Learning art of sailing, finding 'canvas miracles' on lake

Posted7/19/2020 7:00 AM

WELDON, Ill. -- Back in 1980, Christopher Cross had a big hit with the song 'Sailing,' describing the joys of simply messing about in boats.

'It's not far to never-never land, no reason to pretend,


And if the wind is right you can find the joy of innocence again;

Oh, the canvas can do miracles, just you wait and see;

Believe me.'

But to navigate your way to the bliss of an aquatic never-never land, you have got to first learn the nautical ropes, and the Clinton Lake Sailing Association welcomes all aboard, according to The Pantagraph.

The club is moored on Sailboat Road in Weldon and membership costs $70 a year for individuals, $95 for families. Another $50 buys you, or your family, an introductory two-hour lesson on the relatively placid waters of Clinton Lake.

Membership chairman Eric Bussell, an instructor certified by US Sailing, the governing body of the sport, reckons it takes several lessons to learn the basics so you know your bow from your stern, where to find port and starboard and what to do with a halyard.

'So two or three lessons and you can learn how to sail from point A to point B safely in light winds,' said Bussell, 44. 'But doing it well is another story; it takes practice, just like every other sport.'

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Bussell, however, thinks Cross was definitely onto something with the line about the canvas as a passport to somewhere wonderful.

'Oh, it's a relaxing recreational activity that is affordable and fun and it can be done with the whole family,' he said. 'There aren't too many of those activities.'

Which brings us to a large chunk of the Hartman family, gearing up bright and early Sunday morning for their first lesson. Nathan Hartman and sons Connor, 12, and Austin, 11, all life-jacketed and keyed up by the dockside, waited for Bussell to take them out on a 19-foot boat.

'I'm excited,' said Connor, who had earlier watched a YouTube video provided by the club as part of the instruction process. 'It looked like it was a lot of fun and it looked kind of crazy but fun at the same time.'

'And I'm going to like the bit where you get to lean on the side,' Austin chimed in.

The family lives in Hudson, where dad has noted he can get to Lake Michigan in two hours, and there are glorious waters like Clinton Lake scattered throughout Central Illinois. 'So there is lots of sailing and boating all around us once we've learned how,' said Nathan Hartman, 45.


'And with the boys, even at this age, with a few lessons they can go out solo. They can't drive a car but they can go down and drive a sailboat.'

Bussell said the sport's popularity ran dry in the 1990s because it didn't make efforts to introduce enough younger people to the joys of miracles borne on a puff of breeze filling canvas sails.

'We are not going to make that mistake again,' he said, and herded the smiling Hartman generations toward their waiting vessel.

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