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Learning to Sail on the Potomac River (Connection Newspaper)

Posted by George Stevens on Sun, Mar 30, 2014 @ 12:20 PM

During the winter, Amy Zang is a teacher. Chip Johnston flies around the world in search of the perfect wind and kite surfing. Come summer, however, they both return to the Potomac — Zang to direct the sailing program at Washington Sailing Marina; Johnston to return to his post as vice president of marine operations at Belle Haven Marina.

“It’s a great gig,” said Johnston, who grew up in nearby Hollin Hall. He figures that he’s been working at Belle Haven Marina since 1980. During the winter, he uses Florida (where his parents live) as home base to head out to exotic parts. His favorite is Kovala Beach, located in southern India. He also likes Brazil up until January.Mariner Sailing School dock

“It’s a good time,” he said. “It [Belle Haven] is a gorgeous place and there is a different group of kids every time, so there is plenty of challenge. It’s the flavor of life — it’s never the same.”

George Stevens, president of The Mariner Sailing School, said that the school was started in the late '70s and continues to be the only full-time sailing school on the Potomac River.

“Over the years, the school has grown from two boats and two instructors to approximately 60 vessels and over 50 instructors. The school has adapted to student demands over the years. In the beginning, we only offered a Learn to Sail course but our graduates wanted the next step. Our Learn to Cruise graduates are now sailing the BVI’s, Bahamas and Florida Keys with confidence. Fifteen years ago, we were one of the larger windsurfing facilities in the area, but demand has waned and we are no longer in windsurfing," Stevens said. “The Youth Courses have always been an important component to our success. Many of our current staff are graduates of the course and are now sharing their skills with new sailors.”Belle Haven Marina Youth program

OVER AT WASHINGTON Sailing Marina, students were also gathering for the day. Zang said that they have 10 weekly sessions. Unlike Belle Haven that has half-day sessions, all of their sessions are full day — from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. She said that they offer beginning, intermediate, advanced and windsurfing classes. There are 38 Sunfish for the beginners; nine Flying Scots for intermediate students; six Hobie Cats for advanced students and eight windsurfers.

At the Gangplank Marina, DC Sail also teaches adults and youths. DC Sail is the community sailing program of the National Maritime Heritage Foundation. 

DC Sail offers Washington, DC's first and only community sailing program.

DC Sail, volunteers, and the community are currently working towards our goals of:

  • Raising money and support for DC Sail's youth programming, bringing children from all corners of Washington, DC together to share in maritime education.
  • Increasing awareness of the value and potential of the Potomac & Anacostia Rivers, and
  • Building a model for a larger full-scale community sailing center.

Tags: Belle Haven Marina, sailing lessons, Learn to Sail, Alexandria Virginia, adult sailing lessons, sailing lessons for children, Washington DC sailing marina, dc area, youth sailing lessons, washington dc