Donated sailboats spark parks boating program

"After spending the first decade of its existence supporting and promoting land-based sports such as soccer and baseball, the South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District is getting ready to expand its operations onto the largest playing field around -- the waters of Puget Sound.The district at last month's meeting formally received a donation of two sailboats from the Marine Sciences Institute and another donor. A third boat operated by the South Whidbey School District also went to the parks district.With luck and a few volunteer hours, the boats could be on the water as soon as this summer, crewed by instructors and sailing students.Parks district director Jerry Cole said that the two donated 21-foot boats and the school district's 15-foot boat fulfill the parks district's long-held goal to offer sailing classes. To start putting sailing students on the water, the district just needs a few good sailing experts.We need instructors, Cole said.Although they are not new, the boats are valued between $8,000 and $20,000 each. All three will need some minor repair and cleanup work, something Cole said he hopes volunteers will be able to do by summer.The district will have to spend some money to get its new fleet to the water since neither of the larger boats came with trailers. Cole estimated that trailers will cost about $1,000 each.The donated boats came to the district in large part due to the efforts of Langley Middle School teacher Jay Freundlich and the school's support of the his Adventure Education program. Freundlich said Monday that the parks district and the school district will share time on the boats, with the schools reserving the craft for portions of every year.Although his school program received the boats at no cost, Freundlich said the district could not afford the insurance and upkeep on the craft. Turning them over to the parks district was the logical choice. That way, his program can reserve the boats for part of the year, while the parks district can offer sailing classes.So we still get the use we wanted, Freundlich said.The parks district is looking for qualified sailing instructors. Those interested should call 221-5484."

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