March 27, 2014

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Sailing in the Desert: Utah Couple Teaches Locals Art of Seafaring

By Rachel Madison

March 27, 2014

To Todd Frye, there’s nothing more peaceful than the silence he experiences while gliding down the center of Utah Lake in his sailboat on a warm spring day. Frye, along with his wife, Louise, owns and operates the Utah County-based Bonneville School of Sailing & Seamanship, one of the state’s only sailing schools.

Todd got his start in sailing in the early 1970s in Hawaii and was immediately hooked. After retiring from his job as an art gallery director at Brigham Young University in 2007, he and Louise decided to start a sailing school.

“It’s been a lifelong dream for Todd,” Louise said. “He’s loved sailing since 1972. He retired as quick as he could and we were trying to figure out what to do, and this is what he liked, so I said ‘go for it.’ We didn’t really know what we were doing when we started, but it’s worked out really well for us.”

The Fryes offer several different types of sailing classes, from a two-hour discovery sail for people who want to see if they like sailing, to basic, intermediate and advanced lessons for those who are serious about sailing. The school also offers sunset cruises, celestial navigation courses, boat restoration classes and corporate team-building events.

“Sailing is the perfect natural team-building activity,” Louise said. “If there are two boats on the lake, everyone wants to race and they automatically start doing things you need to do to team build, like communicating and working together.”

During their first sailing season in 2007, the Fryes only taught eight sailing lessons. In 2013, they took more than 350 people sailing.

“We’re trying to offer all we can to the people here,” Louise said. “Every single year we almost double the amount we’ve taken out. Last year, we took out around 360 people. Not all of those were lessons, but a lot was discovery sailing.”

Todd said it’s been interesting to see the types of people who come to the school. Those with high-stress jobs, specifically lawyers, professors and accountants, are the most common people he works with, he said.

“We’ve had lots of executives come out, and one of their wives said, ‘This is the first time I’ve seen him relax,’” Louise said. “It’s just a natural stress release to get out on the water. It’s just so peaceful.”

The Fryes have also had people come from as far as South Korea to participate in team-building events on Utah Lake, like a group of engineers from Hyundai who were in town for business.

“Our biggest challenge has been letting people know we’re here,” Louise said. “And some people can’t imagine sailing here, but it’s a good lake for sailing. You can get proficient in all kinds of different sailing, from not much wind to a lot of wind.”

Todd said some people aren’t even aware that Utah Lake exists, which often surprises him, but gives him a chance to show new sailors the beauty of the area.

“The thing we’ve heard the most is, ‘I didn’t know it was so beautiful here,’” Louise said. “People are very amazed at how peaceful and beautiful it is here. We’ve got this amazing resource right in our backyard, and when people find out we’re here, they get excited.”

Although the approximately 96,000-acre lake has received a bad reputation over the years due to its murky water and carp infestation, Todd said the Utah Lake Commission, a government agency funded by area governments, the Department of Natural Resources and the state, is working to change the lake’s image.

Currently, the group is working to remove millions of pounds of carp from the water, which in turn will allow for underwater plants to regrow along the bottom of the 10 to 12 foot deep lake and keep bottom sediments from being disturbed and suspended in the water as a result of wave activity. The commission is also working to remove invasive species, mainly weeds called phragmites, from along the shorelines to provide better access to the lake.

Todd said the commission also has plans to make Utah Lake more of a recreation hot spot with the addition of a wakeboarding park, shoreline trails and a nature conservancy in future years.

The Fryes are also heavily involved in the Utah Lake Festival and Sailboat Regatta, which is held annually on the first Saturday of June. In 2013, Todd’s Olson 30 sailboat, Wyewacket, earned the gold medal in the regatta. The couple enjoys the event because it gives thousands of attendees the opportunity to learn more about Utah Lake and sailing.

Overall, Todd said he’s grateful he gets to teach people how to do something he loves.

“I just do what I like doing, and that’s sailing,” Todd said. “I show people how to sail. Usually it’s on their bucket list. Everybody says, ‘I’ve always wanted to learn how to do this.’ We feel good about letting people live their dreams. From here they can bounce on over to San Diego or Hawaii if they want. We call it sailing in a desert.”

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