By Carol McCracken (Post # 1,437)
An Open House on the Portland waterfront today marked the beginning of the 17th season for SailMaine. It gave the public an opportunity to find out what MaineSail is all about and to give those interested, a free 20 minute sail into Casco Bay, said Alicia Mooradian, Program Director, for SailMaine. About 130 people took advantage of that opportunity with some signing up for lessons following their foray into the calm waters.
But the all day Open House was more than that. It was also a chance to celebrate the addition of twelve used J22 keel boats to the SailMaine program. The boat was desgned by Rodney Johnstone and built in Rhode Island. Last fall Jeff Cummings, Executive Director, of the non-profit learned from SailNewport (R.I.) the eight year old boats were for sale, because it was upgrading to newer ones. Immediately, a fund raising campaign was begun. $180,000.00 was raised to pay for the twelve boats, trailors and other equipment. “This is a very unique situation,” said Cummings as we stood out on one of the docks of Portland Yacht Services at the end of the open house today. (SailMaine sits on l/4 of an acre of city property next to PYS.) “Finding all these boats built in the same year in Rhode Island makes them very evenly matched,” he said. “This is good for racing these boats which we will do.”
This addition of twelve J22s has allowed SailMaine to expand its programs for youth in Portland who otherwise would not have access to sailing on Casco Bay. “We want to reach out to the community and offer sailing experiences to break down the elitist barrier to sailing that exists,” said Mooradian who joined the staff in February of this year. The program includes working with youths from LearningWorks on the west end of Portand. In return, students in that program are building SM two large floats. A pilot program is starting with the Boys & Girls Club, Cumberland Avenue. Six children will get some sailing experience as well as learn the basics of the sport. Next year, SM hopes to reach out to children on Munjoy Hill, said Mooradian.
“It’ about bringing the masses into saiing. It’s such an elitist sport. I’m a wanna’ be sailor. When the kids start young, it’s second nature to them,” said Amy Alwand, Alwand Insurance Agency. Alwand who lives on the Hill has sponsored the open house for the last two years.