out on the open water.”

In addition to the sailing and rowing classes, Conroy is especially excited about the “Young Mariners” program piloted last summer. “It’s kind of like a chef’s salad,” she says. “We teach safety, rowing, sailing, navigation, as well as experience with motors. Unless you grow up on the water, it’s hard to get that kind of comprehensive training.” The course teaches students how to use a marine radio and the basics of rescue. “The kids who took it were extremely enthusiastic about it,” Conroy says. “We hope to launch one for adults this summer.”

All classes and activities promote LMC’s goal to encourage people of all ages to experience, and enjoy, the water.  Stop by Hingham Harbor on a sunny summer day, and the number of small craft dotting the bay is a picturesque testament to the center’s success.

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