The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Heidi Zemach
For The LOG 

Kids raise their sails on Bear Lake


Heidi Zemach| For The LOG

Heidi Zemach| For the log Area kids between the ages of 10 and 18 get expert sailing instruction. Bolow: Captain Kevin Putney helps kids get the hang of sailing during a new course offered to area kids.

Captain Devin B. Putney, a Seward resident who runs the sailboat Lyric Charters, drives water taxis, and provides various other services captaining a variety of local vessels, has begun filling a new niche in the area. He's offering the thrill of sailing to young people.

Putney recently began offering week-long summer sailing workshops for youth between the ages of 10 and 18, with the support of the local mariner community. He got hooked on sailing when his father introduced him to it at age 13. He never stopped sailing or captaining increasingly larger motorized vessels.

He operates the sailing classes from Jean and Blaine Bardarson's waterfront property on Bear Lake. Blaine is himself an avid sailor, and the Bardarsons also offer a portion of their property to the Kenai Krewsers, the local rowing club.

"The idea for the class is to get kids sailing," Putney said. "Sailing should be accessible to everybody-not just for the haves. We have some of the best sailing grounds.

People who grew up in the Lower 48 frequently reminisce about the fun times they had in sailing classes when they were young, he said. He figured there was no reason they couldn't be offered here too. It was just a case of figuring out how.

Putney found three of his four small 14' Lido 4 sail boats for sale in Washington State online, and purchased them for about $800 apiece. He then solicited help in transporting them back to Seward from Seward businessman Tom Tougas, who owns Major Marine Tours, and was willing to bring them up on the MV Glacier Express, which had been in Seattle for refurbishing.

Putney also enlisted some fellow sailors, including Eugen Beutler, who owns Moby Dick Hostel, to help in the venture. They constructed a lightweight greenhouse-type structure on the Bardarson's property to hold the land-based portion of classes, and keep the lifejackets and other sailing gear protected from the elements.

Over the past few weeks, they've offered two full weeks of basic sailing classes to groups of children 10 years old and up, and a special introductory afternoon class, offered free of charge to Seward Boys & Girls Club campers, who were studying boats and marine propulsion.

Rick Brown, owner of Adventure 60 North, with whom Devon also works providing joint kayaking and return sailing trips, donated the company's van to transport groups of campers to and from the lake. Most had never been sailing, and, with only a few exceptions, were clearly thrilled by the experience.

The students learned the basics of sailing such as boat handling, tacking, jibing and weight placement, rigging and de-rigging, determining wind direction, steering, the points of sail, departure and landing. But their biggest greatest challenge is usually teamwork, Putney said. Each sailor has a different function, and an important role to play, such as the skipper, who steers the boat and lets the others know when it's time to tack or jibe.

By the fourth or fifth day, some of the students were comfortable enough to be able to sail on their own-which was truly inspiring to see, Putney said. There's just something wonderful about turning the engine off, and letting the wind whip past your sails, and drive your boat along on the open water, that makes sailing an incredible experience, Putney explained.

For detailed information about the roles and responsibilities of city boards, commissions and council, see the City of Seward website.

"Our goal is to promote the sport of sailing for the benefit of Alaskan children in an environment which stresses safety, good sportsmanship, honesty, loyalty, courage, and respect, " he said.

He'll offer supervised open sailing times on Fridays throughout the summer to those who have already taken the basic training, and are deemed qualified. Lyric Charters will offer more advanced sailing lessons next summer to students who have been through the basic sailing course. He will offer scholarships to those whose parents can't afford the full price.

Meanwhile, adults who would like to experience sailing on Resurrection Bay can purchase one of the nightly "Champaign Sails" he offers to Caines Head every night at 7:00 p.m. on the Lyric. Contact Cpt. Putney at DO-A-SAIL, 362-7245, or


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