Sailing club is planning hassle-free boat program

January 20, 1991|By Steve McKerrow

Every boat owner knows the frustration of all the chores and expenses that come along with even the simplest of vessels.

There are the costs of a marina, mooring or trailer launch arrangements, for example. In spring comes fitting out, and in the fall winterization. Throughout the season, it seems, the time you want to be spending on the water is actually occupied with cleaning, transporting or otherwise maintaining the vessel.

No wonder the old joke says the best two moments in a boat owner's life are the day he buys it and the day he sells it.

An alternative is in the offing in Baltimore's Inner Harbor in the form of a new sailing club through which members are entitled to the use of a 22-foot keel sloop, but are not responsible for ownership hassles.

"We think it's an economical way to get out there," says Jef Eyring, vice president and co-founder with president Doug Silber of the fledgling Downtown Sailing Club.

The club, which is located at the new Harborview Marina complex on Key Highway, is planning, by the spring sailing season, to have at least four and perhaps six J-22 class boats available to members on a reservation basis.

A full membership for experienced sailors has been pegged at a $500 initiation fee and $500 annual dues. An associate membership aimed at teaching new sailors the skill -- associates would sail with instructors or other experienced members -- is available for a $250 initiation/$250 annual dues cost.

According to Mr. Eyring, members would be able to make reservations to use a boat up to twice weekly, for a duration of two to four hours for each outing.

In addition, it is anticipated the club's fleet would be available for use by members of the loosely affiliated Baltimore City Yacht Association in weekly Tuesday night races.

"We anticipate having people there to prepare the boats so you can really just walk to the end of the dock and step on, then leave it at the end of the dock for staff to clean up and take care of," says Mr. Eyring. "In the harbor area, you can really get a nice sail in a couple of hours."

The J-22 was selected by the club for several reasons.

"For the confines of the harbor, we wanted a boat that was easy to handle, but had the stability and comfort to go out into the bay or the Patapsco and really do some sailing," explains Mr. Eyring.

Unlike a centerboard boat, which can capsize if badly handled, the J-22 has a fixed keel and wide beam (eight feet) for stability. A small cuddy cabin offers shelter and storage. Yet the boat's fractional sloop rig is sophisticated and can be fine-tuned for competitive racing, including the use of a spinnaker.

The boat, for instance, has been selected for use in the first all-woman match race in the U.S., the recently announced "J-22 Regatta" scheduled May 17-19 in Baltimore, off Fort McHenry.

And to demonstrate their potential, two J-22s, including the sailing club's own first vessel, took part in November in the first Senator's Cup Match Race. Sailed in the Inner Harbor with the start off Harrison's Pier Five restaurant, the race was created by and named for Maryland State Sen. John Pica, who is a competitive racer in the Baltimore City Yacht Association. (Mark Fischer, co-chairman of last fall's Columbus Cup races here, won the five-race series over Mr. Pica.)

Club founders Silber and Eyring are both board members of the yacht association, and Mr. Silber is directing the 1991 Columbus Cup events, the third staging of this high quality international match race event.

And both men hope to eventually use the Downtown Sailing Club as a way to get young people involved in sail racing in the harbor.

For instance, says Mr. Eyring, it is hoped that a program for those in the 12- to-18 age range will be started late this summer or early fall.

Next year youngsters 8 to 12 would be included, and a third facet of the program, in concert with the Harborview Marina, is envisioned to attract city youngsters in the harbor community who otherwise would not have access to the relatively expensive pastime.

Also being explored are ways to involve collegiate sailors in the area.

Mr. Eyring says clubs of somewhat similar design have been started in Boston, New York and Philadelphia in recent years.

"What we hope to do is create a cost effective alternative to owning your own boat," he says.

For information about the club, including a membership application, call Mr. Eyring at 792-8080 or Mr. Silber at 435-6960.

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