Sailors Learn To Tack Their Way Across Piney Run Lake

Three Turn Outfor Class In Basics Of Seamanship

September 25, 1991|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff writer

ELDERSBURG — The Chesapeake Bay it wasn't, but the few who turned out for the last sailing class of the season didn't seem to mind.

Indeed, after they sailed their lateens several times across the 300-acre lake at Piney Run Park, the chief complaint among the three participants was that the day was too short.

"It was fun. I didn't want to stop," said Kim Holcomb, a directorfor Maryland Public Television. "It's exactly what I needed as far as instruction -- just a day and not a week."

Holcomb enrolled in the course because of its proximity to her home in Owings Mills, Baltimore County, and because she couldn't afford the cost or the time associated with classes offered by private sailing schools around the Chesapeake Bay. The Piney Run course cost $40.

Offered throughout the summer, the six-hour course teaches the basic skills of sailing, including rigging, launching, sailing with and against the wind, and safety.

Classes were limited to eight people. Although there were waiting lists for the June, July and August classes, only three people registered for the September course.

"(The courses) have been so successful, we'll probably offer them again next year," instructor J. Paul Breeding said. "We may even offer them on weekends."

Breeding's goal was to make these landlubbers feel comfortable in a small boat on protected water, such as the lake at Piney Run, which is surrounded by trees.

"You'll be able to take off from the dock and get back," Breeding said. "This is not to prepare you to circumnavigate theglobe."

The informal class, started in the outdoors around a picnic table, included such other basics as distinguishing port (left),starboard (right), bow (front) and stern (rear) on a lateen. Students also learned that ropes are not called ropes on boats but lines, sheets or halyards, depending on their functions.

"All boats steer fromthe stern," Breeding said. "You cannot control or steer the boat unless you are moving."

Moving, though, didn't seem to be a problem. With the wind blowing at about 5 or 6 knots, the sailors had no problem "tacking" across the lake.

"It's different than sailing on the bay," said Todd Rude, a 28-year-old Frederick police officer. "This was an opportunity for us to try sailing a smaller boat."

Rude and his wife, Bonnie, who also joined the class, own a 23-foot sloop theydock at Sparrow's Point. Rude usually operates the tiller while his wife works the sails.

At Piney Run, they were assigned to separatelateens and each had to maneuver both the sail and the tiller. It turned out to be a more cumbersome task than either had anticipated.

"It was the first time I had to steer," said Bonnie, 34. "This is a lot different. You have to shift your weight on a sloop but on a lateen you have to shift your weigh more. You really feel the difference."

Finding herself needing a third hand at times, she opted to use her feet to control the lines for the mainsail. Other forces, though,caused her lateen -- the worst of the four provided by Piney Run Park -- to capsize not once, but twice.

"Sometimes things happen," Breeding said. "You feel pretty dumb. But when you look around you realize nobody was watching and you usually recover gracefully."

That's what Rude did.

"That's a hard boat to handle," Breeding said. "There were times when all of you had trouble coming about (turning a boat around). You need to get enough speed to minimize the time to carry you through so you don't have that dead-end space."

Even so, Breeding was pleased with his latest class of would-be sailors.

"Youall accomplished all points of sail," he said. "You did good out there."

Thirty-four-year-old Holcomb, who had vowed to learn to sail before age 35, was ready for more. In fact, as her other classmates rode home toward Frederick, Holcomb boarded a sloop owned by Breeding's assistant and sailed off for more instruction.

"I think it's great to have this facility here," she said.

"I would certainly support a sailboat rental concession here."

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