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Setting Out for a Day on the Lake, or Maybe a Trip Around the World

A look at sailing and motor boating in the US. Transcript of radio broadcast:


Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I'm Steve Ember.


And I'm Shirley Griffith. Our subject this week is sailing.

(MUSIC: "Sail On, Sailor"/Beach Boys)


The United States has two ocean coasts and countless lakes, rivers and other waterways -- enough to satisfy not just the average sailor. But last October, a forty-seven-year-old man named Ken Barnes left California in a thirteen-meter sailboat. He wanted to become the first person to sail alone, nonstop, around the world from west to east.

He was at the bottom of South America when things went wrong. A storm destroyed both masts holding up the sails. Waves flooded the boat. Most of his supplies were destroyed. But thanks to modern technology, not all hope was lost.

Ken Barnes called his girlfriend in California by satellite phone and told her what happened. The next day, he called her again and told her he had very little to eat.


Later, another friend spoke with him and learned that Ken Barnes had a severe cut on his leg. It was bleeding, and he was a long way from medical help.

Lucky for him, a search plane from the Chilean Navy located his boat, the Privateer. It was floating aimlessly at sea, eight hundred kilometers from shore. Word reached a fishing boat, which then traveled four hundred seventy-five kilometers to his rescue.

Ken Barnes was safe. His boat was a different story. It sank.

(MUSIC: "Southern Cross"/Crosby Stills & Nash)


Most people who enjoy sailing or power boating are not looking to break any records. They just look forward to a nice day out on the water.

Crew, the sport of team rowing, is popular in American high schools and colleges. There are also crew teams for adults.

Like people, boats come in many sizes, from one-person kayaks that fit easily on top of a car to big yachts for sailors with lots of money.

In racing, a huge version of the catamaran has become popular in recent years. A catamaran is a traditional design with two hulls that are side by side.

The mega catamaran or maxi cat gained wide attention in a round-the-world event called simply The Race. It began in Barcelona, Spain, on New Year's Eve of two thousand. Catamarans and other boats took part.

American Steve Fossett was in a maxi cat named PlayStation, later renamed Cheyenne. His boat had to withdraw because of equipment problems. But Steve Fossett went on to break speed records for sailing, though some of his records have since been broken by others.

His boat was christened in nineteen ninety-eight at a ceremony in New Zealand. Steve Fossett was busy, however. He was trying to circle the world in a balloon at the time.

(MUSIC: "Sailing On"/Toots & the Maytals)


The most important sailing race in the world is the America's Cup. Yet the last time an American team reached the finals was in nineteen ninety-five, when the United States lost to New Zealand.

You might think the America's Cup is named for a country or continent. Instead, the event is named for a famous boat, a schooner called America. With it, the New York Yacht Club defeated Britain's Royal Yacht Squadron in a race around the Isle of Wight in eighteen fifty-one.

The New York Yacht Club won the Hundred Guinea Cup, which was renamed the America's Cup. The club had possession of it for one hundred thirty-two years, until an Australian team won it in nineteen eighty-three.

The America's Cup is a regatta, or series of races. The two thousand seven America's Cup final will be held in Valencia, Spain, between June twenty-third and July seventh. The Alinghi team of Switzerland will defend the cup against Team New Zealand.

(MUSIC: "Come Sail Away"/Styx)


Some people are not satisfied with sailing away just for an afternoon of fishing or sunbathing on their nearest lake. For boaters in San Diego, California, for example, sailing down the Pacific coast to Mexico can make for an easy weekend getaway.

When members of boating clubs get together at parties, you might hear people talk about going out to sea. That might mean spending months traveling the world. And these are not all millionaires with big yachts and no jobs to worry about. These might be couples who have spent years working hard, saving their money and learning the skills of sailing.

The American Sailing Association says that over the years, it has taught more than six hundred sixty thousand people to sail. The association provides lessons in many places in the United States.

A group called the American Sail Training Association helps young people learn to sail tall ships like those of long ago.

Another organization, US Sailing, trains sailing teachers and, among other things, helps prepare sailors for Olympic competition.

(MUSIC: "Sail Away"/Randy Newman)


Sailing appeals to all ages. Five girls who live near the Chesapeake Bay in the state of Maryland belong to a Mariner Troop of the Girl Scouts of America. The members are ages eleven to seventeen. They meet once a month.

The girls build their own boats. Their training includes all kinds of water-related skills. In addition to sailing, they swim and row, and go rafting through fast currents. The Mariner Scouts study ocean science, sea biology, archeology and more.

They learn all about a world that has captured the imagination for as long as people have set sail.

(MUSIC: "A Sailboat in the Moonlight"/Billie Holiday with Lester Young)


Any sailor will tell you there is something romantic about a sailboat -- even one that displaces more than a hundred tons of water. The Manitou is a tall sailing ship on Lake Michigan. Its homeport is Traverse City, Michigan.

The main captain of the Manitou is Dave McGinnis. He owns the Traverse Tall Ship Company. He says Americans have shown new interest in historic ships in recent years.

The Manitou is similar in design to schooners that carried goods on the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean in the eighteen hundreds. But the Manitou was built in nineteen eighty-three for passenger service.


Early in the sailing season, the Manitou carries schoolchildren on trips so they can learn about the lake environment. The children help place nets and pull them up to catch fish for study. The fish are returned to the water.

Late in the season, adult passengers can enjoy an escape on the Manitou. Passengers can help raise the sails, wash dishes, or just read a book. The ship carries no television sets or telephones or computers to check e-mail.

The captain has no fixed plan for exactly what passengers will see on their trip. Sometimes the weekend sailors visit one of the state's oldest general stores, established in eighteen thirty-nine. The storekeeper serves up ice cream and local history. Or the passengers might visit a lighthouse. Captain McGinnis says wind and weather help decide where to stop.

(MUSIC: "Sailing"/Christopher Cross)


Our program was written by Jerilyn Watson and produced by Caty Weaver. I'm Steve Ember.


And I'm Shirley Griffith. Our programs are all available with transcripts and audio files at Join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.