Young skippers learn the ropes

Hoist the sail and be careful you don’t get boomed when it comes around.

Learning correct sailing terminology is just a few of the lessons students were in the process of learning at the first session of the Oak Harbor Youth Sailing Foundation’s beginning sailing class at the Oak Harbor Marina Saturday morning.

Working in conjunction with the Oak Harbor Yacht Club and under the tutelage of Dave French, president of the Oak Harbor Youth Sailing Foundation, students hadn’t put the boats on the water yet but were learning how the eight-foot El Toro sailboats operate on dry land.

In its fifth year of operation, French said the program has grown in popularity every year and the number of boats available for student use has grown as well.

The foundation started with nine of the small El Toros that are excellent for first-time sailors to learn the ropes on, and that number has increased over the years. The group also has several 14-foot Lido sailboats for use by the more advanced students and adults.

A positive factor in French’s instruction of the first-time sailing students is that he has very capable and enthusiastic help from a group of junior assistants who have completed the course in previous years and are “veteran old salts” on the water.

“I wouldn’t call us old, it’s just that we’ve done it before,” Kelly Snoden, a student at Coupeville High School, said with a smile.

Snoden, along with Holly Block and Nic Anthony, who are also Coupeville students, were three of the junior instructors giving French a hand on Saturday.

Snoden is a veteran sailor in every sense of the word and at age 16, she has participated in the Oak Harbor Race Week regatta for the past two or three years.

“We have a family boat, a 25-foot Catalina Capri, that we race,” she said. “Race Week is a lot of fun and a real challenge.”

Block is also a Race Week competitor and said her parents have a Northwest 21-foot sailboat that she crews on.

“I like helping teach new sailors what everything is all about,” she said.

Learning how to sail isn’t all the class teaches students.

“We put our class learning to use in everyday life,” Snoden said. “Things like tying knots and reading charts and maps.”

Two more sailing classes for new and advanced sailors are due at the marina. The next one will be held June 23 through June 28 and another is scheduled for July 12, 13, 19, 20, Aug. 2 and 3.

Class information can be downloaded by going to the Oak Harbor Youth Sailing Foundation Web site at Or, prospective students can email French at or call 678-1799.

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