Free sailing in Annapolis

Group provides free lessons on Sundays

  • Zoe Smith, Edgewater, steers an Arrow sailboat as part of the FreeSail program in Annapolis that every Sunday offers free four-hour sailing lessons. "It was great getting into the local culture," said Smith, a botanist who is originally from Melbourne, Australia.
Zoe Smith, Edgewater, steers an Arrow sailboat as part of the… (Kim Hairston, Baltimore…)
April 18, 2010|By John-John Williams IV, The Baltimore Sun

Zoe Smith, Frank Callahan, and Iulian Pogor laughed and joked with the familiarity of old friends as they walked along the Annapolis City Dock after an afternoon of sailing on the Chesapeake Bay.

The three didn't know each other prior to Sunday, but a four-hour complimentary sailing lesson provided by Annapolis Community Boating helped them forge an instant bond.

"It's about getting to know new people and team-building," said Pogor, a financial analyst based in Annapolis.

The group was among the first 16 of the season to take advantage of FreeSail, four-hour free sailing lessons, which run every Sunday until the first week of October. In its second year, FreeSail has exposed more than 450 people to sailing. The program is offered in conjunction with Annapolis Community Boating and the National Sailing Hall of Fame. Participants are eligible for one session to allow more people to take advantage of the program.

"It's great to get people involved in sailing without having to spend money," said Callahan, an Annapolis-based executive for a transportation company. Callahan is getting back into sailing after a 20-year hiatus.

"It was great getting into the local culture," said Smith, a botanist who lives in Edgewater. "It's the experience of doing something different."

The goal of the program is to expose newcomers and sailors of all levels to the water with the hope that they will continue with the sport.

"We want to get people out on the water," said Susan Taylor, one of the organizers of the activity. "It gives them a taste of it without having to spend the money."

Participants of FreeSail, who sign up prior to the lesson, are taught safety procedures, nautical terms, wind direction, the parts of a sailboat and the types of knots used on boats. They each get a chance to assist their instructor in steering the ship and line handling.

"They do as much as they want to without hurting themselves or the boat," said volunteer instructor Tony Ireland.

FreeSail is also a way to dispel the stereotype that sailing is an elitist sport for aloof people, according to Ireland.

"It's a very open, inclusive community," said Ireland, who uses his own 42-foot Catalina sailboat to teach participants. "We want to promote the sport — the essential teamwork aspect about it. A boat doesn't work unless a number of people work together."

The lessons benefit the instructors as much as the participants.

"It reminds you of why you like sailing … things I forgot about," said Melissa Trost.

Trost has been most impressed with the enthusiasm shown by the program's participants.

"They want more," she said. "They want to know how they can do this again."

Rizzo Dalo, who works in the IT department for a Baltimore business, plans to go sailing again after her lesson with Ireland. Dalo, who learned about FreeSail from colleagues, was joined by four friends from work.

"It was amazing," said Dalo, who lives in Baltimore. "We had a very kind captain. When you are out on the water, it is really peaceful."

Louwen Calatrava, Dalo's co-worker, made Ireland pose with him in front of the boat following his time on the water. He jokingly called himself Ireland's "apprentice."

Calatrava, who also lives in Baltimore, said he would recommend the lesson to his friends.

"They must try it," he said. "They will learn a lot. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience."

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