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Commodore’s Message


As a child I was fascinated with sailing, and its promise of limitless adventure propelled by the wind. Landlocked in Arkansas, though, I scarcely saw a real live sailboat until I was a teenager.

Of course, when I finally did have access to sailing, I was hooked immediately. The freedom to adventure to islands or bound over swells with dolphins frolicking in the bow wave was no longer consigned to storybooks.

I wanted to share sailing with my son Griffin as soon as possible. But how to start? I admit I am not a natural teacher. One day, an article in the Independent caught my attention. Sailing for families? Right on the beach in Santa Barbara? It seemed almost unbelievable.

To tell the truth, Sea Shells is kind of miraculous. From its start with two small boys and their father in 1948 to today, it has taken 75 years of dedicated families giving up their time, energy, and most of their Sundays for the love of sailing.

Why did they do it, and why do we still put in the time and effort it takes to run this program? We all have our reasons. Sea Shells is precious time for families to spend together away from screens. It is a chance to develop confidence, patience, courage, and real skills that cannot be learned from a book or in a classroom. It is physical exercise, camaraderie, and hijinks. It is a chance to watch our sons and daughters grow right before our eyes.

Sea Shells is more than just youth sailboat racing. As its mission statement reads, the purpose of Sea Shells is “to foster healthy child development and close family units by reaching, developing, and encouraging youth sailing skills.” It does this, and more.

I have the honor of serving as the Commodore for Sea Shells’ upcoming 75th season. I am anticipating another great year. This will be our second year deploying our new O’Pen Skiff dinghies alongside our RS Teras and US Sabots. For older sailors who have demonstrated competence on the water, we will offer the opportunity to develop their doublehanded racing skills in our fleet of RS Fevas. The Fevas feature jib, mainsail and spinnaker and are a blast to sail.

I plan to uphold SBSSA traditions including our annual trip to Mission Bay in San Diego. There will be a Memorial Day barbecue, a skippers’ party, and a jamboree in monster-infested waters.

We will also have the opportunity to continue and build on our development and fundraising successes, including our excellent 2022 wine tasting event featuring yacht tours at the Santa Barbara Harbor. We have a number of future needs that we hope to address, including equipment replacement and upgrades and ultimately replacing our venerable storage “condos” by the launch ramp.

If you are returning to Sea Shells, welcome back. If you are joining us for this first time, or even thinking about joining, I invite you and your family to find out for yourselves what makes Sea Shells such a wonderful and unique tradition.

John Marshall
SBSSA Commodore, 2023