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Bugging Out on Clipper Cove with TISC

With the Treasure Island Sailing Center’s youth summer camp coming to an end, you would think their hard-working staff might choose to take a breather. After all, it has been a tricky summer season for both kids and staff to navigate. Social-distancing rules and safety provisions have meant that classroom activities have had to move outdoors — even throughout some of San Francisco’s hotter days. The kids have had to spread out a lot more, and, well, how do you stop kids from being the touchy, boisterous and social people they are?

But TISC staff Laura DeFelice and Hana Kim Rupnow have shown no signs of wanting to luff their sails. As TISC’s program manager and STEM educator, respectively, they’ve taken youth participants around the Bay, despite the pandemic — through “field trips” that teach navigation and seamanship.

Sailing a TISC bug
Laura DeFelice (an adult) happily takes a turn at the tiny helm.
© 2020 Ros de Vries

As part of a recent field-trip filming session, I was invited to play “Captain Kai,” a sailor with a less-than-convincing resemblance to the notorious Captain William Bligh of Bounty fame, albeit far more likable (hopefully). Hana Kim explained that she chose the name Kai, not for its rhyming with “Bligh,” but because it means “sea” in the Hawaiian language. With the exception of my homemade period costume, it all clicked.

Of course, a TISC field trip wouldn’t be complete without actual sailing. From TISC’s fleet of boats — ranging from Optis to J/24s — I requested “whichever one is quickest to rig, quickest to get out there.”  We scooted over to TISC’s nine-strong fleet of Laser Performance Bugs, 8.6-ft rotomolded plastic bathtubs that require nothing more than plugging a mast and boom into the deck by hand, then lashing the whole lot together.

Did she launch this with one hand?
© 2020 Ros de Vries

While Sailing World has previously dismissed the Bug as “too small for adults to sail,” I can tell you that’s not true. Perhaps too small to sail without immediately getting a wet backside, but ducking the boom doesn’t require any real gymnastics either. Furthermore, the Bug’s cockpit comes with a built-in beverage holder, a feature of the most respectable pleasure craft.

TISC Bug on the water
Imagine how things might have turned out for Capt. Bligh if he’d sailed a Bug, instead of the Bounty.
© 2020 Ros de Vries

Off the dock, it was a joyous couple of tacks over to Clipper Cove’s “beach” — a hidden gem in the City — where we would film some of our field trip segments. The Bug moved effortlessly in light air when I shifted my weight to the low side; it was simple and intuitive, the most carefree sail I’d had in a long time.

After filming had wrapped up, the TISC team invited my husband to also take a turn at the helm. Made brazen by my experience, I bundled myself under the boom — “where the kids sit as crew,” Laura explained — and sat backward in something like the Happy Baby yoga pose. With the Bug’s optimum crew weight being in the range of 66 -154 lbs we weren’t optimizing for hull speed, but she still managed to canter around under our combined 310lbs.

Two adults comfortably fit in a Bug.
© 2020 Ros de Vries

After hauling out our tiny launch, I got to business with Laura. I was like a kid looking headily at their last days at summer camp, not wanting it to end. “Can’t we host a Bug regatta here on Clipper Cove?” I pleaded. “It would be safe and LOTS of fun!”

Laura smiled serenely and said she would consider it. And hopefully, with that, the deal was done. After all, I could tell that both she and Hana Kim have the small boat sailing bug too.


  1. Laura 2 years ago

    Huzzah! So much fun sailing BUGS ! Captain Kai will bring the joy of sailing to zoom kids all over the Bay! If they can’t get to us we surely will find a way to them 😉

  2. Brett Greene 9 months ago

    Thanks for sharing. It’s a fantastic little boat, wish it was more widely adopted on the west coast! Been teaching my 5 and 8yo to sail in one.

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