Daily Pilot Dec 13, 2007
Cordell Porter of Fairview Developmental
Center, and Paul Bjorkholm of Oasis
Senior Center, prepare to shove off on
the sailboat Fascination II with a
client from Fairview Center.
Sailing after the storms
who survived physical and financial trials now
teaches the disabled how to sail in Newport Harbor.
Tom Tolbert and his sailboat, the Fascination
II, have pushed through their share of storms
over the last 10 years.
A brain aneurysm in 1996, a stolen engine in
2004, the loss of his skipper and business
partner and his federal funding, yet
both the man and the boat persevered.
Tolbert’s story of overcoming a medical
emergency less than 10% of people usually
survive, of having to relearn rudimentary
physical tasks, and then rediscovering his love
of the ocean is inspiring.
He’s taken his three decades of experience at
sea and put them to use, teaching the disabled
how to sail in Newport Harbor.
“Probably 75% of our students have never been in
charge of any apparatus,” Tolbert said. “They
still haven’t been in charge of a bicycle, car,
anything. This is a first for them, and seeing
one of them smile is a really big deal for us.”
Tolbert says he is one of only three components
needed to ensure the ship sails smoothly.
Without the help of volunteer skippers from the
Oasis Senior Center and funding from a local
church, the Sailing Fascination project would be
After all its struggles, the nonprofit hit the
doldrums when Tolbert’s friend and skipper Jack
Hest was unexpectedly moved to a Bakersfield
nursing facility in August.
After Hest’s departure from Sailing Fascination,
Tolbert began going “through that process of
where am I going to find that person that is
able-bodied enough to tie up and knows their way
around the boat enough that I am comfortable
with them and our students are not in jeopardy?”
Around the same time he was trying to figure
this out, the Department of Boating and
Waterways pulled its funding after supporting
Sailing Fascination for eight years.
Sailing Fascination costs roughly $3,000 each
year to operate, most of which goes toward
maintenance costs. A slip at Basin Marina has
been donated by the city of Newport Beach, and
the marina provides a number of services to the
group at no cost. But Tolbert still has to come
up with few thousand clams to keep things
Then John Byerlein introduced Tolbert at one of
the Oasis Senior Sailing Club meetings in Corona
del Mar, and told the group about the situation.
Now, seven to eight Oasis members rotate in as
volunteer skippers aboard Fascination II, a
“Everyone jumped up to help out when they were
asked,” skipper Paul Bjorkholm said. “It was
surprising. You normally don’t get that
Every Tuesday they set sail in Newport Harbor
where the waters are more predictable than out
Most of the student sailors lately come from the
Fairview Developmental Center in Costa Mesa. And
with them comes rehab therapist Cordell Porter.
The center residents are developmentally
disabled, so most of the sailing is performed by
Tolbert and the Oasis skippers, but the
experience alone has a beneficial effect on the
“They are very relaxed when they get back,”
Porter said. “There’s nothing they do like
Most of the student sailors, like Dennis, have
lived at the medical facility for most of their
lives. The 56-year-old was on his third sailing
trip aboard Fascination II.
“Dennis doesn’t understand the bow from the
stern or any of those things,” Porter said. “But
when I pick him up he says ‘boat, boat, boat.’”
KELLY STRODL may be reached at (714) 966-4623 or
NEWS RELEASE ---- September 2009
Able-bodied OASIS Sailing Club
sailors have volunteered to operate
the sloop FASCINATION 2,
within Tom Tolbert' non-profit
California corporation -- SAILING
FASCINATION. Beginning in August
2007, eight OSC members alternated
in skippering the sloop every
Tuesday afternoon, providing a
sailing experience for physically or
developmentally-disabled persons and
teaching them fundamentals of
sailing wherever possible. Having
completed 83 sailing
trips during its first two years of
association with SAILING
FASCINATION, the OASIS volunteer
skippers' pool has now grown to
fourteen persons. Recreational
Therapist Cordell Porter has
accompanied each disabled client
on all these 83 sailing.
On August 13, 2009 Fairview
Developmental Center therapist
Melissa Hansen rejoined the SAILING
FASCINATION program, after a couple
years absence. Then our sailing
club added Thursday afternoon
sailings, to provide more
opportunities for more disabled
adults to enjoy this growth
-- noon until 2:00 pm unless
Tuesday, Sept. 1 ------------ Stan
Tuesday, Sept. 8 ------------ Don
Bartz and Pieter Suttorp
Tuesday, Sept. 15 ----------- Mac
17 -------------- Linda Boulton and
Tuesday, Sept. 22 ------------ Rob
Thursday, Sept. 24
-------------- John Byerlein and
Tuesday, Sept. 29
---------- Anthony Allen
Thursday, Oct. 1
--------------- FROM 10:00
am to 12:00 Noon -- Paul
Bjorkholm and Mac MacAdam
Tuesday, Oct. 6 ------------
Thursday, Oct. 8
--------------- Stan Espenship and
Tuesday, Oct. 13 ---------
Thursday, Oct. 15
-------------- John Byerlein and
Tuesday, Oct. 20 --------- Mac
Thursday, Oct. 22
------------- Linda Ignatius and
Tuesday, Oct. 27 --------- Kurt
Thursday, Oct. 29
------------- Anthony Allen and
OASIS Sailing Club program members
are responsive to the needs and
particular capabilities of each
adult entrusted to our care. We
help them grow. For further
information, contact John Byerlein
20 YEARS AT SEA ON “BUSIEST
SAILBOAT IN WORLD”
(Corona Del Mar, July 18, 2005)
Four retirees in a dinghy reached their moored sailboat for the
monthly day cruise out of Newport Harbor, never dreaming that in
2005--20 years later—over a hundred more senior sailors would be
toasting the anniversary of their creation, OASIS Sailing Club.
