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FIRELANDS OUTDOOR NOTEBOOK - Sailing part of American history

Norwalk Reflector Staff • Oct 28, 2015 at 3:48 PM

"Sailing, sailing over the bounding main" is a chanty that almost every school child knows, and they should.

Sailing has been a part of American history from the days of Leif Erikson to John Paul Jones, and even today the keening of wind through taut rigging brings tingles to the spine of the hearer.

Lots of folks who man fishing boats or power craft are prone to say "What do they see in that silly sport? Just floating along with the wind for no good reason." But those who love sailing have a ready answer. They consider it an extremely challenging activity, one that pits man against wind and water and makes him one with the elements, rather than fighting against them. It takes a skilled touch to sail against a quartering wind, and fine judgment to known when to tack or come about to maintain speed.

But it's a restful sport, too, one that lets a sailor and perhaps his family relax with a snapping white sail overhead and the chuckle of water passing along the side. No hurry, but often good speed, no pungent scent of gasoline, and no roar of a wide-open motor to tighten the nerves. I'm no expert sailor, though I've sailed on Lake Erie more than once and even cruised the wide reaches of Chesapeake Bay on a sailing craft. But someday I'm going to try it again, and perhaps you're interested, too. If so, and you're thinking about experiencing this new sport come spring, there are some things you can do right now.

One, on these long winter days, is to read up on sailing. Check the Web for sailing basics and you'll find books like Sailing Fundamentals by Gary Jobson and videos like Learning To Sail The Basics. Your local library almost certainly has a book or two, and Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble will turn up plenty more. It's always a good idea to learn from veterans, too, so give thought to taking a sailing class or sitting in on a meeting or two of some local sailing club.

I checked the Web under "Ohio Sailing Clubs" and found 94 of them. Just a sampling were the Vermilion Yacht Club (440) 967-6634, the Sandusky Sailing Club (419) 625-1963, the Mansfield Sailing Club (410) 886-3706, and the Mohican Sailing Club (419) 892-2611. These groups and most of the rest should welcome potential new members with open arms, and a lot of questions at a meeting will provide some useful answers, and could result in a friendly sail with someone come spring. If no sailing clubs are within easy range, you might just walk out on a Lake Erie marina pier or an inland lake marina and look for somebody working on their sailboat. Then offer a cheerful "hello" and ask your questions.

One thing that's very important, at least while you're still trying to decide if you're going to like this new sport, is to start small. Go to a boat show and you'll find craft as small as a canoe with a sail attachment, which is about as small as you can get, but should still teach fundamentals. You might consider a micro-sailboat too, easily handled by one person, or a cruising dingy or trailer sailor, or whatever. Then go larger as the sailing bug bites hard.

With luck, you'll end up with a craft sure to give pleasure under any conditions, and once you've known the heady exultation of proficient sailing, tasted wind driven spray, and felt your sensitive craft heel over as you change tacks, you'll find it's a sport you can love. For years to come.

Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at richmart@neo.rr.com n Landowners who order a minimum of 500 conifer seedlings in nine varieties from the ODNR for planting this spring, can receive an equal number of white pine seedlings at no additional charge. Conifer species available through the match program include arborvitae, eastern hemlock, red cedar, Austrian pine, and Norway spruce among others. Conifer orders will be prices at the "1,000 and over" discount rate, and buyers will be responsible only for shipping costs on the initial 500 conifer seedlings they purchase. For more information, contact the Division of Forestry toll-free at (877) 691-8733.

The new 2007 Hocking Hills Visitors Guide is now available at no charge by calling 1-800-HOCKING. Travelers will find complete information on the variety of attractions and accommodations offered in southeast Ohio's scenic Hocking Hills area. In addition to listings, maps, and informational ads, the guide includes in-depth features about the region, shops, and dining facilities.

Wetland restoration, Ohio's native violets, medicinal plants, and the best of Ohio's natural areas are some of the topics to be discussed on March 30 during the 7th Annual Ohio Botanical Symposium. The event will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Fawcett Center, 2400 Olentangy River Road on the OSU campus. The $15 fee includes refreshments and there is no additional charge for a walk-in registration. For more details, contact Rick Grdner at (614) 265-6419.

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