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Schools: Waccamaw High Sailing Club gets on the water

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

The first day of practice for the Waccamaw High Sailing Club was a day to learn the ropes, as in halyard, sheets and outhaul.

It was also the first day of sailing for some of the club’s 30 members.

Madee Ellis, wearing an orange lifejacket with “Pilot” printed in fading white letters on the back, waited patiently on the floating dock at East Bay Park in Georgetown for her turn in one of the three 420-class sailboats that the club uses.

“It sounded cool and fun,” she said of the club, which was promoted at registration last month and approved by the school district last week. “I like the water.”

But she hadn’t sailed before she got into the 4.2-meter boat with Tim Fitzgerald to maneuver around two buoys in the Sampit River.

Fitzgerald teaches at Charleston Community Sailing, which sponsors high school regattas and which donated six used boats to get the Wacccamaw club started. He started the practice by showing the students how to raise the jib and mainsail on one boat before dividing them up to rig two other boats on trailers at the park.

Griffin DesMarteau, who proposed the club to principal David Hammel, and Sydney Register, a competitive sailor like DesMarteau, also took club members for an introductory sail.

Matt Staub was the first to volunteer. He learned to sail this summer in a program at the S.C. Maritime Museum, also initiated by DesMarteau. By the end of the summer, he was helping teach others.

“My dad had a boat when he was in college and he told me it was real fun,” Staub said. Joining the club was “a chance to meet new people and learn new things.”

Ethan Chapman, who was right behind Staub, learned to sail at summer camp. “I’ve been on the water a lot,” he said. Both are looking forward to the racing season this fall.

Back on the dock from her sail, Ellis said the club lived up to her expectations. “It was fun, really fun,” she said.

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