Categorized | NEWS

Building community through sailing

Posted on 11 August 2019 by Tesha Christensen

By JILL BOOGREN
On a picture perfect summer evening at Lake Nokomis, the water was calm and the west side dock was brimming with activity. A group of five kids and a couple of adults climbed into a sailboat and, after a momentary untangling of the rigging and a gentle push, they were off. Just then the wind picked up.
“It’s magic,” said the man who helped them launch.
Meet Longfellow resident Tim Brandon – sailor, boat caretaker, mentor – or “The Mayor,” as he is known by the regulars of this 50-boat marina.
Brandon is there most summer evenings (Nokomis is on his way home from his job at MSP Airport), offering assistance and encouragement to youth and adults alike.
Minnehaha resident Len Schmid, whose boat Tag You’re It is bouyed here (and who said he might have been responsible for Brandon’s nickname), called Brandon a regular “person about the lake.” Ask anyone who knows him and they’ll tell you what a tremendous resource and great guy he is. Over the course of the five years he’s had a buoy here, Brandon has helped bail, patch, rig and rescue scores of boats, from on shore and out on the water.
“He’s here every day. He helps everyone,” said Schmid. “We’re lucky to have him here.”
Sailor Siri Anderson said Brandon was very supportive when she didn’t have anyone to sail with, and Melanie Benoy said he helped her get her whole boat rigged.
Lending a hand comes naturally to Brandon.
“I’m very familiar with launching [a] boat and getting super frustrated,” he said.
Brandon began sailing as a kid on Clear Lake, California’s largest natural lake, then became a recreation director at Konocti Harbor Resort. He later joined Cal Sailing Club in Berkeley, where he met his wife, Dori. He eventually became a senior skipper in San Francisco.
Lured to Minnesota by a full-time job at Northwest Airlines (now Delta), he settled near Lake Nokomis, bought a boat and named her Doribelle, after the nickname Dori’s mom gave her as a child. Five years ago, he got a buoy on Nokomis, and he’s been a mainstay at the marina ever since. He chuckles at the “mayor” moniker and describes himself as more of an unofficial harbor master.

Youth Sailing Resources offers opportunities for kids
On this glorious summer evening, it was all about getting kids on the water. Brandon serveson the board of Youth Sailing Resources (YSR), which brings volunteer skippers and youth sailors together weekly to sail. YSR cofounders Patrick O’Leary and Jim McKie were here tonight, too.
According to O’Leary, YSR started as a nonprofit to support the Sea Scouts (a co-ed youth sailing group for ages 14-21) and to open up sailing to people who may not otherwise have the opportunity. They don’t offer classes or formal instruction. Rather, they give sailors the experience of being out on the water. All must wear a lifejacket and follow basic safety precautions, and all are shown proper care of the vessel. Sailing tips from experienced sailors, of course, flow freely.
“We wanted to make it a version of a community-based thing,” said O’Leary.

What’s the catch?
For it to work, they rely on volunteer skippers and depend on the generosity of the broader sailing community to lend their boats, as well as donate boats no longer in use. It’s a model Brandon already knew worked, from his experience at Cal Sailing.
On the low cost to participate in YSR people often ask, “What’s the catch”? There isn’t one. But maybe if people use the resources, they’ll buy into it. Maybe volunteer. Maybe one day lend a boat.
McKie cruised away from the dock on one such boat, the Avalon, on loan from a Nokomis sailor.
“If there’s two boats out, it’s a race,” said McKie, grinning. “Whether the other boat knows it or not.” He attempted to catch up to Brandon, who was now sailing with Benoy on a catamaran, but caught them at the wrong angle.
McKie explained how to gauge wind speed by the surface of the water: Silver water is calm; darker water is windier; white again (as in whitecaps), might be a good 10-15 knots. A huge part of sailing is reading signs and getting a feel for how the wind reacts.
“Kids think they can do something. The wind shifts, and they’ve got to adjust,” said McKie. “A good life lesson.”
YSR has served various youth groups over the years, including Young Life, TreeHouse, and Cub Scouts. With Lake Street-based Urban Ventures, they created an annual sailing event, which last year brought 110 kids to Lake Nokomis to sail for an afternoon – up substantially from the 20 or so participants when it first launched six years ago.
The overall goal? To have a good time on the water.
“They need to have some fun,” said McKie. “There’s a lot of boredom. If I can find a way for them to have fun, give them some excitement”– That’s what it’s about. With that, they build some responsibility for the machines they operate, and they build community, which is “so important in this day and age,” McKie said.

