Room for More Activities at Clearwater Sailing Center
By Anne McKay Garris
Back in 1985, Clearwater's Windjammers sailing association sent a letter to Clearwater City Hall, requesting the city to build a sailing center on Sand Key, away from the heavy boat traffic offshore of Clearwater Beach and the tall buildings that confuse wind directions. They argued that it would be a safer place for the Optimist Prams, located at the recreation center on the beach, and would provide room for expansion to include other boats. Nothing much happened. Then the Windjammers held a fundraiser that demonstrated that citizens of Clearwater were interested enough in having a new sailing center to put some of their money into it.
And so the Clearwater Community Sailing Center became a reality in 1989. After a few years of operation, the Clearwater Community Sailing Association was organized and, under the leadership of Sand Key community leader, Joe Calio, signed an agreement with the city to lease the facilities and operate the Center. Since then the Center has thrived and steadily improved, providing sailing opportunities for young and old, able and disabled, as well as a meeting place for organizations, classes and private events. The upstairs meeting room offers a special place for wedding receptions, anniversaries and other celebrations. The large inside room is enhanced by the wide porch overlooking Clearwater Bay.
Just recently, an extension to the Sailing Center building has been completed. Planned several years ago, before the current budget crunch, and paid for by Penny For Pinellas funds, it provides enhancement for the sailing programs. The spacious ground floor of the addition makes it possible for everyone to find refuge from the intense sun and frequent thunder squalls of summer. There are picnic tables where sailors and spectators can lunch in the shade, and one of the original, wooden Optimist Prams, donated by Betty McGraw Perkins on display. The popular summer sailing camps for young sailors especially need this sheltered space for sailing instruction and mid-day relief from the sun.
The upper, enclosed level of the existing building, the new upper open air level and the lower open air level are all available for rental, either separately, or in combination.
Gene Fleming, director of the Sailing Center, says, "The new, open air upstairs room is wonderful for wedding receptions and parties. It has a wide view of both the Bay and the Gulf in the daytime, and the lights of Clearwater reflecting on the water in the evenings. We have everything from white tablecloth and silver wedding receptions, to potluck served in aluminum pans. Everyone is welcome...as long as they behave themselves," he adds. This gives members of the community a badly needed, affordable place for parties and meetings. Funds from the rentals are used to support the Center.
Fleming says, "The more rentals we have, the more boats we can repair, or purchase to put people on the water. This new addition is great for the sailors, but it also adds value to community."
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