“We are an activity of Friends of OASIS, with support from the
City of Newport Beach,” explained John Byerlein, Commodore. \
On July 16 the
anniversary was celebrated over a wine-tasting event in
cooperation with Trader Joe’s. The theme was “California’s
Gold—North to South to Sideways.” Each selection was described
by volunteer skipper and County Fair Wine Judge, Jim Stone, who
chose 10 wines from champagne to dinner accompaniment to
dessert. Chef Mila donated hors d’ouerve appropriate to each
wine. .Over 50 members attended the social event in the OASIS
courtyard, and visited at tables decorated with fresh flowers in
wine bottle vases. Overhead canopies were strung with colorful
international signal flags.
Byerlein offered a review of club history and a forecast that
membership is likely to grow another 50% over the next five
years. Mal Richley of Lindsey Plastics took a bow for overseeing
the manufacture of our OASIS II Newport 30 sloop, launched in
1982. “Recreational sailing for seniors continues to be the
beacon toward which our sailing club will point for the next 20
years,” predicted Byerlein.
THERE SHE BLOWS! 302
SAILINGS IN 12 MONTHS FOR SENIORS
(Newport Beach) Coming out of
the Balboa Yacht Basin—again!—OASIS II, official sailboat of Friends of
OASIS, logged its 302nd sailing day for a record year.
“We call it the
world’s busiest sailboat, manned by active retirees,” said Commodore
John Byerlein. Crews are all seniors from ages 56 to 85. The previous
record was 257 cruises in 2002.
The 95 OASIS Sailing Club
members are required to take basic safety training and based on their
boatmanship, can aspire to rank of mate or skipper. “Confidence comes
with practice and mentoring, and a safe crew makes for smoother
sailing,” added Byerlein.
In contrast to Orange
County’s dense urban setting, a day on the ocean is a pure outdoor
event. Usually a destination like Dana Point or Long Beach attracts
repeat sailors—members aren’t limited in opportunities to sign up.
Seasoned seamen may arrange overnight cruises to Catalina.
Land activities include
barbecues, holiday dinner parties, yacht club luncheons, maritime tours
and wine tasting socials. “Next to being at the wheel, the most fun is
to share sea stories with other sailors in the club who have literally
worlds of boating experience across America’s lakes and ports—and even
Europe, the Pacific and Caribbean,” explained Byerlein.
An activity of the City of
Newport Beach, the 19-year-old sailing club is open to the public
through membership in Friends of OASIS at OASIS Senior Center, Corona
Oasis in the ocean
By Andrew Edwards
November 19, 2004
The wind was light, the sailing was easy, and the day was peaceful as four
members of the seniors-only Oasis Sailing Club logged in yet another day before
"It was very glassy, the smoothest I've ever seen the sea out here," sailing
club member Jim Stone, 76, said Wednesday after returning from an afternoon
Joining Stone on the cruise were Rob Jason, 67, Marilyn Lees, 71, and Lloyd
Stave, 65. The four cruised aboard Oasis II, a 30-foot Newport Mk3 sloop that
club members call the world's busiest sailboat.
Oasis sailors logged in more than 1,300 sailing hours over 242 cruises last
year, but their record remains unofficial. The club has sent an application to
Guinness World Records, but record keepers at Guinness do not keep track of
records for the most-used private boat, said club commodore John Byerlein, 78.
However, Byerlein has said he does not know of any challenges to the club's
claim, and members continue to keep a busy schedule. On Wednesday, Oasis sailors
embarked on the ship's 263rd voyage of the year. Members of the club take short
trips on Oasis almost every day, while boats moored near the club's slip often
remain at anchor.
"They leave the dock two or three times a year," Byerlein said as he looked at
the forest of masts at the Balboa Yacht Basin. "We leave the dock 25 times a
Once afloat, sailors aboard Oasis II are often surrounded by nothing but blue
skies and water.
"Out in the ocean, we have the whole ocean to ourselves," Jason said.
