500-mile sailing dream becomes a reality for veterans of Pequot Junior Sailing Program

A New Year’s dream began with a call from a marina selling a CAL 27 for the price of transferring the registration, $31. That is how a 500-mile sailing odyssey from Chestertown, Md. to Southport’s Pequot Yacht Club began for Theodoros “Theo” Aris.

Theo Aris — Photo by Debra Marafiote

Theo Aris — Photo by Debra Marafiote

“First, I could not have picked a better crew to join me on this journey starting on the Chester River,” said Theo Aris, who was captain of the voyage, that included sailing on the Chesapeake Bay, Delaware Bay, Cape May Canal, Atlantic Ocean, Block Island Sound and Long Island Sound. They entered Southport Harbor this week; ten days after setting sail. On board was Theo’s teammate throughout the Pequot Junior Sailing Program Nathan Arndt and Washington College rowing teammate Zee Ali. Ali is also a lifeguard at the Atlantic City Beach Patrol.

“From Atlantic City to Block Island we averaged 7-knots the entire way making that leg of the trip in 24-hours,” says Arndt. All members commented on the beauty of nature. The sailors marveled at a gray whale breaching on their route and enjoyed seeing sunfish on their trip. “I have never seen a better canvas of the night sky,” says Ali who continues, “The trip for me was life changing, and I was humbled by the ocean and the power of everything around you. I appreciated that safety was the priority of Theo, who was a confident Captain and taught me the importance of safety lines.”

“Preparation is key on a journey like this,” explains Aris. “I had a lot of support before I left the shore. I utilized everything I learned from the Pequot Junior Sailing Program with a special thanks to Pam Toner and Mary von Conta, Past Commodore of PYC Jonathan Thomson who included me in Wednesday night racing, the Stratford Shoal and the Falkner races, and all of the safety courses from Safety-at- Sea to US Sailing on standard day and night time sailing procedures.” Aris continues, “Navigant (the name of the CAL 27) required much preparation which began four-months prior to leaving the shore including checking the rigging to ensure it wouldn’t break under pressure. There are a lot of people to thank including Zee and Nathan, Washington College Waterfront Director Ben Armiger who became my mentor on this trip, Manager of Sailing Associates Patrick Grieb on the scenic Sassafras River, Reverend Todd Kissam who blessed Navigant, and my parents.” Dr. James Aris crewed for his son as they sailed Navigant on a test run in May from Georgetown, MD to Chestertown, MD.

Both Aris and Arndt began the Pequot Junior Program when they were nine-years old sailing Optis, Pixels, 420s and Lasers. They competed in the Pixel and 420 Junior Sailing Association Championships for seven consecutive summers, and both studied and passed demanding Navigation and Seamanship tests, and attended the Storm Trysail Junior Safety-at-Sea program. In addition, during the junior sailing program they competed at the Sears Cup, Law Trophy, Maritime Match Racing, and attended summer Junior Sailing Association of Long Island Sound racing clinics.” Both Aris and Arndt served as Vice Commodore of the Pequot Junior Yacht Club at different times and have been awarded several PYC perpetual trophies including the David S. Sprouse Award, PJYC Instructor’s Tiller Award, and the Instructor’s Ship Shape award.

Arndt is a recent graduate of Hamilton College receiving his Bachelor’s in Physics, and US Certified Sailing Instructor throughout the summers at Milford Yacht Club. Ali attends Washington College and is a biology major, resident director and incoming Captain of the Varsity Men’s Rowing Team.

Aris attends Washington College studying mathematics and economics. He is a Level 2 US Certified Sailing Instructor for Small Boats, and an instructor since the 2013 season at the Housatonic Boat Club (HBC) in Stratford, CT. HBC is the oldest active yacht club in the state. “I enjoy teaching junior sailing, and I’m proud of the accomplishments of my students. This sport teaches you teamwork, strategy and persistence.” Aris also has his American Sailing Association Basic Keelboat Sailing 101, Basic Coastal Cruising 103, Bareboat Chartering 104 and Navigation certificates, in addition, to being a graduate of Performance Sailing from Colgate’s Offshore Sailing School, CT Safe Boating and CPR/AED certified.

“It was a dream come true sailing into beautiful Southport Harbor after accomplishing a 500-mile voyage,” echo the three sailors. General Manager Jeff Engborg and Marine Department Manager Travis Herman were there to congratulate and welcome Aris, Arndt and Ali – remembering Nathan and Theo from many previous summers in the junior program. As for what’s next, Aris says, “I’m thinking about the next sail and preparing – things happen fast on the water and you need to be ready.”

Nathan Arndt, Theo Aris, Zee Ali.

Nathan Arndt, Theo Aris, Zee Ali.

Navigant (with Theo Aris center at the Tiller, Zee Ali (to the right in yellow pants) and Nathan Arndt to the left in yellow top.

Navigant (with Theo Aris center at the Tiller, Zee Ali (to the right in yellow pants) and Nathan Arndt to the left in yellow top.

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