Alaska, Education, Health, Outdoors, Parks & Rec., Sports

Youths Sail on Bear Lake

Alexis De Leon for Seward City News –

Before planes, trains and automobiles there was sailing. The craft dates back to one of the earliest civilizations in Mesopotamia.

Today however Devin Putney is bringing the ancient art to the youth of Seward. Putney had the idea to teach sailing for sometime. After a bit of help from local businesses and citizens, Putney’s dream is finally taking off.

“It had been in the back of my head for years,” Putney said. “My folks had friends of friends who had a son who had done sailing [jobs] and he wanted to come to Alaska and help me. So that was the first step. Then after speaking with Major Marine [Tours] and finding the right boats it sort of all came together.”

Putney was fortunate to find three Lido 14 model sailboats for the class through an ad on Craig’s List. After speaking with Major Marine Tours, the company offered to ship the sailboats from the lower 48 to Alaska for free.

“I was lucky. When I was 13 my dad had me sailing and by 16 I was working on boats. Now I have my captain’s license and have been running boats out in Resurrection Bay since 2004,” Putney said.

Sailors practice "tacking and jibing"
Sailors practice “tacking and jibing”
Coach Anatoly leads the boy's boat
Coach Anatoly leads the boy’s boat
Captain Devin Putney pulls the girl's boat in for lunch
Captain Devin Putney pulls the girl’s boat in for lunch
Sailors lower the main sail and jib
Sailors lower the main sail and jib
"Youth Sailing" kicks off the first week with calm waters on Bear Lake
“Youth Sailing” kicks off the first week with calm waters on Bear Lake
"Youth Sailing" entrance on Bardarson property
“Youth Sailing” entrance on Bardarson property


According to W.D. Schock Corp. the Lido 14 is a family oriented day-sailer that seats as many as 6 yet remains sporty enough to be interesting to race.


Starting about two weeks ago, Putney launched “Youth Sailing” with a beginning class of about 6 children. Two children were taken out on the water each with an instructor in the boat.

“The kids will learn the basics of sailing. They get the main sail up, they get the jib up, reading the wind, tacking and jibing,” Putney said. “Just getting comfortable on the water.”

Jibing and Tacking are important maneuvers when learning to sail. Tacking is simply the shift of the wind direction into the sail by use of a zigzag formation. This allows a sailboat to sail upwind. Jibing, less common than tacking, is when the sailboat reaching downwind turns its stern, or back of the boat, through the wind.

When sailing each member or crew have a specific duty. The jib or small front sail must be manned. The mainsheet or sail must also be manned however in most instances the skipper or crew manning the rudder will also operate the main sail.

“The neat thing for kids is they all have their certain jobs. If any of the jobs don’t get done out on the water the boat isn’t going to perform the way it should, so it’s a great team building experience,” Putney said.

Putney plans on eventually introducing the youth to regatta style situations. Youth ages 10-18 will be taught the etiquette of regattas or judged boat races.

18 year Alaskan resident and current owner of the Moby Dick Hostel, Eugene Beutler aids Putney in coaching the youth out on the water. Anatoly Samaha is the young Floridian who ventured to Alaska about a month ago in order to assist Putney and Buteler.

The “Youth Sailing” camp is hosted on Bear Lake directly off the property owned by Blaine and Mayor Jean Bardarson.

After speaking with the first youth sailors the consensus was unanimous. The experience was described as “awesome” and “so much fun.” One of the youth sailors was familiar with sailboats thanks to her father and after taking the class was excited to show her father what she could do on the water.

Other students had skippered for the first time and expressed they were nervous but over all surprisingly comfortable with the coaching style and were ready to get back on the water.

“Youth Sailing” is a four-day class given on Bear Lake. Class begins at 11 AM where the sailors will take to the water for a few hours, take a lunch break on the dock or in the classroom set up and finally conclude the class back on the water.

The class costs $300 for the total four-day lessons and is meant for youth ages 10-18. Payment options are also available if cleared through Putney.

For more information on “Youth Sailing” contact Devin Putney at (907) 362-7245.

“For kids, regardless of where it takes them being comfortable on the water and knowing how to feel the wind is a good skill to have,” Putney said. “The main idea however is to connect them to something bigger and to have fun doing it.”


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