The sailing season is in full swing and this week in the Washington Blade All Star series, we meet two LGBT sailors from the Rainbow Spinnakers Sailing Club.
Weather permitting, the Spinnakers meet every weekend for two-hour sails on the Potomac River out of Belle Haven Marina. Utilizing rental boats or member boats, sailors can actively participate in operating the boat or just sit back and enjoy the sail.
It was summers at his grandmother’s farm on the Eastern Shore that introduced Bob Angell to the sport of sailing. His days were filled with boats, crabbing, fishing, paddling and sailing.
Born in Virginia, his family moved to Michigan and Massachusetts before settling outside of Annapolis. During high school, he played soccer and lacrosse before heading to Duke where he participated in karate and was a member of Duke University’s Club Sailing Team.
After college, Angell moved back to the area to work in the tech industry. He continued sailing and competed in the Wednesday Night Racing Series on the Magothy River. Along the way, he picked up the sport of triathlon notching 28 races over the years.
Five years ago he and his husband Ben, whom he has been with 31 years, came across the Spinnakers at the Capital Pride Festival and immediately joined.
“I love being out on the water and connecting with other people,” Angell says. “There is always something to mess with on a boat and if you want to relax, you should go somewhere slowly.”
During his career in the tech industry, Angell was also publishing short stories in magazines and anthologies. Now retired, he released his first novel last month, “Best Game Ever,” a queer science fiction/virtual reality thriller. He’s been appearing on panels at events such as Balticon and Readercon to promote it.
As for his time spent with the Spinnakers, he enjoys that there is a core group and also that newcomers show up to sail.
“It’s all easygoing and a really nice way to destress,” Angell says. “Everyone always has a smile on their face when they are on a boat.”
Eric Bolda grew up in Fond du Lac, Wis., and had his first sailing experiences on Lake Winnebago. His family moved to Illinois in his teens and they continued sailing on the Great Lakes.
While attending University of California, Berkeley, he was a member of its sailing club and a fellowship in New Zealand gave him more opportunities to sail.
“I have stuck with sailing because the physical and mental aspects of the sport are a good combination for me,” Bolda says. “There is nothing like being in harmony with the wind and the water.”
A job with NIST brought Bolda to D.C. and he now works as a patent examiner for the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. When he was coming out in 2004, he discovered the Rainbow Spinnakers and showed up for a sail.
“It’s been a great way to make friends,” Bolda says. “We meet up after the sails to socialize and talk about the experience.”
Bolda is now the commodore of the club and was a member of the Rainbow Spinnakers team that banded together to train for the 2014 Gay Games in Cleveland. The race was on Lake Erie and the four sailors from the Spinnakers sailing team captured a silver medal.
“Sailing can be enjoyed in many ways and each sail is a learning experience,” Bolda says. “We have a great mix of people who join us. People who have sailed the Atlantic, and others who just sit and watch the scenery.”