Ronan Murphy stood by the boathouse and posed the question: “Where do a bunch of college students from a small island west of Europe go for the summer?”
The answer — “An even smaller Island!”
The assembly of sailing instructors let out a chorus of booming laughs, a nearly constant sound track for the group, it seemed.
For the past few years, a couple of foreign instructors have made the cross-Atlantic summer voyage from Ireland to work for Sail Martha’s Vineyard. This year, the number resembles something akin to a mini (and welcomed) invasion, with almost a dozen staff members teaching the language of sailing through thick Irish brogues.
“When we got here, a few of the kids had absolutely no idea what we were saying,” recalled Luke Finnegan of Waterford, Ireland. Chris O’Connor of Mayo asserted, “Now we’re teaching them to speak English!”
With the camp’s sailing students comes all of the classic pronunciations and idioms of the American youth. Mr. O’Connor noted the word aluminum, for example. This Irish brigade is calling for the proper pronunciation to take hold: “Alum-in-ium.”
Abby Burke and Brónagh Carvill joined in to relay some previously unfamiliar expressions like the triumphant call, “Yeah buddy.” And the girls wondered at first about the unidentified man warranting fame in the saying, “I’m just joshin’ you.”
Despite the occasional lapse in communication, the crew is ecstatic to be on-Island. With a struggling Irish economy, jobs in the home country are hard to come by. Plus, the skills that this particular group possesses are in high demand in American sailing communities, where Irish-style teaching instruction proves successful for young sailing students.
But American sailing has its own lure for the summer visitors. The staff members stressed the focus on racing that exists in Irish sailing, which sometimes makes the sport overly intense and not quite enjoyable. The fun and relaxed camp on the Island takes a lot of the stress out of sailing, they said.
And then there are the other lures of American culture. For Mr. O’Connor, that has included hot dog eating for sport. “We’ve been training him up,” said Ruairi Blaney, Mr. O’Connor’s self-proclaimed eating coach. “He shoves some down each morning to prepare.”
Though said in the spirit of fun, Mr. O’Connor is actually an aspiring competitive eater during his stay in America. He recently claimed a victorious title during a timed hot dog eating contest at a Sharks baseball game, and he looks forward to the chance to compete for a grand prize. When he’s not eating or sailing, Mr. O’Connor heads to the gym in Oak Bluffs to burn off the all-American carbohydrates.
The other perks of American cuisine include peanut butter, one of Mr. Murphy’s newfound favorites, and chili dogs, according to Ms. Burke.
Above all, the cultured group is enjoying the sunny summer weather. The word drought is simply not in their lexicon, and they struggle to see it as a bad thing.
“I’ve never been able to wear a tank top before,” noted Mr. O’Connor, whose bare shoulders showed hints of a dwindling sunburn. Mr. Murphy and Mr. Finnegan also had some color to show off, having discovered the blaring Vineyard sun before the SPF 70.
“It’s so strange to teach sailing to kids who don’t even own wet suits,” observed Ms. Carvill. “At home they wouldn’t show up without them.”
Growing unaccustomed to rain hasn’t been a problem for any of the Irishmen and women. When Mr. Murphy arrived on the continent during a lightning storm, he was outraged. “That wasn’t what I signed up for,” he said. Because of the lack of rain since, the instructors have been able to enjoy much of what beach-going Americans take for granted, like swimming and beach volleyball.
Though it can grow tiring to be treated as tokens, the staff is enjoying the attention from American tourists, many of whom are eager to share their own Irish roots. “Like a cousin’s neighbor’s dog who happens to be Irish,” joked Mr. Finnegan.
“It’s nice to be somewhere where the Irish aren’t,” said Ms. Burke, who spent last summer in Chicago. She grudgingly grew used to going into bars just to find other Irish employees spending the summer in the city. “It’s great to actually meet Americans,” she said, “and get to know something different.”
Even though sailing on a different continent has meant waves of change for the Irish lot, they all agreed that the Vineyard somehow feels like home, with the relaxed pace of living and general good cheer. Perhaps it was just the hot dogs speaking, but Mr. O’Connor declared, “It feels like a small Irish village.” But with skunks instead of sheep.