Come sail away with me

Ahoy, Matey!

Although the group has no connection with the Pirates of the Caribbean, a group of young sailors are taking to the water for the first time on boats powered by the wind.

Sponsored the Oak Harbor Yacht Club, the group is in its second of three consecutive weekends of lessons.

Under the direction of Craig Cooley from the yacht club and Dave French, president of the Oak Harbor Youth Sailing Foundation, the young skippers learned the various working parts and how to rig the El Toros before launching the eight-foot sailboats into the marina’s calm waters Saturday afternoon.

“This is our fourth year of the program and we have 16 level-one kids in this class,” Cooley said.

French said the program has grown every year.

“We started out with nine El Toros we could use and then we had 11 of them,” he said. “Now, in addition to the El Toros, we have six 14-foot Lidos for the more advanced kids and the adults.”

French said the eight-foot boats are pretty small for adults to use.

“I can get in there and sail but I’ll tell you what, it’s a challenge,” he said with a smile.

French said the foundation also has six Laser-type sailboats in its growing fleet.

“Most of the boats we have were donated,” he said. “Because we are a 501-C3 corporation, we can give people who donate their boats a receipt so they can write the donation off on their taxes. This works real well for people, especially if they have a boat sitting around in their yard that they haven’t used for a couple of years.”

French said he would like to see more people on Whidbey Island get exposed to sailing.

“We have one of the finest places in the whole Puget Sound to sail in and very few people take advantage of it,” he said. “Over the long haul, we would like to see a sailing club established at the high school. Sailing in some areas has the ability to get kids college scholarships. It’s the kind of thing that can really grow.”

The second session of beginning adult sailing lessons will be offered on three consecutive Tuesday and Thursday evenings starting July 3 at the Oak Harbor Marina.

Participants, ages 16 and older, will learn how to sail on 14-foot Lido sailboats. They will also learn basics of rigging the boat, steering techniques, sailing rules, trimming sails, racing rules and boating safety.

For more information, call French at 678-1799 or email

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