Sailing through school

Sailing through school

July 16th, 2009 by Dan Cook in Sports - Outdoors

Photo by Dan Cook Cindy, left, and Fred Greeson on one of two sailboats they own at Nickajack.

Photo by Dan Cook Cindy, left, and Fred...

The two biggest challenges in learning to sail are the terminology involved and keeping track of wind direction.

So says Dalton native Fred Greeson, who with his wife Cindy has operated Guild's Nickajack Sailing Academy at Hales Bar Marina the last six years.

"They are probably the two issues that take the most time," Greeson said. "Just like with any other sport, you have to learn the language. I tell prospective students that the wind is a little bit 'fluky' around here. It's just unpredictable and shifty.

"In a fluky wind, if you can keep track of where the wind is, then it's pretty easy to make the boat do what you want it to do."

Nickajack Academy is the only United States Sailing Association school in Tennessee, Greeson said. One in Nashville closed two years ago.

There are, however, at least two good schools on Lake Lanier near Atlanta and others along the Atlantic Coast, Greeson added.

The Nickajack school has had students from as far away as Illinois and Indiana and occasionally from the Carolinas.

"We'll teach year-round, if the weather is not real bad, but we don't have a lot of students past the first of December or January or February," Greeson said. "Then it starts picking up again in March.

"We actually have two boats at the marina: one we use for training and then our personal boat."

Greeson, who learned to sail early in life, is semi-retired after years as a commercial pilot. Some of that work was for a textile company in Dalton. The owner had a home in Miami, so Greeson flew there many times.

Remaining conscious of the weather has been a mainstay in his sailing days, just as it has as a pilot.

"I had some family who sailed, and I learned to sail on Lake Allatoona," Greeson said.

He and Cindy - a native of Jackson, Tenn. - have taken friends and family on a number of offshore sailing trips from Florida and in the Chesapeake Bay, always with attention on the elements.

When sailing into the Bahama Islands, Greeson first goes to Bimini, which is about 50 miles from the Florida coast.

"We always sail out of Port Everglades at Fort Lauderdale," he said. "We study the weather. When there's a wind coming out of the northeast, that's contrary to the Gulf Stream."

The trip from Fort Lauderdale to Bimini takes about 12 hours.

"We usually make that crossing at night, leaving at about 9 or 9:30," he added. "You don't want to get up against the (shallow) Bahama bank at night."

Arriving in daylight allows sailors to see the floor of the ocean. That's a necessity for maneuvering into port. Greeson has crossed into Bimini in boats as short as 32 feet.

"The last boat was 63 feet," he said. "I've been in the Gulf Stream in a 46-foot Morgan in 15-foot seas at 30 knots."

His ability to read the wind has kept him afloat.