A Peek Inside Sailstice with Photo Winners John & Amy

September 8, 2020 by Nicki Bennett
1st Prize Photo

This year has been different in almost every way for people around the world. Yet, sailors have done what sailors do, adjust the sails, and continue the course. Our community made the best of it, and they continue to celebrate sailing in any way they can. 

The winner of our first place North Sails Photo Contest was John and Amy Cole. They sailed a radio-controlled Soling 1M on Lake Eustis in Florida, since their normal sailing options were limited due to COVID. John sent us a wonderful letter about his Sailstice, history with sailing and what he can often be found sailing on now. Rather than try to re-tell a great story, we thought we would just share it with you. To us, John's story is a reminder that people come to sailing in many different ways, where you take it from there is entirely up to you. Thanks for sharing with us John, grateful to have you and Amy in our community and congrats on the great prize from North Sails!


From John Cole:
Thank you for all that you do for Summer Sailstice.  It has long been a favorite event for our sailing club.  Up until this year (Covid has affected everything, eh?) we took that event as an opportunity to invite people from outside of our club that were new to sailing and treated them to a fun afternoon of time on the water seasoned with a big cookout.  This year we limited participation to only members of the club with no cookout.  So there was about 20 of us who met.  Because it was close to flat calm that afternoon we brought out our RC Solings.  We have a great time racing those boats from our long T-dock where we could still be socially distant.  We often pass the controllers around so that everyone gets a chance to sail.  I was sailing my boat when I noticed that the setting sun was doing a great job of backlighting the sails so I grabbed my iPhone out of my pocket, juggled the phone and controller trying not to drop either one, and snapped the image that I submitted to the contest.
In answer to your simple question of what do we sail and what is our home port, I have a long-winded rambling answer for you.  This is what retired people who have time on their hands do!
Currently, we live in central Florida and have a small 'fleet' of boats that include a Hobie Getaway, a Hobie Wave, a Sunfish, and the boat that was in my winning photo, a radio controlled Soling 1M.  I am a member of the Lake Eustis Sailing Club.  The club is very active with 120+ members with a focus on our racing fleets of MC Scows, Flying Scots, and Wayfarers.  My main function with our club is to be the Official Photographer (it sounds pretty impressive, eh?).  So I am often out on the lake in a safety boat during the many regattas that we host with my camera in hand.  I then place the curated images onto my site where they are available to the sailors for free digital downloads because everyone needs to have a great photo of their boat in action.  Here is a gallery of images from the past winter's George Washington's Birthday Regatta that will give you a glimpse into the activities that our club puts on: https://johncolephotography.shootproof.com/gallery/GWB2020/.
One would think that growing up in Iowa, which is not known as a world renowned sailing center, would not be the place that inspired in me a love of sailing and being out on the water.  But a great friend of our family who was an avid sailor lived on the shore of Storm Lake.  He introduced me to sailing when I was nine years old and it was simply magical to be able to move across the water just by working with the power of wind. I was hooked.


I had worked on the aquatic staff at Boy Scout camps in Iowa for 8 summers when I heard that the National BSA organization was going to open a base down in the Florida Keys. That sounded like a lot more fun than another summer in Iowa so I made some phone calls and got hired for their first summer of operation at the Florida Sea Base in 1980.  My job that summer was to be the Program Mate on board the Sea Explorer, a custom built 65-foot cutter rigged live-aboard dive boat that ran week-long SCUBA charters out of Miami.  The Scouts had chartered the Sea Explorer for the summer and for 10 weeks we had 22 Scouts and their leaders aboard for week-long sail training trips that ranged through the Florida Keys and Bahamas. 

My summer job quickly turned into an amazing 10-year chapter on a life lived aboard a variety of sailboats that included a CSY 44, a Gulfstar 43 motorsailor, and for 7 of those years my favorite, a 1966 Cal 36. I quickly got my captain’s license, working on the water running sailing, fishing, and SCUBA charters that ranged from day trips to 3 weeks in the Keys and Bahamas. A few highlights of those years include: Operations Manager for the CSY charter base in Marathon, a 3-month cruise (in 1981) from the Keys down to the Yucatan and back, not making much money but being able to brag to friends Up North that I couldn’t afford to have steak for dinner so we were having the fresh lobster that we caught that afternoon.

Then I met a girl and fell in love. She was a performer at Walt Disney World. I knew that she was not going to leave her great job to move down to the Keys to live aboard a 36-foot sailboat so I sold my boats, moved up to Orlando, bought real shoes, and worked my way up through the Disney parks organization. I retired last year after 30 years of making Disney Magic in a variety of roles. The first half of my career there was involved in the managing of shows, parades, fireworks, and Disney Character appearances.  The last half was spent helping to create and to be responsible for the operation of the Disney PhotoPass photography service.

Through it all, sailing has been my passion, my sport, and my therapy.  There is nothing better for me than to spend some time out on the lake, especially when taking someone aboard for their first time on a sailboat.

If you read this far into my rambling message, you are a saint!

Here's hoping that next summer's event will enable us to bring back to a well attended celebration of sailing!

Amy and I snapped a photo down at our community's boat ramp this morning.  It is of the two of us sitting with our prized and very cool waterproof duffle from North Sails beside my radio controlled Soling 1M that was one of the boats in my winning sunset photo.  

Thank you again for your support of our sport of sailing in all of its forms./p>


John Cole


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