Capital Gazette & Baltimore Sun: "All ‘aboat’ life skills: Brendan Sailing camp in Annapolis teaches kids to sail while building confidence" (by Hope Kahn)
On Thursday afternoon, Keridwyn Zilonis, 15, got to steer the 74-foot Schooner Woodwind on the Severn River after spending the past four weeks sailing on a Topaz, a single-sail dinghy.
She is a camper at Brendan Sailing, a unique sailing camp based in Annapolis for students with learning differences such as dyslexia, attention deficit and autism spectrum disorders.
“It’s a very accepting environment because we all have disabilities,” Keridwyn said, who began attending the camp in 2019. She said she had some sailing experience before by going to camps like the Y, but she hadn’t found a camp with other people with disabilities.
Brendan Sailing not only teaches campers ages 11 to 18 how to sail, but it also gives them an opportunity to build confidence and social skills, Brendan Sailing marketing consultant Beth Berry said.
Keridwyn said she used to be scared of heeling — the sideways tilt of a sailing boat — but now, that’s one of her favorite parts of sailing. She said she even wants to sail around the world, and her dream is to sail to and around Europe.
She said sailing might seem scary at first, but the counselors help with everything.
Will Avis, who has been a counselor with Brendan Sailing since 2019, said being able to see the progress the kids make is incredible.
“Seeing the skills that we teach them and then to see their aptitude in the water is a
really nice feeling,” said Avis, 21.
Onboard the Schooner Woodwind on Thursday was the Brendan Sailing staff, campers and some of their family members.
Matt Newkirk’s 14-year-old son, Bartley, attended Brendan Sailing for the first time this summer after meeting and talking to one of the counselors about kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The counselor told him about Brendan Sailing.
“Seeing [Bartley’s] enthusiasm to do something nonscreen-related has been incredible,” Newkirk said.
Last week, Newkirk had the opportunity to go to the camp’s parent sail, which occurs on the last day of each session.
“[Bartley] sailed me around. It was unbelievable and I’m so proud,” he said.
Even though this is Bartley’s first year at Brendan Sailing, he’s already talking about coming back as a volunteer next year, Newkirk said.
“Kids come back year after year because they’re in a setting where they can be successful,” Berry said.
Brendan Sailing was founded in 1985 as a nonprofit by James Muldoon, who was inspired by his son with dyslexia, Jim Muldoon Jr., who became a successful sailor at a young age on Muldoon’s racing yacht, the Donnybrook.
“One day, I noticed my son give directions to my crew and he’s telling them what to do,” Muldoon said, who attended Thursday’s sail. “He was not like that on land.”
Muldoon said Brendan Sailing gives kids a chance to build their confidence and ability to work as a team, as well as the option to be judged by what they do, not what they speak or write down. Muldoon, who was recently inducted into the Boating Safety Hall of Fame, said he’s working to broaden the sport and is “not
In addition to the Annapolis session, Brendan Sailing offers a St. Mary’s session in the summer — usually, a residential program where the campers stay in college housing at St. Mary’s College of Maryland — and biweekly after-school sailing sessions in Washington, D.C., in the fall and spring. This year, the St. Mary’s
session isn’t residential because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re going to expand in a reasonable manner with the right kind of people and the right kind of goals,” Muldoon said, because the “kids are what’s important.”
Bre Browning, 16, said her favorite part of the camp is connecting with the other kids and learning how to sail more.
The National Safe Boating Council (NSBC), a national catalyst for recreational boating safety, inducted James Muldoon into the Boating Safety Hall of Fame, the organization’s most prestigious award recognizing those who provided vital leadership in making our waterways safer throughout their career.
Muldoon was a key contributor to the development of the U. S. Coast Guard’s Strategic Plan of the National Recreational Boating Safety Program. He advised the U. S. Coast Guard and its Boating Safety Division that on-water skills-based training was necessary to increase safety and reduce accidents and fatalities.
“Mr. Muldoon’s work has left an indelible mark on the recreational boating and marine industries,” said Stu Gilfillen, chair of the National Safe Boating Council. “His leadership and advocacy resulted in the development of the National On-Water Standards, which all boating organizations and boaters are benefiting from today.”
As the chair of the National Boating Safety Advisory Council (NBSAC) for 11 years, Muldoon’s leadership advanced NBSAC’s ability to contribute to U.S. Coast Guard initiatives that support boaters around the country. Under his direction, NBSAC established permanent liaisons with two other U.S. Coast Guard Councils (Commercial and Towing), increased cooperation, and expanded implementation of safety measures for all boaters.
He has also been recognized by almost every major organization in the boating safety community for his outstanding contributions. For decades, Mr. Muldoon has supported boating safety education and training opportunities at the national and grassroots levels. He was a key player in the development and funding approval of US Sailing’s national keelboat training and certification program. Over 35 years ago, he founded the Brendan Sail Training Program for Youth with Learning Differences to boost self-confidence and personal growth in children with learning differences.
“Mr. Muldoon exemplifies the passion for boating safety that the National Safe Boating Council looks for in a Boating Safety Hall of Fame inductee,” said Peg Phillips, executive director of the National Safe Boating Council. “He has dedicated his career to making our waterways safer and is worthy of joining the elite group of 47 hall of fame members.”
Muldoon has served as CEO and founder of METCOR/LSI since 1979, which provides specialized procurement-related and customized learning solutions and services to federal and corporate clients in the high technology/emerging market arenas. His early experience working for a U.S. Senator on Capitol Hill laid the foundation for his continued success in advancing boating safety issues.
The NSBC’s Boating Safety Hall of Fame was established in 1995 and recognizes individuals who have made, or continue to generate, substantial and lasting contributions toward the advancement of recreational boating safety. Learn more at https://www.safeboatingcouncil.org/about/boating-safety-hall-of-fame/.