Sailing is many things
Sailing means different things to different people. For Brandon it can be very meditative, following the wind.
For Jen Wood, another Nokomis sailor, it’s “an exercise in humility”; early in the season she prefers sailing her boat, Beulah, in gentler winds.
On the previous night, Sea Scouts Gina Sutherland and Ryan Bohara sailed with YSR. Each has risen through the ranks in the Scouts – Sutherland the seniormost, as a boatswain ( bos’n), and Bohara a bos’n’s mate – and it’s clear sailing is part of their lifestyle.
Sutherland likes that Nokomis is “a very active lake,” with places to swim and people fishing.
Bohara loves racing. An active member of Sea Scout Ship Mendota #248, he and his mom, K.D. Bohara, make the trek from their home in Victoria, Minn,, to Nokomis weekly. He’s thrilled Wayzata will be hosting one of the nation’s qualifying regattas in August for next year’s William I. Koch International Sea Scout Cup (which will be held in Galveston, Texas). Two other Mendota 248 Scouts were selected (among 10) to sail for a week with the U.S. Coast Guard aboard the tall ship Barque Eagle.
K.D. Bohara, who chairs the Mendota 248 committee, especially loves being at the lake and seeing everyone’s setup. She shared pictures of a couple of memorable boats launched from trailers at Nokomis, one in the shape of a disk and another fashioned by placing a platform across two canoes and adding umbrellas, chairs and coolers – instant pontoon.
On this night, she brought her nephew Bode LeRoach for his first time sailing. “It was fun,” he said.

‘Calm down, take your time, be thorough’
As this evening drew to a close, Brandon gave a few pointers to Andreas Kocher and Vithue Chumara of St. Paul on storing the sail and closing up the Rebel they had just sailed. “Not a lot of people know how to sail,” said Chumara. “[Learning this] use of the wind, it’s a really good technical skill.”
Kocher said he’s struggled with ADHD, and that sailing has taught him how to “calm down, take your time, be thorough.”
He added, “A lot of kids should learn how to sail. It’s a great time. It’s a great way to spend the summer.”
Lake Nokomis seems to be the perfect place to do it.

‘Switchy twitchy’
The wind can be what Schmid described on the group’s Facebook page as “switchy twitchy.” It’s the same on all three Minneapolis lakes, he said: Bowls surrounded by trees, where the wind pushes downward and in. “You can sail two minutes and have it switch directions,” he observed.
Nokomis can also get what Brandon calls “big air” and – even on this little lake – swiftly become dangerous. It requires people to be on top of their game. Short of a storm, Brandon will go out in the big gusts, suggesting the Doribelle can handle maneuvering to and from the dock better than most boats.
McKie enjoys the challenge and said he and O’Leary will go out even when it’s “blowin’ like snot.” Having sailed in different parts of the world, McKie maintains, “If you can sail on an inland lake in Minnesota, you can sail anywhere in the world.”
More than for the wind and water, though, sailing Lake Nokomis is about the people there.
“It’s an amazing community,” said Siri Anderson, who said Nokomis is very unpretentious. “This community has become more important to me than my church.”

‘Everything I do started on a summer day on this lake’
Brandon, as administrator for the Lake Nokomis Sailing Facebook page, often posts videos of the conditions on the lake. He welcomes new sailors and boats and posts any mishaps. Recently, he alerted the community to a boat that was sinking due to a leak, which he managed to safely maneuver to shore. He said there have been times he’s posted that he could use a hand, only to arrive at the boat launch to have three cars with volunteers waiting. That’s really what its all about for him, being there for each other and creating lasting memories.
“At some point [new sailors] will say, ‘Everything I do started on this summer day on Lake Nokomis.’”
To get involved n Youth Sailing Resources, call Jim McKie or Patrick O’Leary (contacts available on their Google site). The Sea Scouts hold their annual weekend regatta on Lake Phalen Aug. 10 and 11.


(Photo courtesy of Tim Brandon)

Flotation, flotation, flotation

by JILL BOOGREN

If Tim Brandon has a mantra for sailors, it might be this: “Have you secured your masthead flotation?” He recently posted on the Lake Nokomis Sailing Facebook page a photo of a Hobie catamaran that had capsized due to, in his opinion, the skipper “hot doggin’ it.”

Pictured above is the boat, floating sideways, its mast across the surface of the water. Clearly visible on the end of it is an empty gallon jug, which is all it takes to keep the mast from submerging – and taking the boat with it.

“The masthead flotation made all the difference,” Brandon said.

Brandon said the lake is only 14 feet deep on average, much shallower than the length of most masts, which are 20+ feet on up. That means capsized boats without the flotation run the risk of driving their masts into the mud. YSR youth who want to can practice capsizing and righting the boat with a skilled skipper.

 

\

Nilles-Filler-Combo-Online-ad-10292015