Home . Articles . News . Afloat . Being OUT on the water takes on new meaning for a new charter company

Being OUT on the water takes on new meaning for a new charter company

2010 June 30
Even if you despise acronyms as I do, as sailors you undoubtedly recognize that ASA stands for American Sailing Association and EPIRB for Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon. But I'd bet my CQR anchor that the LGBT reference to a new sailing charter company and sailing school based in New York City and Sag Harbor, New York, may leave you stumped.

If you're like me, living some days under a pile of metaphorical seaweed to escape the noise of the Information Age, you may not know that LGBT translates to lesbian, gay, bisexual/pansexual and transgender. As it turns out, a company called Out on the Water Sailing-which bills itself as the nation's first gay-owned and operated sailing charter company and sailing school-caters to those of non-heterosexual persuasion. The venture gives a whole new meaning to cruising and its top skipper, along with the company's public relations director, aren't at all shy about making such distinctions.

Co-founders Chris Bartick and Toby Stull literally encourage others to be "out" at sea, as in coming out of the closet, only aboard a boat it seemingly would be more fitting to say coming out of the locker. According to the company website, the fleet includes a J/22 performance sailboat named Wanderlust, homeported in New York Harbor, the Beneteau First 42 Pearl moored in Sag Harbor, and charter affiliates around the world that recognize this is a "gay-friendly" program.

Out on the Water launched its sailing classes earlier this month. Oddly, for all the media hype generated by Out on the Water, it's really nothing new. Consider that an entirely gay-skippered and crewed yacht won its class in the Junior Offshore Group series between April and September 2009 in the English Channel.

As gay skipper Ed Hall told www.gaysailing.org, the crew for his Prima 38 Night Owl was recruited from fellow members of the Sailing and Cruising Association, the UK's gay and lesbian sailing club.

Reggie Blennerhassett, the association commodore, said competitive sailing has grown since Night Owl's victory, partly because the former Gay UK Sailing Team has been absorbed into the 400-member organization. Harris said the sailors are looking forward to competing in the Gay Games in Cologne in July and August. The sailing school also caught the attention of www.gaylistdaily.com, where editors admit to "blowing our way around Manhattan and the Hamptons" and are simply "ankles over head for the idea."

The same editors are anxious for the sailing school to make its way from the Hamptons to Fire Island Pines, described as "the gayest waters buoying boys on the edge of New York." One writer put it this way, "If you're like us and can barely devote three days of one weekend to the same guy, let alone the same gay-friendly sailboat school, Out on the Water also offers a two-hour Manhattan sail that'll give you the very basics of the craft and get you home in time for rush hour on Grindr." (Grindr, if you didn't already know, is an iPhone app that keeps gay men connected via the Internet.)

"Either option works for us, however, since the recession took hold, all of our Daddies have sold their yachts, meaning we haven't had an appropriate venue to show off our adorable nautical/sailor themed outfits since 2008."
That line should have been a harbinger. Having learned about this niche in the sailing world, I could only speculate why a gay-crewed boat might be different from a hetero boat. After all, I had heard plenty about the need for women-only sailing schools where the general rule is NO YELLING! Personally, I don't shout at my crew, but I got the sense that this was something else.
It was clear that more research would be required. That's when I discovered Out on the Water Sailing's newsletter, and it was there that I got my first glimpse of the changes in store for all of us on the water.

A feature in the newsletter under the Sailing Gear and Fashion section is titled "Let's Get Some Shoes." Here's what is says: "What is on our mind on gear and fashion? Shoes!" The article offers tips on traction and sole construction, then heads straight for "the top sides that are much more fair game for fashion. A few of our favorites this season include the Sperry Topsider Stripers, Puma Aqua Mostros and Helly Hansen Latitude 90. Not so fashionable enough you say? Well, how about selections from Coach and Gucci."

I looked down at my battered and salt-stained Sperry's that, until that moment, I thought the height of sailing fashion, paired with my ripped T-shirt and sun-faded Mount Gay Rum hat from Antigua Sailing Week. These togs would not cut it aboard the Out on the Water boats.