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After 17 Years, Bigger is Definitely Better It’s officially the off-season, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lot going on at Charleston Community Sailing. By Dan Dickison

CCS’s small facility is tucked into a remote corner of Charleston’s City Marina. Photo courtesy Charleston Community Sailing.


yster roasts are a longstanding tradition in the Carolina Lowcountry. In fact, burning open fires to cook and eat tasty mollusks is a practice that dates back to well before the colonial era. According to some sources, oyster roasts have been happening in this region for nearly 4,000 years. The Indian shell mounds in various locations along this coastal region attest to this belief. These days, oyster roasts have become part of the seasonal rhythm of life here. But it’s not just the culinary appeal of these gatherings that makes them special. Oyster roasts bring together a wide spectrum of residents, often for a worthy cause. That was the case last month when Charleston Community Sailing orchestrated its 10th annual oyster roast (Nov. 20 at the James Island Yacht Club). This isn’t just the organization’s principal fundraising event each year; it’s also an occasion that aggregates the movers and shakers within the local sailing community. They come with different club and organizational affiliations, but everyone attends for a single purpose—to support one of the area’s most successful and impactful initiatives. Charleston Community Sailing (CCS was last featured in these pages in the January 2012 edition) has been in existence for 17 years. Throughout that time, this nonprofit’s mission has always been to make sailing more accessible to the public. Though the initial focus was to provide ways for younger sailors and would-be sailors to get out on the water, the organization’s programming has evolved to include a number of activities for adults. A perfect example of that is Women on the Water. According to Jessica Koenig, the organization’s executive director for the past 10 years and a pivotal part of CCS’s aforementioned success and impact, that particular program was spawned unexpectedly. “About two years ago, I was giving a private lesson to one of the moms whose kids enroll in our programs,” she explains. “We decided to meet weekly, and that’s when it hit me that we had the opportunity to broaden the scope and see if other women might want to participate. It turns out, a good many were interested. So, we started Women on the Water.” WOW, as the program is referred to, provides a comfortable, supportive environment not only to teach sailing,


December 2016


CCS Executive Director Jessica Koenig. Photo courtesy Marni Rothschild Durlach.

but also to empower women and help them gain confidence on the water. “Often,” says Koenig, “you’ll find that women’s spouses or partners aren’t the best people to introduce them to the sport, so our focus is on getting these women wholly comfortable with the boats and the water, and their own skill levels. And the program goes well beyond instruction. We have women from 21 to those in their 70s, and they support one another in ways that foster a genuine camaraderie. It’s something we all enjoy on and off the water, and often it leads to lasting friendships. And,” she adds, “that program has been so successful, we used it as model for a similar once-a-week session that we’ve dubbed Girls on the Water for high-schoolaged girls. We ran that for the first time this fall and it was fully subscribed.” CCS’s other adult programs include SUP classes and paddleboard yoga sessions. Koenig says that investing in a flotilla of paddleboards has brought in some participants who’ve stuck around and gotten into sailing as well. And soon, CCS will be integrating two recently donated J/24s into its offerings for adults. But the overwhelming majority of the programming

Southwinds December 2016  

A free, printed sailing magazine reporting on sailing in the southeast U.S: Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Missi...

Southwinds December 2016  

A free, printed sailing magazine reporting on sailing in the southeast U.S: Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Missi...