Sailing brings people closer to Michigan's Great Lakes

Think only the rich go sailing? Think again. For more than 20 years, a group of community volunteers has been working to leave that myth high and dry.

"There’s a perception that it is not accessible because of cost. People think it's a rich man’s sport. 
That it's expensive and that you have to have money and it's not obtainable; but that is why the Saginaw Bay Community Sailing Association was created,” said Wanda Dziwura, President of the Saginaw Bay Community Sailing Association (SBCSA).


In 1995, a group of local sailors formed the SBCSA as a way to make the water more accessible to the people who live near the Saginaw Bay in the Great Lakes Bay Region.


“The Saginaw Bay Community Sailing Association started right around the same time as Baysail, but we're not affiliated to them at all,” said Dziwura. “Baysail are the tall ships, the Appledores. Their mission is environmental education, sail training, and access to the water. Saginaw Bay Community Sailing Association wanted to provide the community with an affordable option for sailing.”


Today, the SBCSA provides summer sailing lessons to introduce newcomers to the sport and to provide training in basic sailing skills and safety on the water.
The Saginaw Bay Community Sailing Association provides summer sailing lessons to introduce newcomers to the sport and to provide training in basic sailing skills and safety on the water.

In other parts of the country, sailing is almost a lost art. “It's not a very popular sport. It's a thing of antiquity now that sailors are trying to preserve. But in this community, it's thriving,” said Lewis Wolf, a Bay City native. Wolf has been involved in sailing as a student and teacher after being introduced to the sport through the SBCSA.


“My mom always enrolled me in summer camps,” said Wolf. "She found the sailing program and as soon as I turned 8, she enrolled me in it. From then on, every single summer I did two or three sessions. I was sailing 6 to 8 weeks every summer."
Sailing lessons are held on the Saginaw River in downtown Bay City every summer. Student sailors learn the parts of the sailboat, basic knots, launching, docking, and sailing maneuvers.
Today he enjoys teaching the classes and watching the students respond to the sport as they learn and grow.


“I was initially drawn to the mechanics of sailing and how the wind could push something so heavy across water,” Wolf continued. “A lot of the sailors I meet and the kids that I teach are curious. They want to understand how these things work.”


“Sailing is also the first physical activity that I was really drawn to because it's not strictly teamwork and it's not strictly individual. It's a combination of the two,” Wolf added. “Sailing is great for critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork, and self-reliance. It's just you and the boat and the water.”


Summer sailing lessons with the SBCSA begin in June and are a combination of dockside instruction and on-the-water practice.
Sailboats are a common sight from Bay City's riverfront parks.
Lessons are held on the Saginaw River in downtown Bay City at the foot of Fifth Street at the north end of Wenonah Park, near the schooner Appledore IV. Five levels of lessons are offered each season. Students must be at least 8 years old, able to swim 75 yards without a life jacket, and able to right a capsized boat. Class objectives include learning basic parts of the sailboat, tying basic knots, launching and docking, and basic sailing maneuvers.

This season’s classes have already begun and will continue through September.
In 1995, a group of local sailors formed the Saginaw Bay Community Sailing Association as a way to make the water more accessible.
“I am proud to be part of an organization that provides opportunities for local children and adults to take advantage of our greatest natural resource and build their self-confidence all while learning a new skill and becoming part of an amazing community,” said Katelyn Day, a former board member of SBCSA and an active volunteer.

She began sailing when her husband introduced her to the sport. “He fell in love with sailing 16 years ago through the SBCSA. "
Nothing beats the joy of taking someone out for their first sail and seeing their face light up with pure joy.”

During the winter, members of the Sailing Association are invited to help build a boat that is later raffled to support youth and adult sailing programs.
During the winter, members of the SBCSA are invited to learn the art of boatbuilding, which employs a variety of construction methods and building techniques. Basic woodworking skills are helpful, but not necessary to attend the class. By the time winter ends, the class has built a wooden sailboat that is raffled off to the SBCSA’s youth and adult sailing programs.

“I think people who sail love the outdoors and have a sense of adventure. Sailors enjoy the challenge of learning how to sail and the freedom. There’s a lot of freedom to sailing ... You just don’t get another experience like that,” said Dziwura. 

To learn more about the Saginaw Bay Community Sailing Association, visit


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