Downtown Sailing Club
August 23, 2017

There is something so lovely, so glorious, so enticing about the waters of the three rivers at Pittsburgh's Point that I have to wonder why they aren't filled with sailboats on a warm summer's day. All it takes for a successful sail is gentle breezes and gentle river currents. They happen often enough.

For a while--since 2009--I have thought of myself as Pittsburgh's lone, regular downtown river sailor; and even sometimes describe myself that way. This day, on my  first very belated sailing day of the summer, I learned just how wrong I was. Rob and Olga Noll have been sailing the rivers regularly since at least 2011. I'd first run into Rob on August 11 that year, as I reported here. I was sailing up the Allegheny when I saw another sail on the river. It was a wonderful moment. Another sailor! Perhaps the first of many more?! We bumped hulls and exchanged greetings; and stayed in touch on and off.

Now and again, I'd see Rob and Olga on the rivers. I'd wave and sometimes they'd see me and sometimes not.

Today, as I crossed the Ninth Street Bridge, laden with my sailing gear for my first belated sail of the summer, there they were again! they were just a speck of (synthetic) canvas dwarfed by the span of the Seventh Street Bridge.

After a cycling over to the Northern bank of the Allegheny, I managed to flag them down and they sailed over to me:

Their boat is a mini-fish, a smaller version of the popular sunfish sailboat. It weights 85 pounds, which makes it easy to bring down from their home in Germantown to the river. We exchanged greetings and I explained I would sail there in a while. But first I had to move my boat from its trailer and get it set up for sailing.

Nearly two hours later, I arrived at the dock at the Ninth Street Bridge. Rob and Olga were waiting for me. They helped me dock and tie up my sailboat. We sat together on the dock chatting for 25 minutes.

That's when they told me that they have been sailing on the rivers far more regularly that me. Today, they'd made it to the Point twice from their starting point at the Sixth Street Bridge. Last summer they were out 20 times and this summer they have been out 15 times--so far! My few excursions into the rivers pale in comparison.

As we sat and chatted, I realized that this was the first meeting of the Downtown Sailing Club!

When it was time to go, they waited on the dock. Rob explained that he wanted to see how I unfurled my mainsail, which is roller furled around the mast. As I sailed off, he took some photos, which are some of the few of me actually sailing on the rivers. Thanks Rob, Olga--I look forward to seeing you next time!

Here's one of me before docking. I am sailing on a run, so I'm kneeling on the deck to keep my weight centered and the boat balanced.

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Here I am setting off.

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Here there is a stronger gust of wind and the boat is heeling over.

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John D. Norton


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