All Aboard for‘Capt. Conner’

Kids learn teamwork while sailing the Columbia River


Jace Stoltey, 12, crossed over from White Salmon, Wash., to sail for a week with the Capt. Conner camp.

Thirty-five lucky kids got to spend this week on the high seas — at least on the high seas Columbia River style.

The kids were part of the first-ever Captain Conner Camp offered through Hood River County School District Community Education. Each day from Monday through Thursday, campers boarded a 64-foot retired naval vessel now owned by the Sea Scouts at the Hood River Marina for a day of learning and adventure out on the Columbia River.

A crew of three educators, led by Portland State University environmental management graduate student Kiirsten Flynn, directed a host of activities onboard ranging from knot tying to experimenting with hydropower to dissecting a salmon. Many of the activities took place as the boat cruised up and down the river; others — like a wooden raft building contest — were held dockside.

“It’s been fabulous,” Flynn said Thursday as the boat prepared to head out for its last day with the campers, ranging from upper elementary to middle school students. “The weather has been beautiful. The kids have a great amount of energy and they’ve really started coming together.” Many of the activities, like team poetry writing and even helping to “run” the boat, stressed the importance of working together.

The camp was canceled last summer after the boat — a different one — became unavailable for use shortly before the camp was to start.

Flynn, who had been working with Community Education director Mike Schend on the camp, knew about the Sea Scouts Portland-based vessel and worked hard to get it here so the camp could happen this summer.

“(Kiirsten) took it upon herself to get this boat,” Schend said. “She’s been instrumental.” Schend got a grant through Hood River County to help bring the vessel and its crew here. The grant allowed Community Education to keep the cost to $85 per camper for the week.

The camp was one of the most popular of any offered by Community Education this summer. With the approval of the boat’s crew, Schend squeezed five extra campers onboard — beyond the original limit of 30 — from a long waiting list.

“We took as many as possible,” said Schend, who had more than double the number of kids who made it into the camp on the waiting list.

Schend has already submitted a request for help in funding the Captain Connor Camp again next year, but he says there are “many factors” that will determine whether the camp will be offered again — including the availability of the boat and the education crew.

The kids who were lucky enough to participate in the unique camp this week seemed to appreciate it. A group of them gathered on the boat’s aft deck Thursday, excitedly listing off all the things they’d done in the past few days.

“We learned how to tie knots, and we learned about the watershed,” said 12-year-old Isaac Bubb. “And we got to drive the boat, too.”

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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