Sail Fast!

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

Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce on Belle Haven Marina

Posted by George Stevens on Tue, Mar 18, 2014 @ 03:00 PM

Comments of Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce
Regarding EIS No. 20140006 Draft EIS, NPS, VA,
Dyke Marsh Wetland Restoration and
Long-term Management Plan

March 17, 2014

Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce is the premier business organization for the south
Fairfax area with more than 350 members. On behalf of our members we would like to
register our concerns with the implementation of the Dyke Marsh Restoration and Long Term
Management Plan and in particular language contained in Alternative C, the Preferred
Alternative presented by the National Park Service (NPS). Preserving and maintaining Belle
Haven Marina is a top community concern and implementation of Alternative C does not
clearly state the continued operation of this business. Belle Haven mooring area

Dyke Marsh and Belle Haven Marina are both popular recreation destinations and a critical
launching and mooring field for boaters in the Washington area. The two destinations are
from a geographical sense, bound to each other. The marina provides a boat ramp, slips,
sailboat rental, paddle craft rental and launch, and a sailing school. Area residents launch
boats and paddle craft to fish, bird-watch and enjoy the wildlife fostered by Dyke Marsh. The
marina also serves important education programs such as the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s
Potomac River Program which teaches youth conservation and preservation.

The vitality of both Dyke Marsh and Belle Haven Marina rely on a balanced management plan
that fosters the sustainability of the marsh and the economic viability of the marina.
However, current language contained in Alternative C could curtail or eliminate marina
operations. This language should be removed from Alternative C:

“This alternative contains an optional 20-acre restoration cell in the area currently serving as
mooring for the marina. Such an option would only be implemented should the marina
concession no longer be economically viable for the current concessioner, and no other
concessioner expresses interest in taking over the business, eliminating the need for the
mooring field.” Dyke Marsh Wetland Restoration and Long-term Management Plan / EIS,
page 37.

The National Park Service is the leaseholder to the concessionaire (in this case Belle Haven
Marina) and sets the lease requirements, insurance minimums, and defines what is or is not
“economic viability.” Language in the Draft ESI leads to the conclusion that the
concessionaire could be denied renewal of the lease at any time. A consistent and fair
approach to Belle Haven Marina will keep this business open to serve the community. Belle
Haven Marina is and has been consistently at 100% slip occupancy with more than 400
families on the waiting list for slips. This is important testimony towards the need to maintain
the 20 acres of current mooring field. The marina and sailing school also contribute heavily
to the local economy by providing 45-50 jobs and support nearby retail and restaurants.

Closing Belle Haven Marina would mean no public boat launch for more than 20 miles of the
Potomac River even though the nation’s taxpayers, through the National Park System, pay for
a good stretch of maintaining that river shore. Placing the access this marina provides to
the urban and suburban population in such jeopardy also directly conflicts with National Park
Service initiatives to remove obstacles to park access.

It is important to recognize the importance of maintaining the connection to the water that
facilities such as Belle Haven Marina provide, particularly in an urban area such as
Washington. For disadvantaged youth, on the water experiences are only made possible by
supporting recreational facilities like the marina.

We strongly urge the National Park Service to eliminate language in the Preferred Alternative
that puts in jeopardy the continued operation of Belle Haven Marina. The goal of continued
operation of Belle Haven Marina should be clearly stated in the EIS. There is a balance to be
found in providing access to Dyke Marsh and the Potomac River while preserving the very
elements that make these natural areas such attractive destinations. Preserving public
access to the marsh and river via support and enhancement of the Belle Haven Marina must
be a primary goal of any new management plan.

Additionally, dredging of Belle Haven Marina and the use of such dredge material to rebuild
eroded areas of Dyke Marsh would be a win-win strategy in moving forward and supporting
both entities. Creating deeper slips and mooring areas will help to solidify the area for
generations to come, while the use of native soils as fill to restore Dyke Marsh will cut down
in refurbishment costs.

In conclusion, Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce strongly urges the National Park
Service to 1) eliminate the referenced language in the DRAFT EIS, 2) add language that
guarantees the continued operation of Belle Haven Marina, and 3) dredge Belle Haven
Marina and use this material as fill as part of the restoration process. Preserving both Belle
Haven Marina and Dyke Marsh and the recreational and educational opportunities they
provide are important community goals and can be accomplished during this process.

