Fall Off The Grid This Summer . . . Take Your Kids With You!

"My kids discovered real life!" Marcin Koziarski was amazed at his kids' reactions to sailing camp at Lake Opeka in Des Plaines. Once they discovered sailing he says, "They unplugged from their video games and cell phones and fell off the grid."

The Des Plaines Park District Yacht Club (DPPDYC) has been in the business of sailing and teaching sailing for a long time. It is celebrating its 55th season this year and has been offering classes for adults almost since its inception and classes for kids for close to 30 years.

Koziarski had become curious watching the sailboats he saw every Sunday at Lake Opeka in Des Plaines, but he didn't own a boat. So when he found the summer sailing camp offered through the Des Plaines Park District he signed up his kids.

"I was a bit afraid that sailing each day for a week would be too much for them. But, they couldn't wait to sail again each day. I was shocked to see how much fun my 9-year-old son Alex had and how easy it was for him to learn."

This club is not what you might expect when you hear the phrase "Yacht Club." The boats they sail are much more dinghy-sized than yacht-sized. Most are about 12- to 16-feet long, and are sailed by one or two people. The club sails at Lake Opeka in Des Plaines. The lake is a modest 40 acres in size, very petite compared with many sail venues in the area. Many of the newer members comment about the security they feel sailing on such a lake as small as Lake Opeka, where land is never out of sight.

The club primarily sails two types of boats (though any sailboat is welcome). The Rebel class boats are a 2-person 16-foot dinghy, perfect for families and new sailors, as it is a roomy and extremely stable boat.

For those looking for a more exciting and athletic sailing experience, the 470 may be the boat for you. The 470 is an Olympic class two-person "trapezing" boat. In this boat the crew holds on to a "trapeze" attached to the top of the mast and is suspended out over the edge of the boat to balance the heel of the boat in the wind. And by the way, a 470 can go very, very fast.

The club is always on the lookout for new members interested in sailing or for families looking for a fun new family activity, even if they have little or no experience.

Koziarski says he bought his sailboat "blindly" with no experience or real knowledge. "I just showed up at the lake. Right away, I got everybody's attention, since I didn't have a clue what I was doing. All the sailors started to come over to help me, teach me and share their knowledge. I was welcomed with a lot of help and open arms. After a few weeks, I was sailing with the club."

"Sailing is a great summer activity," says Craig Bezek, Commodore of the club. "If you want get out in the fresh air and sunshine this summer and have a great time, sailing with our club is a terrific way to do that, especially since the lake is so close and accessible. And it's also a great sport that the whole family can be involved in together." Parent-child sailing teams have been part of the club for years.

Joe Stoodley has been sailing on Lake Opeka since 1976. His children, Theresa and Mike, began sailing with him by the time they were six or seven years old. Theresa now 28 says, "I didn't appreciate it at the time, but looking back on it, sailing was a good way to spend time with my family." She says sailing spoke to her "athletic and competitive nature."

Bill Hanson is another long time Yacht Club member and raised his son Paul on the lake. Paul is now married with his own family. Bill now watches as his son teaches his grandchildren to sail.

Every Sunday afternoon and every Wednesday evening in the summer sailors meet in good-natured competition. Members come from all over the Northwest Suburbs to sail, some coming from as far as Hawthorn Woods, Hoffman Estates and Palatine.

Commodore Bezek encourages anyone interested in finding out about sailing or the club to stop by any Sunday or Wednesday. There is often someone looking for a crew for the day's race.

Who knows, you may also find a reason to "disconnect from the grid" and maybe re-connect with your family.

For more information about the Sailing Lessons for yourself or your kids contact the Des Plaines Park District 847-391-5730 or see the Park District Summer Spectrum magazine at

For more information about the Des Plaines Park District Yacht Club contact: Craig Bezek at, or visit their site at or see them on Facebook

**Every year the club offers a free event to the community,

Sail-a-Sailboat Day. This year the event will be June 24 at Lake Opeka. The club offers free sailboat rides and an opportunity to talk to active club members. Reservations are not required. See the Des Plaines Park District Summer Spectrum magazine for more details.

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