CASTLETON — Residents will see flying colors for two full weeks this year as 24 young locals learn to crew their own vessels on Lake Bomoseen.
Inspired by a sailing club on Shelter Island, New York, Castleton resident and program director Joe Mark will expand the Lake Bomoseen Sailing Club this year, and one of the weeks will be spent specifically teaching how to sail.
The following week will be dedicated to racing the fleet with the hope of one day inspiring Bomoseen’s own regatta.
“Eleven of the 12 (students) wanted to sign up for this year’s sailing program,” Mark said. “Starting this year and continuing every summer, we hope to have a youth racing program.”
Mark said the program has been able to take on double the number of students this year, enabling 24 students to learn to captain their own Sunfish sailing vessel.
Originally a Jersey City native, Mark’s adoration for sailing began as a child. He met his future wife through their local sailing club when he was 13.
“My first boat cost me under a thousand dollars,” Mark said. “An American boat would have probably cost me $2,500.
“I’ve been thinking about this, probably for 25 years,” Mark said. “If you look out on the lake ... you don’t see a single sailboat. It just breaks my heart that there’s no way for a kid to learn how to sail here unless they’re fortunate enough to have a family with waterfront property.”
Woodard’s Marine sold its rental fleet, which Mark originally intended to rent for the three-hour camp during the week, so he waited until he retired in 2012 so he could dedicate more of his time and effort to the sailing camp.
That’s when he started asking for donations for boats and materials from local organizations to build a fleet of his own, and after a few years of propositions the club received support from the town, as well as $700 from local organizations.
“I was somewhat skeptical as to what would happen,” Mark said. “Would the kids show up? Can we teach them to sail in 15 hours?”
But they managed to fill each of the 12 slots, Mark said, and even had to turn two applicants away.
So this year, they’re renewing their 100% volunteer effort, and received a total of $1,150 in total donations from local organizations, including two brand-new flags thanks to $500 donated by the Lake Bomoseen Association.
The flags, with bright neon and blue contrasting hues, are each named Mai Tai and Sea Breeze, Mark said.
In addition, the sailing club is enjoying donated, brand-new life jackets from Woodard’s Marine.
Each of the nine boats of the sailing fleet for the second year is a donated vessel having been loved by a former owner and is ready for its next purpose.
“These boats, new, complete are $5,500,” Mark said. “The plan, over time is to sell the worst of these ... and slowly upgrade the fleet.”
Come mid-July the boats will set sail with help from motorboat volunteers who will help keep watch and man the megaphones to keep the young captains safe on their voyages.
Matt McCoy donated his boat, a high-performance single-hander Phantom sailing dinghy, used by his daughters until they grew up and moved out of state. “(That boat) ... it’s fast,” he said.
Though they won’t use the Phantom in their racing circuit, the boat will likely be sold to the lottery winner of a pool of students after it’s renovated, with the money going toward the sailing club’s future.
A dream would be to bring the sailing club to other regattas hosted by sailing clubs to compete in weekend competitions, Mark said, and he plans to join a sailing co-op to gain access to more equipment, storage and sailing areas.
Last year’s sailing program cost each student-sailor $50, a base cost that covers the operating expenses of the program for the week. This year three pricing systems will be offered to families: $50, $60 or $100 for the sustaining package.
“That one allows us to upgrade equipment every year,” Mark said.