POULSBO — Olympic Outdoor Center camper Andrew Taylor, 8, had a bit of a revelation on Friday, his last day of Peter Puget Seafarer Club Camp.
“I never really knew anything about a kayak before I came here. Now, I could easily go out beyond the pilings over there,” Taylor said, pointing in the distance beyond the Poulsbo docks.
That’s the idea behind the Seafarer and Explorer Camps, held throughout the summer by the Olympic Outdoor Center — learn the basics of kayaking, safety and other maritime skills while enjoying the outdoors, and namely, the newly-arrived Little Norway sunshine. For many of the campers, simply getting outside is the crucial step, said Olympic camp leader Conner Inslee.
“Some of these kids come here with blisters on their fingers from playing video games,” Inslee said. “Getting them outside and active is huge.”
Camps for all ages are offered by the Front Street business. For the Seafarers and Explorers — whose ages range from 7 to 13 — week-long journeys introduce them to kayaking as well as test their sea legs. Lessons along the way include safety, navigation and the marine environment.
“Our goal is to make them more aware of the outdoors,” Inslee said. “Having fun is the biggest thing. But whatever they learn along the way is a bonus.”
The camp is split into a morning and afternoon group for five days. On most of the kayak outings, a trip from the Olympic dock — adjacent to the Marine Science Center — to Lion’s Park is in order. Staying close to shore, yet covering a half-mile distance provides a good base of experience for each camper, Inslee said.
One of the first lessons learned is in kayak safety. The campers find out that though “capsizing” — tipping a kayak over while in the water — can sometimes be unavoidable, it is also easy to escape from what can become a perilous situation.
“You think you’ll get stuck in a kayak if it capsizes,” said a newly-confident camper, Zack Chafe. “But all you have to do is slide out.”
Camps are fitted loosely each week with a lesson plan, pending on the weather and what the campers enjoy most. The flexibility in activities was enjoyed by camper Cathie Erickson, 13.
“I like being able to choose where we go each day and the friendly atmosphere,” Erickson said. “The instructors aren’t strict either. They let you do what you want, within boundaries.”