In a land not so far away (Morris County) in a time not too long ago (1975), the Hi Life Ski club decided to teach a sailing class in the summer. Andy Orgonik, a Red Cross certified Basic Sailing instructor taught the first class.
In the beginning, classes were held on boats owned by members of the ski club and the Morristown Red Cross. The course was very successful and a new organization dedicated to teaching basic sailing was born: The Society for the Education of the American Sailor, now familiar to all as S.E.A.S.
With borrowed money and some dues, a fleet of boats and trailers was acquired. Water sessions were held on Round Valley Reservoir, Spruce Run Reservoir, Lake Hopatcong, Lake Musconetcong, Budd Lake, and Mountain Lake.
After getting a fleet of eight Phantoms (a lateen rigged basic sailboat), SEAS was bold enough to start racing. Race locations included Atlantic Highlands NJ, Skaneateles NY( one of the Finger Lakes), Candlewood Lake CT, Lake Hopatcong NJ, Cooper River in Collingswood NJ , East End Mini Yacht Club - St. Georges Bermuda, and Annapolis, MD ( a 24 hour relay race against the Navy and a collection of drinking establishment teams).
By the late 1970's SEAS began sponsoring charter cruises on Long Island Sound, Chesapeake Bay and even Tortola BVI (where three 44 foot CSY cutters were chartered to explore the British and US Virgin Islands).
As the club grew, several local chapters were formed. A national organization to coordinate inter-chapter activities was also started. The original SEAS became the Morris Chapter, with the Bergen Chapter forming soon thereafter. The Bergen Chapter soon had space in the Alpine Boat Basin to store and sail their boats. The four and a half knot current in the Hudson River made teaching Basic Sailing a real challenge.
The Bergen and Morris Chapters joined forces to teach a class for IBM employees with a class of over 100 students. Water sessions were held on the Hudson River at Georges Island Park near Croton Point,NY where the currents were more favorable. A large fleet of assorted boats provided hands-on experience.
Shortly thereafter the Westchester Chapter was formed. Classes were taught at the White Plains Red Cross building. Water sessions were held at various lakes and on Long Island Sound. Eventually the chapter was able to secure space in Tarrytown NY in an unused men's dressing room in a County Park bath house on the Hudson River at Kingsland Park. This may sound unglamorous but it is a secure and fabulous facility.
In 1986 the Monmouth Chapter was formed. County boats were used for several years on the Navisink and the reservoir. Meetings were at Thompson Park.
From these humble beginnings SEAS has grown to approximately 300 members spanning Central NJ to Western CT, and has taught Basic Sailing to thousands of students. Many members have advanced to owning their own boats and even holding Coast Guard licenses. Worldwide charter companies recognize and welcome our skippers who annually charter boats from 35 to 50 feet.
Encourage your friends to join with us in enjoying the outdoor and athletic pastime of sailing.
Fair Winds on your next adventure.