6821 Richmond Highway / Alexandria, VA 22306

Tags: Belle Haven Marina, sailing lessons, boating, Mariner Sailing School

What Sailing and the Water Means to Some Teens by John R

Posted by George Stevens on Mon, Mar 17, 2014 @ 03:48 PM

The feeling of being free and in charge is one of the reasons why I believe that sailing is truly amazing. By yourself or with friends, you can travel wherever you want on the water without having to worry about gas money or a motor.  Sailing is an activity that you can participate in that is fun, exciting, relaxing, and for anyone of any age. In the more recent years, I’ve noticed that there are fewer and fewer sailors my age. When my dad was growing up in the 70’s, he was sailing his heart out with lots of kids his age. They were all good friends back then. I look now at my sailing club and see maybe seven or eight others my age. Very few  teens are active members at the club, or frequent sailors.

Teenagers sailing 420 dinghiesI asked someone at my high school a couple months back if they would want to go sailing with me sometime, and they replied with, “Oh! I love para-sailing! I did it once in Florida!” I think most teens would love the sport if they were given the opportunity in the right circumstances. A medium breeze, on a warm day are usually the ideal conditions for taking out a first timer. Where the wind is just high enough to get one of the hulls out of the water, or to where the hull would heel (lean) to the side.

I’ve only brought one person sailing in heavy winds on a chilly day, and their experience wasn’t the best. Other than that,  most of the kids I have brought along on the right days have stuck around and still enjoy the sport to this day. Sailing also teaches one to make quick decisions, like when tack in a stormy or dangerous situation.

Sailing and teens go hand-in-hand with making great memories. Some of mine favorite memories include meeting life-long friends at regattas, tying our Hobie Cats together on the 4th of July in the middle of the lake and enjoying some cold Cokes, traveling for races, or just sailing in a new place. Sometimes sailing is great date activity; bringing girls on dates to the club-owned Flying Scot, one of those dates including my first kiss! (Note to the other teen boys out there: girls love guys that know how to sail!)

There are just so many reasons why sailing and teens go together or should go together. To sum it up, sailing is a sport that is totally worth learning. Anyone from ages 8 to 80 can do it! To the teen sailors reading this, I challenge you to invite at least 5 new people to try out the sport. If we already enjoy it, they probably will too, you’ve just got give them a chance to give it a shot. To the ones out there that don’t sail and are reading this, give it a try! You don’t know what you are missing out on!

Tags: Belle Haven Marina, sailing lessons, Flying Scot, Learn to Sail


Posted by George Stevens on Fri, Aug 31, 2012 @ 04:07 PM


10 Beginner Sailing Terms Everyone Should Know

We’ve also compiled this short list of 10 beginner sailing terms that everyone should know. If you’re just learning how to sail, these handy terms can provide a helpful overview of sailing basics you need to become familiar with.

1. Aft - The back of a ship. If something is located aft, it is at the back of the sailboat. The aft is also known as the stern. 

2. Bow - The front of the ship is called the bow. Knowing the location of the bow is important for defining two of the other most common sailing terms: port (left of the bow) and starboard (right of the bow). 

3. Port - Port is always the left-hand side of the boat when you are facing the bow. Because “right” and “left” can become confusing sailing terms when used out in the open waters, port is used to define the left-hand side of the boat as it relates to the bow, or front. 

4. Starboard - Starboard is always the right-hand side of the boat when you are facing the bow. Because “right” and “left” can become confusing sailing terms when used out in the open waters, starboard is used to define the right-hand side of the boat as it relates to the bow, or front. 

5. Leeward - Also known as lee, leeward is the direction opposite to the way the wind is currently blowing (windward). 

6. Windward - The direction in which the wind is currently blowing. Windward is the opposite of leeward (the opposite direction of the wind). Sailboats tend to move with the wind, making the windward direction an important sailing term to know. 

7. Boom - The boom is the horizontal pole which extends from the bottom of the mast. Adjusting the boom towards the direction of the wind is how the sailboat is able to harness wind power in order to move forward or backwards. 

8. Rudder - Located beneath the boat, the rudder is a flat piece of wood, fiberglass, or metal that is used to steer the ship. Larger sailboats control the rudder via a wheel, while smaller sailboats will have a steering mechanism directly aft. 

9. Tacking - The opposite of jibing, this basic sailing maneuver refers to turning the bow of the boat through the wind so that the wind changes from one side of the boat to the other side. The boom of a boat will always shift from one side to the other when performing a tack or a jibe. 

10. Jibing - The opposite of tacking, this basic sailing maneuver refers to turning the stern of the boat through the wind so that the wind changes from one side of the boat to the other side. The boom of a boat will always shift from one side to the other when performing a tack or a jibe. Jibing is a less common technique than tacking, since it involves turning a boat directly into the wind.