Members of the Oasis Sailing Club are all seniors and members of the Oasis
Senior Center in Corona del Mar. The sailing club is officially part of the
Friends of Oasis, a nonprofit that supports the senior center. The club boasts
about 100 members, who do not have to be experienced sailors when they join.
"They can come in with no experience at all and just decide that sailing would
be a great thing to do," Stone said. "They can decide they want to learn to
sail, or they can decide they just want to go out."
Once outside the harbor, Oasis sailors often take turns handling the wheel, but
cruises are typically relaxing affairs, where club members can get away from it
all and chat about past travels.
"There's a big social dimension to sailing," Stone said. "We enjoy each other.
We enjoy the stories."
Where the club goes depends on where the wind takes them — south to Dana Point,
west to Catalina Island or as far north as Marina del Rey.
On Wednesday, Stone skippered Oasis II north, then headed west to catch the wind
and pick up speed.
As they sailed, the four-person crew was almost entirely alone in the ocean.
"We had a seal following us for a little bit; we could see him bobbing behind
us," Stone said.
Magellan Award to Louanne Peck For longest single cruise, Tokyo-Seattle,
by Marilyn Lees, OASIS Sailing Club meeting on February 25, 2004. Chart of
world oceans and ports of call in background, representing all member cruises
January 22, 2004
1,380 HOURS AT SEA IN 2003
"WORLD’S BUSIEST SAILBOAT" RECORD?
Where is the most active private sailboat in the world? Newport Beach is a
good guess, and facts back it up. The OASIS II sloop logged 1,380 hours at sea
last year, according to John Byerlein, Commodore of OASIS Sailing Club. These
nautical crews—all senior citizens--set sail from Balboa Yacht Basin 242 times.
The passenger log shows 1,186 person-days in 2003. Cruises extended as far as
Catalina Island or as near as boat parade events in the harbor.
"Don’t forget festivals," said Byerlein. "We are out there for the 4th
of July and Christmas Lights every year."
The 17-year-old nonprofit club provides recreation and training for seniors
who long for the wind behind them, the dolphins beside them, and sunsets on the
Messing About In Boats
"Believe me, my young friend, there is NOTHING--absolute nothing--half so
much worth doing
as simply messing about in boats."
—Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows
Newport Beach—July 3, 2003—It doesn’t take much to get OASIS Sailing Club
Commodore John Byerlein enthusing about boats. Indeed, had it not been Water Rat
musing dreamily of watercraft in Kenneth’s Grahame’s children’s classic, it
might have been Byerlein.
Now entering the second year of his two-year term as head of the 100-member
club, the Coast Guard Academy reservist can instantly reel off a litany of
"stats" about the Corona del Mar senior center’s 17-year-old sailing club: "We
have 13 designated skippers, 10 designated mates, 17 members working to qualify
as mates and 60 casual sailors who also bring treats and enjoy sailing’s social
As one of four elected officers, Byerlein has help in making OASIS II—the
club’s 30-foot Newport Mark III sloop—available to club members 29 days a month.
Sharing leadership responsibilities with him are Vice Commodore Jack Teberg,
Secretary Jim Stone and Treasurer Dorothy Fox.
Under their stewardship, OASIS II departed its Balboa Yacht Basin mooring on
257 days in 2002, providing 1,100 person-days of enjoyment. On all voyages, a
certified skipper and first mate are on board, to satisfy insurance requirements
and provide optimal safety. Club skippers must pass both a written and a
Despite such precautions, watery mishaps do occasionally occur. Following one
this spring, OASIS II underwent major repair and now boasts all new rigging,
lifelines and safety equipment. "After five weeks out of commission, it’s
stronger and safer than ever before," Byerlein proclaims.
Originally built in 1982, the vessel was outfitted with a new inboard diesel
motor last July. It comfortably seats six adults, on daytime and sunset
excursions ranging from races to Huntington Harbor to overnight jaunts to San
Pedro and Catalina. Augmenting these outings are parties and participation in
local boat parades, including recent American Legion festivities and the annual
end-of-year holiday celebration in Newport Harbor.
Sailing club dues, which run $10 per month, and sailing excursion charges—$15
each for the first three sailings each month—cover dock fees, insurance and
maintenance costs. Club members perform most routine maintenance.
To coordinate activities, they meet on the last Wednesday of each month, from
1:00 to 3:00 P.M. at the OASIS Center. Experienced and new sailors of all ages
are welcome to join them, to learn about what Byerlein asserts is "the world’s
most active sailing alliance." Newcomers can enjoy one free sailing when they
join the club’s ranks.
If the lure of the sea and the enthusiasm of club members fail to motivate,
Byerlein adds one more incentive. "People with involvements and relationships
live nine years longer than those who are more passive."
"I can’t die," the Newport Harbor Nautical Museum docent-of-the-year adds. "I
have sailing this weekend!"
OASIS Senior Center is a hub for older adults social and information
services, at 5th & Narcissus Avenue in Corona del Mar. For more
information about the center and its activities, please call 949-718-1800