The sailing school that I joined in 1968 was a going concern. Shortly after its start in 1959, the first full time branch was established at the Sheraton Hotel in St. Petersburg, Florida. That branch was followed by Key Largo, Lake Geneva in Wisconsin, San Diego in California, Hull Massachusetts, and two franchise operations. One was in Hamilton, Bermuda and one in St. Thomas, USVI. By the end of the 1970’s the school boasted eight branches.

Founder Jerry Wood believed in vertical integration of his companies. We did all of our own advertising, all of our own photography and much of our own printing. The Sixth St. office had a small printing press operation in the garage and a large photo darkroom in a building across the street. On weekends when I wasn’t teaching, I worked in one or the other of those support operations.

The school’s offerings continued to expand during the 60’s and the 70’s. Starting with the two-day Rainbow course a five day Rainbow course was added immediately, followed by a five day flotilla cruising course. The flotilla was composed of Rainbows equipped with V- berth cushions, a Sterno stove, a through hull head, and a boom tent. A few instructors led the group from a lead powerboat. As many as a dozen or more Rainbows at a time would leave Annapolis on Monday afternoon, anchor overnight in Rhode River, sail to St. Michaels Tuesday and spend the night at the Crab Claw Marina and the Maritime Museum. Thursday afternoon the group sailed to Shaw Bay on the Wye River and returned to Annapolis. As the decade progressed, Rainbow Weekenders and Annapolis 25s were added to the fleet in addition to a few Annapolis 26s.

1970 was the high-water mark of the post war economic boom for middle income Americans. At that point the middle class was the dominant economic group in the country, and they were our market! Historians tell us that 1970 was also the beginning of the decline of the middle class, but nobody told them that. Higher disposable incomes and job security led to a boom in demand for leisure sports, including boating, and we were ready to meet it. Economists and Futurists were telling us that our biggest problem was going to be what to do with our growing leisure time.

The Sailing School continued to add courses. Weekend and five-day instructional courses were developed for larger auxiliary sailboats, starting with 30 footers and ultimately a fleet of O’ Day 37s. Students could either cruise with the flotilla or cruise independently with a live aboard captain/instructor. One five day live aboard course offered a bare boat cruising certificate on completion that was recognized by most charter and insurance companies. This program was one of the first, if not the first, program of its kind in the industry. The operation in St Thomas was not going well so Jerry tried a new franchise branch in Christiansted on St. Croix. This branch had Rainbows and leased two O’ Day 37s from Annapolis. The O’ Days were equipped in Annapolis in the fall and the delivery to the Caribbean was offered as a course in passage making. Two to four students per boat made the trip. In the spring the boats, with students aboard, made the passage back to Annapolis.

Everyone thought the boom would go on forever. We were approached by a TV production company for a thirty-minute network TV show called The American Adventure. The show’s theme was to portray ordinary Americans pursuing their leisure adventures. They spent a week with us and recorded a group doing the weekend course and a flotilla cruise. The show aired in ’71 and ’72. Jerry began the first US Sailboat Show in 1970. Even though it only had forty boats and did not utilize all of city dock, it was an immediate success. The show started to grow, and the Powerboat show was added in 1972. The gas crisis of 1973 and the ensuing recession did end the boat building days of Tidewater Boats, but the factory was repurposed to build the floating docks and other infrastructure to support the burgeoning shows which seemed to be recession proof. The gas crisis did not seem to affect attendance at the Sailing School either. Students would joke that they wanted to learn to sail so they weren’t burning gas. During the 70’s attendance numbers continued to grow slowly toward the hundred mark in the weekend Rainbow courses.

During the 70’s I continued to be a weekend instructor. My interest in photography meshed nicely with Jerry’s. Photography was his first love and Jerry, and his wife Kathy offered me part time work year round. When I was not working in the darkroom, I used my educational training to revise and rewrite course outlines, lesson plans and supporting materials, including personnel policies. We also did all of the photolithography for a unique celestial navigation correspondence course.

After a few years I was asked to help review job applicants and make hiring recommendations. I was often also assigned to train new instructors. One of those sailors was high school sophomore Jenny Wilson. The choice was prescient and apparently the training excellent, as Jenny, along with husband Rick and son Ricky, now owns the Annapolis Sailing School. In the fall of 1979, after the October Boat Shows, the School’s General Manager resigned. The Woods asked me to come in and work as much as possible on weekends in the early spring to help them get the organization staffed up for the upcoming season. In mid-March the Woods offered me the full time General Manager position. I had changed careers and was working for a non-profit in Baltimore and was commuting over two hours a day, so working in Annapolis had instant appeal, and so at the beginning of April in 1980 I became General Manager of Annapolis Sailing School.

Although the pace was slowing, the boom continued into the 80’s, but that’s another story.

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