Tags: Belle Haven Marina, sailing lessons, Learn to Sail, sailing, Mariner Sailing School, US Sailing, Sailing Instructors

Top 10 reason to go sailing from

Posted by George Stevens on Fri, Aug 31, 2012 @ 03:56 PM

10. Peace and quiet.

9. Creating life long memories comes easily.

8. Sailing is FUN, FUN, FUN !

7. Experiencing life moment to moment.

6. It’s at least 10 degrees COOLER than land.

5. Full of rare natural beauty.

4. Gain greater confidence ~ sailing through life

3. Sailing takes you places

2. Makes you younger

and the number 1 Top reason to Just Go Sailing is

Escape to Adventure !

BVI escape

Tags: Belle Haven Marina, sailing lessons, Learn to Sail, sailing, Mariner Sailing School, Safety

Sailing And Life

Posted by George Stevens on Fri, Apr 27, 2012 @ 07:23 AM


Sailing on a sailboat is very different from motoring around in a motorboat with its loud engine. With a sailboat, you must feel and rely on the wind to move you to your destination. You can't just point your bow and throttle up. As the wind pushes the boat, you feel her surge with every gust. She heels over and then stiffens up as she cuts through the waves with ease and grace. Instead of bouncing over the waves, you feel the swell beneath your feet and time is not counted in minutes, but instead by the rise and fall of each passing crest. The sounds of the wind whipping through the canvas, the water lapping against the hull, and of winches and halyards raising the sails fill the air.

The silence of a downwind run ...BVI cruising

Working with Mother Nature and simply trying to overpower her is an amazing feeling. While sailing, you become more than just a simple human. You become part of the world around you, dependent on your boat, your knowledge, and the natural forces of our planet. You remember that we are all connected and, although it is possible to move at a faster pace - rarely is it as beautiful or as gratifying. The most important part of sailing is the journey itself ... not the destination. Wherever that may be - don't worry ... you'll get there.

Life is like that too.

By Fortadam

Tags: Belle Haven Marina, sailing lessons, sailing, boating, Potomac River, Sailboat racing

6 tips for choosing a sailing school on the Potomac River

Posted by George Stevens on Mon, Jan 30, 2012 @ 01:46 PM


1) How long has the School been in existence?

Like any business selection,  are you willing to take a chance with a recently started program or one with a proven track record? Schools that have been teaching for 35 years must be doing something right. Belle Haven Marina has been teaching sailing skills on a full time basis since 1977.

2) What Certification is Offered?

Certification of sailing is a relatively recent phenomenon.  There is no one single standard in the United States nor is it required to rent or buy a sailboat. The Mariner Sailing School is an approved US Sailing training facility. US Sailing is the governing body of sailing. This certification is recognized by sailing professionals and charter companies worldwide and ensures that our school complies with an established and comprehensive program.

  US Sailing Logo

3) What type of sailboats will I learn on?

The last thing you want to do when learning how to sail is to pick an  unstable boat. This would hardly inspire confidence, nor do you pick a boat that feels like a floating battleship. The best of both worlds is to choose a stable, yet responsive centerboard boat. 19' Flying Scot - is our choice for all Adult Learn to Sail, Racing and Private Instruction. The skills acquired can be easily transferred to other larger boats.19' Flying Scot

 Sunfish - our choice for the Youth Learn to Sail courses. The sunfish can be enjoyed by all ages and sailing skills and confidences are quickly acquired.

 C&C 34 - an ideal boat for learning to cruise with its centerboard design and outstanding performance. We will  make cruising in the Islands a pleasure.

4) How large is my class?

This is probably one of the most important questions to ask when selecting a sailing school. Obviously, the more students per instructor, the greater the profit margin for the sailing program. There are three positions on the boat, skipper, mainsail trimmer and jib sail trimmer. If you have more than three students aboard, you are getting ripped off. 

5) What happens if Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate?

Great question to ask in the mid-Atlantic area. No one learns to sail while sitting in a classroom, but rather by being out on the water. When investigating sailing programs ask them how they make up for rainout days or days with no wind. At the Mariner Sailing School, no attempt is made to sail in dangerous or miserable conditions and lessons will be rescheduled. 90% of your sailing time is on the water.

6) What if I just don’t feel confident?

So what happens if you just completed a sailing course you don't have the confidence you need? Do you have to take the course over again? Our guarantee to every student: If after completing a course you feel you could use an extra lesson, we will be happy to arrange this for you. We are so confident in the quality of our Instructors that we offer you a week of unlimited free practice Monday - Friday, immediately following the completion of your course.


Tags: Belle Haven Marina, sailing lessons, Flying Scot, Mariner Sailing School, US Sailing, Sunfish, C&C 34