Amelia Levine ’20 took to the high seas early on, learning how to sail off the coast of Beaufort, North Carolina when she was about ten years old. An inauspicious start, her first day on the water culminated with her veering into an oncoming boat only having to be rescued by other boaters. She said, “I told my mom that I was never going to sail again, but the next day I went back.”
And so, nevertheless, she persisted, and this past summer Levine was a counselor-in-training (CIT) at the Joseph Conrad Sailing Camp for three weeks in Mystic and also sailed for ten days on a 60-foot schooner, The Brilliant.
The program gave Levine the opportunity to develop leadership skills in which CITs refine their teaching, teamwork, and youth development skills under the guidance of camp staff. Although Levine attended the camp as a camper in middle school, returning as a CIT was a very different and more valuable experience. “Not only do you have more freedom, but you get to teach people how to sail. The new camp director wanted us to draw our own lesson plans and develop land games and activities to reinforce the learning. We created some really cool activities, and the bonds you develop are incredible, too,” she said.
Levine taught the young sailors how to navigate a 9’ Dyer Dhow, which is a multi-use sail and rowing boat originally developed as lifeboats during the Second World War. Levine throws around sailing jargon like the true salty dog she is. “I taught the campers to know the basic points of sail, how to position where your boat is facing in regards to the wind. When you tack, the boat goes through the wind so it operates slower. If you want to pick up speed, you jibe and the back of the boat goes through the wind,” she explained.
Following camp, Levine plus eight others and a crew of three boarded The Brilliant to test their mettle. Built in the 1930s, the schooner is outfitted with a highly varnished hardwood teak deck and shiny brass fixtures and has been described by Wooden Boat magazine as one of the 100 most beautiful classic boats in existence and as “one of the best maintained and sailed classic yachts in the country — if not the world.”
Luckily for her, Levine was not seasick prone during the ten-day venture in open water, sailing the Atlantic surrounding Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut where the group learned to steer the vessel, raise the sail, and stand watch. The experience developed the group's acuity of weather and water conditions. “You look at the water and you can spot different waves and patterns of waves. You’ll watch what waves are rippling more so you know what to and how to handle them,” she said. The experience also left Levine with an enduring appreciation for the teamwork involved in sailing the boat and a deeper understanding for the expression "all hands on deck."
Levine loves speed and the accompanying adrenaline rush when the boat really picks up in the wind, heels over and literally “flies across the water.” “When you pull in the sails, it’s an incredible feeling when you’re steering the vessel. You get to see how it moves and how to control it. It sounds cheesy but you’re really one with the boat,” she said.
Despite the close quarters and lack of showers for the duration of the trip, only one on land in which Levine describes as “disgusting”, Levine loved the experience. “To sit on the boat at night in the middle of the water and gaze up at the sky full of stars, there’s nothing like it. It’s an amazing feeling.”