Learning to sail the bay Seamanship: Youngsters and adults study the secrets of sailing at Rocky Point, but the school's future course is uncharted.

August 13, 1997|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Seven-year-old Alexandra Kelly is a reluctant sailor, standing at water's edge at Baltimore County Sailing Center while waves from the wind-whipped Chesapeake Bay wash over her white tennis shoes.

"I hate it. I hate sailing," the red-haired Alexandra said dourly yesterday morning, as her partner, Melissa Rosener, 7, diligently checked the rigging on their beached dinghy. Alexandra dislikes speedboats that make waves, she dislikes the buoys placed to show young sailors where to go -- just everything.

But a half-hour later the girls and 30 other youngsters are far off the beach next to Rocky Point Park, tacking like pros in the strong easterly wind, shepherded through Hawk Cove's choppy waters.

The nonprofit center has made sailors out of hundreds of children and adults, but counselors and volunteers fear the program will be displaced by the county's plan to expand park facilities for swimmers.

Eugene M. Nuth, the Maryland Penitentiary warden who runs the center, said his group has no promise from the county that its fall sessions may go on. The center has been told in writing to remove its trailer/classroom from the 3-acre, county-owned site and cease activities by Sept. 15.

The county plans to demolish the old Porter's Beach social hall, a large, one-story brick building that was used for socializing decades ago and more recently has provided classroom space for the center. County officials want to build a pavilion to accommodate more of the people who use Rocky Point's beach.

Nuth's fears are overblown, say county recreation and parks officials, noting that the sailing school can move a bit farther up the beach.

"We're going to do our best to accommodate them," said deputy director Robert H. Bendler Jr. He promised an answer from the county on fall sailing shortly.

As officials squabble over the future of the 4-year-old center, students such as Daniel Cunningham, 11, of Perry Hall are learning sailing terms and tactics that teach them how to control their boats.

"My parents chose well when they invested in this camp," Daniel said, recounting a sail last week to nearby Pleasure Island, where campers lunched and swam. His boat was becalmed on the way back, however, he said. "To sail to that island takes much longer than it looks."

The students gather each morning. Some are dropped off by parents, though most arrive on a yellow school bus that stops at points around the Beltway. They come from all parts of the county, Monkton to Glen Arm and Arbutus to Perry Hall.

Adults come in the evenings or on weekends, and in the fall and spring when younger students are in school. Some former campers, such as Eileen Fahrmeier of Monkton, her cousin Michael Miller, Erica Hay of Glen Arm and Patrick Doyle of Catonsville, all 14, are back as junior counselors.

"It's a lot of fun. You can always be sailing," Patrick said.

"It's not only that it's fun. It's teaching experience," Eileen added, thinking about future summer jobs.

The first lesson is in disaster at sea, said staff director Chris Ford, 41, a music teacher at the Baltimore School for the Arts. After he's assured that even the youngest children can swim, they learn what to do when their boat capsizes.

When even 7-year-olds see how easy it is to right a capsized day sailer, he said, fears vanish.

The tiny beach off Rocky Point Road is so perfect for sailing that the Columbia Association brings a dozen students from the Howard County town's calm, artificial lakes twice a week, said director of sailing Pete Jordan.

Carla Todd, a Towson parent whose two sons, 10 and 13, have taken the sailing course, said it has done them good. "These kids rig their own boats," she said, adding that learning sailing techniques "has built their confidence."

Friday, everyone from the 7-year-olds to 14-year-old Steven Gupman of Arbutus will graduate from this summer's last two-week course.

Even the very young children seem to enjoy learning.

"You want to learn how to sail, don't you?" Melissa asked impatiently as Alexandra complained.

Unsure of her friend's commitment, Melissa made her feelings clear: "Well, I do."

Pub Date: 8/13/97

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