Camps Offering Nautical Fun for Children on Spring Break

Shearlean Duke is a regular contributor to Orange County Life

The brochure says you can sail, swim and surf in the sun, stroll near the tide pools, sculpt a sand castle and even build a model boat.

But don’t rush to the travel agent to sign up--not if you’re an adult.

This vacation is strictly for children.

Each year during spring break, Dana Point Harbor turns into a kiddie vacation land offering swimming, surfing, sailing and other ocean activities for out-of-school youngsters age 6 and up.


Four different spring-break day camps, plus four beach-related classes, are available April 9 through 13 at the Dana Point Harbor Youth and Group Facility, 34451 Ensenada Place.

One of the most popular offerings is the Beach Safari Day Camp for 6- to 9-year-olds, according to Karen Viele-Grutz, who has operated the camp for the past four years. “It’s hard to find things to do for kids that age,” she says. “Not much is available. That’s why the parents love it.”

But children love it, too, according to Viele-Grutz, who says she designed the camp with them in mind. Activities include sand sculpting, swimming and playing water games. “We explore the tide pools, go boogie-boarding, have water-balloon tosses. We even go on an all-day fishing trip,” she says.

The fishing trip, an ocean excursion aboard a 56-foot boat, is by far the most popular part of the camp. Even some parents would like to stow away for that portion of the program, she admits. The cost of the Beach Safari Camp is $80, plus $25 for materials and field trip.


Viele-Grutz also runs the Aqua Camp for 10- to 12-year-olds. Participants actually spend half-days on the water learning sailing, canoeing and rowing. Then they spend the rest of the day playing games and working in arts and crafts. Aqua Camp costs $98, plus $25 for materials.

For aspiring lifeguards, there’s Jill Bramlette’s Junior Guards class, a one-week course covering everything a child should know about swimming in the ocean. Participants must be between the ages of 10 and 16 and must be strong swimmers. The cost is $125.

If your 7-year-old is more interested in learning how to ride a wave, you can sign him up for Surf Camp offered by veteran surfer Mary Hartman. But he’ll have to bring his own surfboard or rent one at the camp. Surf Camp is open to children 7 to 14 and participants must be “confident ocean swimmers.” The cost is $137.

For five days of sun, fun and learning about the sea environment, there’s an Ocean Awareness Day Camp for 7- to 10-year-olds. Children are promised a hands-on experience with marine biology and even get to dissect a fish. The weeklong camp costs $70, plus $25 for supplies.


Children in Pam Johnson’s Ocean Explorers class will learn how to enjoy Orange County’s tide pools without destroying them. Johnson, head naturalist for Orange County’s Department of Education, will also teach her young charges all about seashore birds and marine mammals. The half-day programs are open to 6- to 8-year-olds, and cost $50.

For young sailors-to-be, Diane DeGrazia offers daily three-hour sailing classes designed for children 10 and up. “It is really a basic class,” she says, “an opportunity to get the feel of being out on the water.” Students sail in 14-foot sloops and learn how to rig boats. DeGrazia, who has been sailing since she was about 10, says her students must know how to swim. Cost for the weeklong class is $49.

If your child is more interested in toy boats than real boats, you may be interested in a class in model-boat building taught by Eddie Robinson. Children will spend a week constructing individual electric model boats. When the class is over, participants get to keep the boats.

“I think the class will really appeal to youngsters,” says Robinson, an auto mechanic who builds boats as a hobby. “I had a demonstration of an electric-controlled boat during the whale festival and had a whole bunch of kids wanting to cruise the boat in the harbor.”


The boat-building class is open to children 11 and up. Cost is $65.

Information about the spring vacation programs for children is available from the Dana Point Harbor Youth and Group Facility at (714) 661-7122.

Clean water: If you’ve ever wondered how clean the water is in Newport Bay or what you can do to help keep it clean, you may want to become a Bay Watcher. All you have to do is sign up for a new class offered by the Newport Beach Parks, Beaches and Recreation Department. The idea behind the Bay Watchers class, according to Wes Armand of the Newport Beach Marine Department, is to make people aware that what they do--even miles from the bay--can pollute the water.

Speakers will include representatives from the Marine Department, City Council and Harbor Quality Committee who will discuss their efforts as well as the local enforcement laws directed at improving water quality. Other speakers will be from the Regional Water Quality Control Board, Orange County Environmental Management Agency, Orange County Health Department, Federal Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of Fish and Game, Orange County Sheriff’s Department and the Newport Beach Police Department.


The class will include two field trips--a walking tour of Upper Newport Bay and a boat tour of Newport Harbor. The class begins April 2 and meets the first and third Monday of each month through June 4. Meetings will be held from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Harbor Department, 1901 Bayside Drive, Corona del Mar. The fee is $20 per person. For information, call (714) 644-3151.

Surveying seminar: A one-day seminar on marine surveying will be offered by Roby Bessent on April 7 at the Orange Coast College Sailing Center, 1801 W. Coast Highway, Newport Beach. The class is designed for the boater who wants to learn how to inspect a boat to learn about its condition. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Cost is $39. For information, call (714) 645-9412.

Shearlean Duke is a regular contributor to Orange County Life. On the Waterfront appears each Saturday, covering boating life styles as well as ocean-related activities along the county’s 42-mile coastline. Send information about boating-related events to: On the Waterfront, Orange County Life, The Times, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, Calif. 92626. Deadline is two weeks before publication. Story ideas are also welcome.