Credit: Paul Wellman (file)

For the first time since 1948, the Santa Barbara Sea Shells weren’t allowed to sail together last summer on the shores of West Beach, where generations of kids have tackled their tacking while learning their bows from their sterns. 

“We were, for all intents and purposes, shut down completely,” said Dana Longo, the organization’s new commodore, himself a Sea Shell sailor from 1979 to 1981 who rejoined as a parent two years ago. “That being said, it is hard to imagine a more appropriately socially distanced sport than single-handed small boat sailing!” 

Being a nonprofit reliant on dues, donations, and an annual fundraising event to survive, the off year hit the group’s finances hard, so they’re hoping that families new and old return for the 2021 season, which kicks off with an open house on April 3. After three April Sundays of instruction, the Sea Shells will gather for fun-focused races every Sunday at 11 a.m. until June 27 and then again August 15 to September 26. After about three youth races, the adults get to challenge each other as well. 

Costs for the entire season start at $345 if you already own one of the small US Sabot or RS Tera boats (which outgoing families typically sell on the cheap) and $445 if you don’t. That’s less than $25 a week if you hit every Sunday, which you are not required to do.  

“Our goal is to impart a love of the sport to the next generation,” said Arjun McAvoy, the group’s treasurer. “We hope to foster the life skills of problem solving and self-reliance in a supportive and collaborative environment. My personal hope is that sailing on the Santa Barbara waterfront each Sunday with their friends will create great memories in our children so they will want to raise their kids here too!” —Matt Kettmann

The Santa Barbara Sea Shells open house is on April 3, noon-3 p.m. at West Beach near Sea Landing. See


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