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From the Boathouse: Sail for the Blind happening this weekend

Ahoy! The Sail for the Blind and Visually Impaired, hosted by the American Legion Post 291, is being held this weekend.

On Saturday, more than 240 blind or visually impaired adults with their escorts will be sailing in Newport Harbor. Annually, volunteers from the Women's Sailing Assn.-Orange County and the American Legion Post 291 host this awe-inspiring experience, which started in 1990 when Bonnie Gibson and Bobbie Reed took 15 blind people for an outing aboard a 40-foot sailboat.

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Since 1990, the event has grown to need the help of 45 skippers and boats from the community. In addition, over 150 additional volunteers are needed to act as escorts, servers, crew, guide dog sitters and more.

The crews and guests will sail throughout Newport Harbor, and some skippers might take the vessels past the harbor's line of demarcation into the Pacific Ocean. The guests sailing this weekend will be able to help steer the boats and adjust sheet lines while feeling the wind and the vessel's motion. Plus, it is always nice to get out on the water and just go boating.

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I have some very good news for skippers planning to venture out into the Pacific Ocean. I predict the sea and winds conditions should permit a safe and enjoyable ocean voyage. On Saturday, light southerly winds will shift to the west in the morning and blow 5 to 10 knots, creating only 1- to 2-foot wind waves.

The ocean swells will be from the west at 2 feet, combined with a small, 1-foot south-southwest swell coming up the coast.

However, I suspect that for the event Saturday, most boats will stay in the harbor for protected sailing, and so everyone can enjoy the cruises without fear of any guest feeling queasy.

The Newport Beach American Legion Post 291 is based on 15th Street on the Balboa Peninsula, and it has an associated yacht club along with a small marina for members and visitors.

The Sail for the Blind and Visually Impaired can use your help either as a volunteer or with a tax-deductible donation. For more detailed information, email info@wsaoc.org. The American Legion Yacht Club at Post 291 can be reached by calling (949) 673-5070.

Tip of the week: I mentioned in my Aug. 21 column that Huntington Harbour boaters could lose their only local fuel dock. The operators, Center City Properties and Nahas Enterprises, reportedly were considering closing the dock since the underground fuel storage tanks were near the end of their 30-year life expectancy.

The worst has happened and the fuel dock is closed, but maybe not permanently if Huntington Beach and Orange County can work out a deal to acquire the facility. As of now, boaters will have to travel to Long Beach for fuel.

I think this excerpt from my Aug. 21 column sums it up: "I am in favor of renovations, but like other cities across the nation have discovered, we need to recognize and value the importance of boating, especially in areas that are water-dependent, such as shipyards, fuel docks, yacht brokers, launch ramps and marinas."

As always, just keep an eye to the weather for any changes. Please be boat smart and boat safe. Lastly, please boat responsibly and look behind you before you turn the wheel at the helm.

The original boating program, "Boathouse TV & Radio Shows," has stretched from coast to coast for more than two decades. See the details at boathousetv.com, facebook.com/boathouseradio or twitter.com/boathouseradio.

MIKE WHITEHEAD is a boating columnist for the Daily Pilot. Send marine-related thoughts and story suggestions to mike@boathouse.com or go to boathousetv.com.

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