"This is one sport that's at the mercy of the weather, and unfortunately, there's sometimes no wind on summer mornings," said Michael Breton, the vice commodore of the 125-year-old club and the director of the youth sailing program, now in its fourth year of operation.
But sailing novices aren't idle when the wind won't cooperate, said Mike Keevey, 20, a sailing enthusiast for the last 12 years and head instructor for the three-week course. The lulls give students a chance to perfect nautical skills like knot tying and tacking and capsizing boats.
"It's important to learn boating safety skills, and that includes how to right a capsized boat and how to rescue someone who falls overboard," Keevey said.
Three years ago, Mike Porter said he got bored during the summer and signed up for the sailing course even though he had only sailed once. And then, he was on a vessel much larger than the 13-foot dinghies and the even smaller prams used by novice sailors.
"I was surprised at how easy it is to flip one of these small sailboats, but I don't care where I flip," said Porter, a Moorestown resident. "I really love it."
Like Mike Porter, Rachel McCaully, 9, of Moorestown is in her third year of lessons at the club. But even after three years, the hardest part for her is controlling the boat, she said.
New to the program and sailing is Matt Kozlowski, 13, of Delran, who signed up for the course because "I always liked the water, and I thought this would be a good chance to learn another sport."
Each day her mother drives Mary Ridenour, 8, from their home in Wyncote, Pa., so she can learn to sail.
"We have four boats, and my parents want me to learn how to sail," said Mary, who is taking a second year of lessons.
Students in the young sailors' program learn how to find the wind, what the points of the sail are, how a heading is maintained, boating safety skills and other fundamentals of sailing, said Breton, a researcher at the Scheie Eye Institute of the University of Pennsylvania and a volunteer coach for Penn's sailing team.
"Sailing is a great sport for children because it's athletic and it also involves the mind, because you have to think if you want to sail," said Breton.
The Riverton Yacht Club, the oldest yacht club on the Delaware River, is offering three three-week courses running consecutively through Aug. 24. The next two sessions will be held July 16 to Aug. 3 and Aug. 6 to 24. Morning and afternoon sessions are offered, although the all-day option is encouraged as the most effective program for learning. There are also extended hours for working parents.
In addition, there are sailing classes for adults on Saturdays and week nights throughout the summer.
For information, call 596-1395.
The Cooper River Yacht Club also offers sailing classes for children and adults on the Cooper River in the area of Collingswood, Haddon Township and Pennsauken. The clubhouse is on the Cooper River off South Park Drive in Collingswood. For information, call 869-0197.
The Red Dragon Canoe Club also has beginner and advanced sailing classes for people 14 and older. The club is located on Edgewater Avenue in Edgewater Park. For information, call 386-1842.