The wind beneath their wings


“How did you spend your summer?”

It’s a classic question that has been asked by Minnesotans since the very dawn of time itself – and is one of those questions that if one isn’t careful with, they may very well get a long-list of every single detail of Uncle Joe’s bunion surgery or a friendly neighbor’s exploits with their grandchildren, complete with photographs. But for many Uptown Minneapolis residents the resounding answer may very well be: “I learned how to sail!”

That’s right, folks. Sailing is no longer a sport that is reserved for wealthy yacht-owners or die-hard outdoorsmen. At least that’s what Bill Morton, a retired Methodist pastor, discovered two years ago when he happened onto the dock on the north east end of Lake Calhoun near the Tin Fish restaurant.

“I don’t think I’ll ever forget that day,” exclaims Morton, referring to the fateful encounter that changed his retirement forever. “I walked out onto the dock and heard a friendly voice asking me if I wanted to go for a sail. I looked at the man, then I looked at the boat and do you know what he was sailing? A canoe with a sail rigged up to it! For some reason I said yes.”

And so it began, a partnership of one retired pastor and one retired engineer and a fellowship that has literally grown up around them. They have taken hundreds of people on rides, have taught a large portion of those riders how to take the sails themselves and in that short time have sailed their way into countless hearts.

Bill Morton and Werner Maybaum are an engaging pair of buddies with a collection of incredible personal life experiences. Morton, whose son was paralyzed in a mountain biking accident a number of years ago, has traveled the world in search of a place to be of real service to his fellow man. Maybaum, who escaped from Nazi Germany with his mother as a young child with nothing more than a few dollars to their name, has sought out true joy. They’ve found what they have long sought – right here in the Uptown neighborhood.

On the day of my interview with Bill Morton, he had spent the prior week in the company of such diverse people as an airline pilot, a little girl and local actress, Barbara Meyer. “Sailing is keeping us young and it’s keeping the life in us. There’s nothing as tremendously gratifying as getting on a boat with a stranger and leaving with a friend.”

Maybaum and Morton can be found online by googling “sailing lake Calhoun Facebook.” At the lake they are identifiable by their boats – beach-balls at the top Maybaum’s mast (which is no longer found attached to a canoe) and a blue “J” with a red javelin through it on Morton’s sail. Maybaum has committed to being at the lake every day from noon to dusk, but sailing is wholly depends on the wind. So if the boats are docked, no one’s home. But if one doesn’t see them it means they’re out on the lake and will be back soon.

As for this writer, next time someone asks me what I did this summer, I know how I will reply: with a loud “I learned how to sail! Yeee haw.”

Allison Zank is an author, volunteer and CARAG resident.

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