Sailing school’s goal is to teach safety and fun

May 12, 2014
Gary Ferguson, president of the school.

Gary Ferguson, president of the school.

Ludington Youth Sailing School will begin classes this summer.

By Rob Alway. Editor-in-Chief. 

LUDINGTON — A group of boating enthusiasts have filled a long-time void by forming a local sailing school. Beginning this summer, the Ludington Youth Sailing School will offer lessons to children ages 8 to 17.

The non-profit organization was formed by members of the Ludington Yacht Club, however it operates separate from the club.

“We live in a water wonderland,” said Gary Ferguson, president of the organization’s board. “It just seems natural that we offer more boating education. We want to get kids out on the water and learn how to have fun and be safe.”

The school will be taught by a certified instructor, Tom Hilton of Pentwater, along with three high school-aged assistants. All lessons will be taught on the peninsula west of the yacht club just west of Copeyon Park. Sailing will take place in Pere Marquette Lake.

ludington_youth_sailing_schoolFerguson said Hilton will be teaching under the guidelines of the U.S. Sailing Association and the club has received a positive nod from Coast Guard Station Ludington and the Ludington harbor master.

“Naturally, safety will be first,” Ferguson said. “All students must pass a swimming test before they get into a boat. They also will be required to wear lifejackets, water shoes and a hat. They will also be asked to bring a towel, change of clothing and sunscreen, of course.”

The school will use three different types of boats. All beginners will start with the 7- to 9-foot Opti (Optimist). The opti is one of the most popular sailing dinghies in the world, with over 150,000 boats officially registered with the class.

The JY15 is a 2- to 3-person boat that is 15-feet in length with a beam of 5-feet, 10-inches.

The Sunfish is a personal size, beach launched sailing dinghy utilizing a pontoon type hull carrying a lateen sail mounted to an un-stayed mast. It is 13-feet, 10 inches in length with a 4-feet, 1-inch beam.

Most of the boats have been donated by other sailing schools. The Optis have been loaned to the school by Ludington Area Schools.

Ferguson said there is lots of work that needs to be done to the boats and the grounds before the first class session begins on June 23. He said a dock needs to be built and some of the boats need patch work.

Adult volunteers are still needed to help with logistics during the classes. Ferguson said sailing experience is not required for those volunteer positions, which will involve registering students and other on-shore operations.

“We have a great group of volunteers but could always use more help,” Ferguson said.

The organization’s board consists of Ferguson; Dale Fitch, vice president; Denny Lavis, secretary; Steve Miller, treasurer; and directors Connelly Bowling, Les Kaines, Geoff Paine and John Wilson.

The classes are 3 hours a day for five days and cost $100; sessions are available in the morning and afternoon. Ferguson said class sizes will be limited to 10 students.

“We wanted to limit the class sizes to allow the instructors to spend as much one-on-one time with the students as possible,” Ferguson said.

Class sessions are June 23-27, June 30-July 3 (4 day period for $80), July 7-11, July 14-18, July 21-25, July 28-Aug. 1, Aug. 4-8, Aug. 11-15.

For more information, call Ferguson at 231.690.3710 or go to www.ludingtonyouthsailingschool.org.

Donations may be sent to Ludington Youth Sailing School, PO Box 132, Ludington, MI 49431.

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