Sailing across generations

SUN PHOTO BY TOM CHANG Valarie Pappalardo sailed in the east end of Lemon Bay as part of the final day Friday of the Englewood Sailing Association’s summer camp.

ENGLEWOOD — Pat Uhl, a volunteer instructor and former student of the Englewood Sailing Association, said it’s about the journey not the destination.   

For ESA volunteers, it’s a rewarding experience knowing that graduates will either stay to share their own sailing experiences in a mentor role or expand their leadership skills they acquired from the training.   

Friday marked the last day of the ESA summer sailing camp at Indian Mound Park, where camp attendees and their families celebrated with a cookout following a morning sail with 13 boats.   

“One of the other things I like about this group — I enjoy being around people of all ages,” Uhl said. “I think the kids benefit from the interaction with adults other than their own parents. We certainly benefit from the interaction with the kids. We learn as much as they do. It’s just a really great situation.”   

Rocco Ceccara and Cayden Bisceglia operated their sailboat as part of the final day of the Englewood Sailing Association’s summer camp. Friends and family of camp attendees attended a cookout lunch after the morning sail.

The ESA operates with pico and sailfish sailboats, which hold up to three. In the more than 10 years of operation, they trained over 800 kids in sailing, as young as 10. Over 50 adults have participated in the adult program since it started three years ago.   

Uhl took the course in March 2012. Uhl’s prior experience was on bigger sailing boats, which require more specialized roles.   

“The experience was excellent,” she said. “It’s a switch when you’re your own captain and crew. So, initially, I had a lot of apprehension but it cleared up quite quickly.”   

Uhl credits the hands-on nature of the instructors.   

“Probably the best thing the group does is they have a coach in each of the boats as long as you need it,” she said. “On a big boat, you usually have a crew. So each person has an individual job and you get real good at that job. When you’re on a small boat, you have to do everything. You’re the captain and you’re the crew. You’re doing all these different jobs at the same time.”   

When camp starts, instructors start students with a swim test and capsizing drills.   

Alia Phelps and Juliette Murray attempt to gain speed and maintain stability on their sailboat during the final day of the Englewood Sailing Association’s summer camp Friday.

“(When we capsize) it helps ease the tension,” said Craig Keller, vice president of ESA. “I see at least five capsizes daily when we’re out sailing.”   

John Richter, general manager of the ESA, said the instructors usually have the kids out on their own by the fifth day.   

There are distinct differences between teaching adults and kids.   

“Kids are ‘see and do’ and they don’t ask a lot of questions,” Keller said. “Adults are more cerebral. They want to learn all the technical aspects.”   

It’s something Uhl can attest to in her experience.   

“The problem with adults is that we tend to over-think things,” she said. “We stop and think before we do something whereas the kids just try it and if it doesn’t work, they’ll try something else. I would say it’s easier for kids to learn, not to say adults aren’t capable.”   

The most difficult aspect for Uhl was getting used to the balance.   

“I was on the sunfish which is the striped sails that are out there,” Uhl said. “The sails are relatively large for the size of the boat and you always have to be aware that you’re in the right place at the right time. When you tack, you have to make sure you move your weight to the other side. So that’s the hard part. On a big boat, there’s a lot of people to tell you what to do. It becomes easier over time and it reinforces everything that you learn when you teach.”   

Uhl said the most rewarding aspect of teaching is what the students come away with afterward.   

“One thing with the kids that I’ve noticed that by the end of the week of this camp, they’re all walking a little taller,” she said. You can’t teach self confidence. That has to be acquired.”   

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The Englewood Sailing Association trains 80 youths per year on average, according to vice president Craig Keller. Since starting the program more than 10 years ago, the ESA has trained more than 800 youths. Since starting the adult program three years ago, over 50 adults have been trained.


About Tom

Tom Chang is a freelance journalist with a background in multimedia journalism and web publishing. He is currently pursuing his Masters in Journalism and Media Studies from the University of South Florida St.Petersburg. He graduated in 2004 with a Bachelors Degree in Mass Communications at USF Tampa. Tom's interests include a little bit of everything from entertainment to sports. He also wishes to delve into creative writing writing sci-fi/fantasy stories. Tom was recently the Online Editor for USF St. Petersburg's the Crow's Nest, he joined the staff in January 2010 where he started freelance writing, photographing, copy editing and later became a staff writer. Tom’s freelance experience in journalism amassed a wide range of companies including Creative Loafing, The Focus Magazine, Lutz News,, and Tampa Tribune.
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