If you've been near the Juneau-Douglas bridge on a Wednesday afternoon, you've probably seen them in the Gastineau Channel: sailboats, harnessing the power of the wind.
SEAS teaches the 'black art' of sailing to Juneau 082714 OUTDOORS 1 CAPITAL CITY WEEKLY If you've been near the Juneau-Douglas bridge on a Wednesday afternoon, you've probably seen them in the Gastineau Channel: sailboats, harnessing the power of the wind.

Summer Dorr | For The Ccw

Jeff Rogers is seen at work on the sailboat Optiminium, Wednesday, Aug. 20.

Summer Dorr | Ccw Photo

Jeff Rogers adjusts the sails of the sailboat Optiminium on Aug. 20 during a SEAS "Get Out the Boat" event.

Summer Dorr | For The Ccw

Joel Osburn, commodore of Southeast Alaska Sailing, is seen Wednesday, Aug. 20.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Story last updated at 8/27/2014 - 7:55 pm

SEAS teaches the 'black art' of sailing to Juneau

If you've been near the Juneau-Douglas bridge on a Wednesday afternoon, you've probably seen them in the Gastineau Channel: sailboats, harnessing the power of the wind.

To move one way with the wind is to tack, and to move another is to jibe. One sail is called a spinnaker, and another is called a headsail.

If the lingo and work seems intimidating, members of Juneau's inclusive sailing club, SouthEast Alaska Sailing, are happy to teach.

"We're just a low-key, grassroots little sailing club," says SEAS Commodore Joel Osburn. "We're not exclusive." (Commodore is a title another group might call "chairman.")

Osburn and crew members Jeff Rogers and James Hoagland took the Capital City Weekly out for a sail on Osburn's 28-foot boat, the Optiminium, in the blue skies and calm waters of a recent Wednesday, when SEAS has its weekly "Get Out the Boat" event. The event, part of a national campaign, is a way to do exactly what it sounds like (get out the boat), as well as for skippers and crew members to keep up their skills. Some boats sailed past each other, exchanging hellos; Osburn called out to those he didn't know, inviting them to one of the group's summer races.

Each year - beginning May 11 this year - SEAS holds 15 races to different harbors around Juneau; Funter Bay, Taku Harbor, Admiralty Cove. The final race is three days, over Labor Day weekend. This year, as of this article's publication, Optiminium is in the lead for the summer.

The benefits of sailing are many, the three say.

It's green: Getting somewhere without fossil fuel is one of the big appeals for Optiminium's skipper and its crew.

It's silent. (There's no engine sound to drown out the seabirds and waves.)

It's peaceful. (Mostly; one memorable learning experience for the Optiminium's crew involved almost tipping over.)

The people are interesting. (Rogers said the people in the club are "definitely" his favorite part.)

If you're on the Optiminium when Rogers and Hoagland are crewing, they make a habit of cooking delicious things. If you're into long races, the club has those, too: every other year, they race around Admiralty Island. Next year is one of those years.

The circumnavigation of Admiralty is, according to SEAS' website, the longest inland water race on the West Coast.

On partly cloudy days when shadows alternate with patches of sunshine, sailing can also be quite fast. (It's the difference in temperature that helps create the wind, Osburn says.) The wind changes the shape of the sail - which sailors also sometimes call a wing. Sailing, they sometimes call "flying."

"You're trying to capture that (wind) pressure in the best possible way," Osburn said. "It's kind of a black art, learning how to trim sails."

Even the periods of windlessness that Inside Passage waters provide can be welcome, peaceful interludes.

"You get out one time with somebody, and you want to go back out," said Rogers, who's been sailing with Osburn for three summers now.

Rogers plans to get a boat, and though he has no plans for a cross-oceanic journey, "If you're a regular person, and you want to get around the world, wind's the way to do it," he said.

Hoagland began sailing this summer, introduced to it through Rogers.

"It's like anything," Hoagland said. "If you want to learn how to do it, you learn a bit faster. You really learn by experience."

SEAS has lots of plans, Osburn said. He's enthusiastic about getting members of Juneau Youth Sailing on the water; youth sailing camps are how he learned to sail. He also says he'd like to build up the Juneau club's relationship with Ketchikan's sailing club once more.

While SEAS welcomes (as crew) anyone with an interest in sailing, a main emphasis right now is to recruit more skippers, Osburn said. He estimates about a tenth of Juneau's sailboats - perhaps fewer - are members of the club.

"We want to try to get those people's boats out of the harbor," he said.

The club has two different membership levels - full and associate. Crew aren't charged for sailing, though Osburn does prefer they join the club.

"The more members we have, the stronger a club we are," he said.

Including associate members and spouses of sailors, the club probably has around 40 members and 11 boats right now, he said.

Though SEAS has been known by that name only since 2009, its membership is connected about 30 years back to the Juneau Sailing Squadron and Juneau Cruising Club, Osburn said. SEAS will be getting out the boat each Wednesday until Sept. 24, when the season ends.

"Harnessing the power of the wind to go somewhere is pretty cool," Osburn said.

Most of the club's activities are organized around its website, http://www.seasailing.us/.