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Empowering safer sailing

Posted on Wednesday, March 27, 2013 at 10:13 am

Dave and Judy Cook

It was a summer day in Topping when Dave Cook and Eugene Wolski first came up with the idea.

Ten years ago, the two men were overseeing a booth for the Deltaville Sail and Power Squadron, a non-profit boating safety organization at the community’s annual “Wings and Wheels” event.

They were talking about “everything and anything” to pass the time when one casual suggestion captured their attention.

“You know, we ought to think in terms of having our own squad up in the Northern Neck,” Dave and Eugene said to each other.

For Dave and his wife, Judy, the ride from Weems to Deltaville was a long one…25 miles back and forth…just to attend meetings.

It was even worse for Eugene, who lived in Burgess and traveled 50 miles both ways to be a part of the squadron.

“We knew of several members in this area and thought they would be interested in having a squadron,” said Dave, adding that they “floated the issue” to see if they could do it.

“Everyone thought it’d be a good idea,” he said. “We tried it and we’re still here.”

Thus, Northern Neck Sail and Power (NNSP) was formed in March of 2004.

And after years of tenuous membership and cancelled classes, Judy and Dave are overjoyed with the newfound widespread attention that the squadron has received.

According to Dave and Judy, the mission of Northern Neck Sail and Power is to help the community enjoy boating in a safe manner through courses and hands-on training.

Classes provided by the squadron include the American Boating Course (ABC), Virginia Boating Course (VBC) and electives for weather, sailing, marine electronics and cruise planning.

The squadron even holds a Kids’ Safety Boating Class started for sixth graders at Northumberland Middle School, with support from 6th grade teacher Delores Vanecek.

According to Judy, the class provides students with hands-on demonstrations that include using life vests properly, performing oil spill cleanups and operating fire extinguishers.

And the demonstrations work, Judy added.

“One little boy came back to Mrs. Vanecek and said, ‘Because they demonstrated fire extinguishers, I was able to put a fire out at my house,’” Judy shared.

In addition to teaching classes on boating safety, the 46-member squadron sponsors the Wounded Warriors tournament at the Golden Eagle in Irvington and conducts a one-week program each year called “Nail and Sail” at Yankee Point Marina in Lancaster.

The NNSP members’ dedication to their community was recently rewarded when they were presented with the United States Power Squadrons’ Distinguished Squadron Civic Service Award.

Judy said the award compiled everything they did from the previous year and included 500 total hours of volunteered service by their members.

“We just have a bunch of really dedicated people who don’t mind jumping in feet-first,” said Judy, who added that receiving the award at the national level was “quite an honor.”

Dave admitted that it was not long ago when NNSP had to cancel classes because they struggled to get people to sign up for them.

“We had a hard time trying to get the message out,” said Dave, adding that, within the last year or so, they “must have done it right somewhere along the line,” as now their classes are in demand and organizations such as the Lancaster YMCA have approached them with an interest in boating safety.

“It took a lot to get it going, but we are now putting on boating courses every quarter at the Y here,” he said, adding that the classes have been well-attended.

“It’s almost like the tables have turned 180 degrees and people are now coming after us to do things,” he said. “That’s wonderful.”

Dave expects the squadron’s classes to be in high demand with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries requiring all boating pilots to have taken a boating safety course before July 1, 2016.

“There’s a lot of people who have not gotten it yet and so all of a sudden they’re going to say, ‘Oops! We need to have this,’” and even after the fact they can still get it and they’re going to start needing to have classes,” said Dave. “We’re going to be very busy.”

For further information about Northern Neck Sail and Power, visit their website at