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Sailors heed the call of Sodus Bay

Tom Knapp and his wife, Jeannie, enjoyed mixing it up with the big boats at the Sodus Bay Yacht Club this past season, skimming along in one of the club’s new (to them) Ideal 18s.

“It was a great time to show the boat off,” says Knapp, past commodore of the club.

The club, on the southeastern shore of Lake Ontario, borrowed four used Ideal 18s, Canadian-built keelboat daysailers for two, after the Larchmont [N.Y.] Yacht Club traded them in to buy new ones. The Sodus Bay Point, N.Y., club announced the arrival of the new fleet at the annual Memorial Day Pass and Review.

“Everyone [certified to sail one] is eligible to race in our Friday night regatta, or just go sailing when the mood strikes,” Knapp says.

Nearby Shumway Marine let the club use the fleet of Ideal 18s for free this past season, but since they were such a hit (more than 100 people passed certification), the club may lease them next season.

For some, the new boats on the block came just in time.

Last winter was a tough one for the boats of Sodus Bay — heavy snow collapsed several storage roofs and hundreds of boats were either destroyed or crippled. Many were older boats and getting the parts to fix them was, and still is, a nightmare, says Bill Van Gee, shop manager for Katlyn Marine, on Sodus Point.

“We will probably never get the right parts for our Grand Banks,” says Larry Monheim. “They have to come from China, but fortunately we have the Ideal 18s. At least we are on the water [this past season] and that’s great.”

The Monheims have sailed all around Lake Ontario for years, switched to power, and now are back to old, reliable sails.

John Schwartz has been sailing small boats, mostly Lightnings, for 71 years, and bought his first sailboat in 1947. He arrives from Pittsburgh every summer to relive his youth at Sodus Point and cruise in his Irwin 35, Sea Witch.

Not this summer, however. Sea Witch often swung comfortably at her mooring while Schwartz showed his grandchildren how to race a small sailboat. “The Ideal is easier to sail,” he says. “You don’t have to hike out as much. She’s a little more sedate.”

Arnie and Carol Pizer left their Sabre 34 tied up a good bit of the time to sail the Ideals. “It’s just so easy … and also very comforting to be able to take an Ideal out for just an hour or two,” Arnie Pizer says.

Carol Pizer also quickly took to the Ideal 18.

“Arnie works all the time, but I can come down here and always find someone who wants to go for a sail,” she says. She even earned a first place in the club’s Spring Women’s Regatta.

Members say the Ideal 18s proved to be a perfect complement to the club.

While grandparents and parents plied the bay waters, the nearby Sodus Bay Junior Sailing Association, one of the oldest sailing clubs on Lake Ontario (founded in 1956), remained just as active.

A staff of 12 oversees two three-week, four-level classes. All counselors have to be graduates of the club. Sailors come from all over the east coast as they are either children or grandchildren of former junior sailors. Optimists, Lasers and JY15s are the boats of choice.

This year’s first session had 55 students; the second saw 63.

Katie Gentsch, 12, was set to graduate from the Fourth Level this summer. Next summer she can choose to go on to either cruising or racing. Eric Gentsch, her father, also graduated from the junior sailing club and was an instructor for several summers. Now, even though the family lives in Virginia, summers at Sodus Point for the Gentsch children is a must, and vacations are always scheduled around junior sailing programs.

Sodus Bay has that kind of draw for some sailors.;