Topaz Helps Urban Youth Learn to Sail in Chesapeake Bay

It all started with an old donated boat, a loaner mooring and an abandoned dinghy and an idea.  That idea was to get inner city kids in Washington, D.C., many of whom had probably never even been to the ocean, out sailing.  That was 15 years ago, and the idea grew into what is now the non-profit Planet Hope Land and Sea.

Founder Jeff Bowen and his team now offer children from our nation’s capital as well Philadelphia and Baltimore, a variety of sailing experiences.

“We teach children from 5 to 17, with the average age being about 10 years old,” Bowen explained.  “ We offer youth ‘learn to sail’, advanced sailing and racing classes at our day camps and week long live-aboard cruising camps for teens.”In addition to the youth programs, Bowen also offers a full range of American Sailing Association classes for adults.

Topaz sailboats are a large part of PHLAS’s fleet and are used for the youth camps and classes.

“This will be our third season using Topaz boats,” Bowen said.  “Students and instructors love the Topaz sailboats. We spent several years looking at different options before making the decision to upgrade out fleet to the Topaz.”

Bowen’s fleet includes six Topaz boats and three of the Topaz Taz model, which has been called the “modern day Sunfish.

“After two seasons we believe we made the right choice (choosing Topaz)!” Bowen added.

“We are very, very honored to be a part of Jeff’s program in the Chesapeake Bay area,” said Hardy Peters of East Coast Sailboats, North American distributor of Topaz. “We really believe in Planet Hope’s mission to use the challenges of sailing as a way to open up new horizons for young folks, and to show them how wonderful it can be to experience the joys of sailing.”

One unique aspect of the PHLAS is the family sailing classes, where kids and the adults in their families can learn together.

“There are not many sports that children and grandparents can participate in at the same time,” Bowen wrote on the PHLAS website.  “Young and old, of all ability levels, can share and learn from each other while all having meaningful time together. The equation is simple: The more children that spend quality time with adults doing relationship building activities such as sailing, the less troubled teens there will be.”

And in the end, that’s what sailing is really all about.

“The best part of sailing are the friendships that are made and the adventurous experiences with friends and family,” Bowen said.

More info:

Youth Program:

Adult Program:
Office: (410) 867-7177

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