Arapahoe — Ahoy, there! Bugles sound the call to rise, the dining hall is prepared for the fellowship of friends eating family style, and the day ahead is for building character and honing skills while exploring the surrounding land and sea.
It’s summertime, and campers from across the globe have ascended on YMCA Camps Sea Gull and Seafarer in Arapahoe where they will have a freedom of choice to select activities, earn ranks by acquiring new skills on each activity, and receive coaching and support from counselors.
“We’re nautical camps; a friendly place where everybody is welcome,” said John Hyde, executive director of Sea Gull. “We offer values-based programing in that we teach campers good decision making, responsibility, courage, and integrity.”
Supported by the YMCA of the Triangle, Camp Sea Gull for boys was founded in 1948 by Wyatt Taylor. Seeing the growing need for a camp for girls, Taylor and his wife, Lil, opened Camp Seafarer, three miles down the road, in 1961. The camps cover 350 acres with tall trees, wood cabins, and a beautiful view of the coastal waters of the Neuse River that stands ready for young sailors.
Activities are wide ranging from digging for shark’s teeth, shotgun shooting, golfing, horseback riding (girls camp only), zip lining, canoeing, kayaking, paddle boarding, swimming, a climbing tower and of course, sailing. Not to mention, the activities in nature are endless.
“Campers are gaining independence and confidence through their abilities to make decisions during the day,” said Hyde. “Campers are able to make friends, encounter challenges, and overcome those with the support of counselors.”
Campers are provided with green and blue books that serve as a road map for the activities offered at camp and allow them to document their ranking and accomplishments as they master skill sets. The green books spearhead activities on land, while the blue books represent activities at sea. Campers are earning rankings with the U.S. Sailing and U.S. Powerboating Associations. U.S. Powerboating awarded 1,800 boating licenses last year and a third of those went to campers at Sea Gull and Seafarer.
“We believe what we are doing helps develop future leaders for the world,” said Lynn Moss, executive director of Seafarer.
Together the camps have a fleet of 250 boats, 225 trained staff from around the world, 700 students at each site in a given week, and a global representation from 38 states and 10 countries. There are twelve campers to a cabin with a 3:1 ratio of campers to counselors.
“We hand place students in cabins to create diversity among them. Campers in a cabin will have different economic, religious, cultural, educational, and racial backgrounds,” said Moss. “They are learning to live in a community, and to understand and appreciate people with different backgrounds while learning to find things they have in common.”
Enrollment begins in October for the following summer, and the waitlist for this summer spans more than 500 hopeful campers.
Traditions are plentiful at both camps. Fireball candy serves as currency for the boys during the annual Fireball Carnival. Girls have a candlelight banquet the last night of camp. Many campers are third and fourth generation attendees.
By the time “Taps” plays the call for lights out at night, the day has been spent creating memories, making new friends, empowering oneself, fine-tuning skills, and simply enjoying life in the great outdoors.