Learning to sail is like learning to swim or ride a bike, said John Parker, president of the Ocean City Sailing Foundation. Once you acquire the skill you have it for life.
"It's one more thing to have in your arsenal," Parker said.
The foundation was created in 2007, with this summer being its fourth season, June 20 to August 20. Its mission is to teach individuals living in or visiting Ocean City, ages 8 and older, how to sail.
On June 25, OCSF held its annual summer open house, inviting the general public to take a free ride on a Hunter 18-foot sloop and learn more about the foundation. About 50 people signed up for sailing lessons after visiting that day, Parker said.
The foundation offers individuals both private and group lessons taught by a crew of U.S. Sailing Association-certified instructors. The foundation runs its program out of the Bayside Center at 520 Bay Ave., leasing the building from the city of Ocean City and sailing in the bay behind it.
A new addition this summer, OCSF has access to the $275,000 boat ramp completed by the city last fall, making for both safer and easier access to the bay, Parker said.
OCSF received a $50,000 grant from the NJ DOT "I Boat NJ" program, approved late last August, with which it purchased two chase boats and a new Hunter 18 sloop. The foundation also offers scholarships to individuals who can not afford lessons but are interested in learning to sail.
Each summer, the foundation instructs about 130 individuals.
"Sailing can be great if you just feel like just being lazy and spacing out," instructor David Jackson said.
On the first day of a lesson, the student learns to take command of the boat, Jackson said. By lesson four or five, the student has learned the skill.
Harry Bellwoar, general counsel for the foundation and the impetus behind its founding, said OCSF is great for grandparents, such as he, who want to introduce their grandchildren to sailing, but see the children only for short periods of time.
"They're only here a week or two each summer, so they can't commit to more than a few days of lessons," Bellwoar said. "Sailing teaches a child to appreciate the tide, appreciation for the bay."
Students begin their lessons by learning how to handle a sailboat, usually an Optimist, Parker said. They even capsize the boat and regain control.
"They learn 'I can handle this boat, I'm not afraid,'" Bellwoar said. "It's a crime to be near a bay and not know how to sail."
For more information on the foundation, including lesson times, visit Ocsailingfounda
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