Friday, August 1, 2008

Sailing Optimists

When I was eight years old I did not get to take sailing lessons. I was landlocked. The good news was, a few years later I was riding a Vespa, and I am, as may have been noted still riding. Wednesday was one of my numerous days off and I was riding into town to see the movie Mongol (Genghis Khan didn't get a break as a youngster, in and out of handcuffs, wife stolen, home burned it went on and on for two full hours) and I got detoured by a bunch of white handkerchiefs on Garrison Bight.Garrison Bight (bight in sailing lingo means an indentation in the coast) is an almost entirely enclosed body of water, enclosed in part by Flagler's engineers when they built the train depot where the Coastguard Station is today on the north side of the island. It makes for an ideal body of protected water to park boats in the city marina, or to sail small boats without danger of large waves or being dragged over the horizon by errant tides. This is especially helpful if you are small and your boat is small and you are learning how to sail it. The Key West Sailing Club has a summer program of sailing lessons for kids as young as eight and for a week they twirl around the bight in Optimist dinghies, Optimist is the brand name not the state of mind of the sailor, under the direction of a club instructor who rides in a outboard powered skiff giving direction and help:I cannot think of a more wholesome activity for a young person living in this city where people frequently complain "there is nothing to do." The waters are as safe as can be, everyone is wearing life jackets and the grown ups sailing the club boats respect the right-of-way of the youngsters:This is also an affordable activity as the Sailing Club is the little tiki hut next door to Spencer's Boatyard, a do-it-yourself kind of place. I used to be a member when I lived in the city and membership cost something ridiculous like $10 a month, which gave me access to the clubs sailboats, like this:The sailing club isn't the Key West Yacht Club at the opposite end of the bight, home to the city's glitterati who get the pauper's rental rate from the city of one whole dollar a year for their property...The sailing club is rather more modest, and perhaps more accessible:And the Sailing Club offers tons of fun on the water which I spent a good few minutes watching and enjoying. I can't say I was envious of the kids, but I think they are lucky to get the chance to know the joy of sailing at such a young age, with an instructor who enjoyed the fun:

Of course I left the house too late to wander around for long in the city before my movie started so I had to jump on the motorcycle all too soon. A passer by headed towards the dinghy docks and saw me photographing the boats. I mentioned how pleased I was to see young sailors learning the sport and he watched them a moment and echoed my sentiments about not getting into it young enough. " They sail better than I do," he sighed.I missed a couple of previews but sat down in time for the start of the show. Young Genghis lost his dad at the age of nine, poisoned by an enemy, and he and his mother were kicked out of the tribe to wander the steppe on their lonesome. He'd have done better had he learned to sail and got clear of that messy country as soon as possible. But he was landlocked and had to learn to ride a horse instead. Key West youngsters have choices.