I’ve always loved being on the water since I was a little boy. My love for being on or in the water began with spending numerous vacations up at my Aunt Dorothy’s cottage on Lake Geneva back in the 60’s. She took me sailing, fishing, and swimming quite often until 1970 when she sold it. Then, my parents bought a property on a private lake, Lake Wildwood, in central Illinois. We didn’t have a cottage there, but we spent many a weekend fishing, swimming, and camping throughout the 70’s. I was quite ambitious about earning money since I was 9 or 10 and, by the time I turned 14 I was able to buy a Bass boat. I thought I would spend lots of time fishing, but as fate would have it I became very interested in water skiing. I taught my siblings and all our friends how to water ski with my Bass boat since it had plenty of horse power. While I was down at Lake Wildwood I also got to sail one of my friends little sailboats a couple of times. It was a very light little boat about 11 feet long with a hull that was sort of a plastic coated Styrofoam, and even lighter and smaller than a Sunfish. It fit inside the Bass boat when we trailered the boat down. I had lots of fun with it even though I really didn’t know what I was doing.
My first instruction on how to sail a boat was off of Lake Michigan’s 12th Street Beach back in 1996. One day I was swimming there and noticed a small fleet of 14 foot Barnetts that the Chicago Park District was offering sailing lessons with. I caught on pretty fast, probably because of my prior experience when I was a kid. The next season the Rainbow Fleet moved to Montrose Beach, and I began renting Barnetts there for the whole summer. The year after that I took lessons on the Rainbow Fleet’s 16 foot Catamarans, and had even more fun. I continued to rent their boats for another year, but then the Rainbow Fleet program shut down.
I had had a rather serious mental illness since the mid 80’s and was considered disabled, so in from 1998 to 2004 I sailed with a handicapped sailing club out of Burnham Harbor called the Judd Goldman Adaptive Sailing program. The Judd Goldman sailors were very into racing and had professional sailors from all over the country come and give seminars and on the water instruction about the finer points of sailing. I learned the most I know about sailing from belonging to this organization. Then, Peter Goldman, the president of the organization kind of had me quit the group because my disability wasn’t like everyone else’s in the group. They all were paraplegics, except for a deaf guy, and 2 legally blind people.
While I was with the Judd Goldman program, I had invited several friends to join me sailing, because that was permitted for the members of the program. I got them somewhat interested in sailing as well, so when I quit Judd Goldman, I talked them into renting J22’s out of Belmont Harbor with me for the next couple of years. That turned out to be rather expensive, especially for a handicapped guy like me, and they didn’t seem as interested in sailing as I was.
Then, in 2007 I found The Northwest Sailing Association at a booth at the Strictly Sail Show at Navy Pier. It only costed $35 to join the club and I was eligible to sail at as many of the 22 events throughout the season as I wanted, as well as other times throughout the week when events weren’t even planned for!!! Since then I’ve sailed about 15 times per year on all different size and type boats from 17 feet to 45 feet long, and out of 10 different harbors on Lake Michigan, and 6 different inland lakes. I’ve met many friendly, fun loving, and experienced sailors that share the same passion that I do of being under sail on the water. I’ve been with the Northwest Sail Association for the past 11 years having the time of my life, and all for $35 per year. What a bargain!!!!