Sailors stress safety

First Posted: 8/31/2009

HARVEYS LAKE – While relaxing at the Yacht Club after an exhilarating sailboat contest across the lake on Sunday, Alda Maturi and a couple of her friends recalled a recent race that definitely wasn’t fun.

Sailboats race on Harvey’s Lake on Sunday morning.


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Maturi was on the lake in her 13-foot, 10-inch, one-person sailboat participating in a Sunday afternoon race when she noticed that a speedboater towing a child on an inner-tube was approaching fast.

“The power boater didn’t know what option he had to move out of the way. First, he wasn’t aware of the markers on the water signaling that there was a sailboat race in progress. And the speedboater was being wedged in by another speedboater heading in the same direction. All he had to do was throttle back, but he was pulling a tuber – that was the scary part – and he kept on going,” said Kingston resident Paul Gallagher, who was sailing with Maturi that day.

“I missed her by six or eight inches,” Maturi said, recalling the young girl riding in the inner tube behind the powerboat. “If that craft would have caught me, it could have pulled my boat right over on top of her,” Maturi said.

Henry Nardone, another friend of Maturi’s who was sailing with her that day, said he has seen plenty of sailors have close calls on the lake.

“I don’t think people realize there’s a sanctioned race here. We often get yelled at by fishermen. ‘Hey, you just ran over my line.’ It’s not like we have any choice, sometimes,” said Nardone, a resident of Harveys Lake who’s been sailing there for about 10 years.

The sailors hope they can get the word out to speedboaters on the lake that sailboat races occur there every Sunday between Memorial Day and Labor Day anytime between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.

A committee boat drops orange/red anchored markers in the water along the race route to make all boaters aware of the race route – not just the sailors, Maturi said.

Because sailboats don’t have engines, they have less control over their paths and, therefore, the right-of-way.

Despite a few harrowing experiences because of uneducated boaters, members of the yacht club say sailboat racing on the lake is still a great way to spend a Sunday morning or afternoon.

And sailors don’t have to be members of the yacht club to participate. All they have to do is show up, Maturi said.

“People don’t realize how awesome the sport is. … When the wind is really blowing out there, it’s such a rush,” said the silver-haired Maturi, an avid sailor since she was 10.

Sunday was one of those “rush” days.

Aboard Jack Bednarski 26-foot sailboat – Miss Demeanor – at the dock, the craft’s electronic anemometer displayed a wind speed of about 3 knots at about 10:30 a.m. That news made for some long faces.

But out on the water, the wind eventually picked up to about 10 knots.

“When we get 10 (knots), it puts a smile on our faces. … When it hits 15, that’s when we scream ‘Yahoo!’” said Bednarski, a Hanover Township resident who owns a small house on the lake.

After three warning honks of an air horn every minute beginning at 10:45 a.m., a small cannon was fired at 11:48 a.m. to announce the start of the race.

And off they went, six sailors maneuvering their small crafts across the lake, tacking back and forth to catch the wind and round the buoy markers.

On this day, speedboaters and jet skiers, who took to the lake around 11 a.m., gave the sailors a wide berth, as the lake was relatively barren of boaters. And the wind was cooperating.

“The wind shifts constantly here. You never have the same sail twice,” said Bednarski, who often sails with his longtime friend and first mate Tom Harfman, of Wilkes-Barre.

Bednarski has sailed on the Finger Lakes in New York, but he says Harveys Lake is still his favorite sailing venue.

Maturi said she hopes more sailors come to share the sentiment. She began offering sailing lessons this year and plans to continue offering them next year in hopes of attracting more sailors to the lake.

“My goal is to see 20 boats out here on a Sunday morning. I don’t care if I come in last. Just the thrill of seeing all those sailboats on the water would be worth it,” Maturi said.

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