Malverne man rediscovers his love of sailing


Peter Auwarter, of Malverne, had to focus on fatherhood first and sailing second. But since his children have graduated from college and he retired, he has rediscovered his passion for the open water.

“It was always a lifestyle thing for me,” Auwarter said. “I had taken sailing classes on the North Shore, and the kids were still in college, and there was too much going on, but I still wanted to pursue it. When I retired, I thought, ‘Where can I get those classes? I want to get back out on the water and spend some time learning how to sail.’”

Eight years ago, Auwarter joined the Hempstead Bay Sailing Club, a hidden gem that has been sending sailors out onto South Shore waters for decades.

Founded 63 years ago, the nonprofit club has long brought sailing enthusiasts together. Originally established at the Middle Bay country club in Oceanside, the Hempstead Bay Sailing Club found its footing as a humble floating outpost for sailors, and it has flourished at its current location.

Auwarter connected with one of the club’s senior members, and re-entered the world of sailing. He is now the club’s membership chair.

“As soon as I joined, as soon as the board accepted me, I was crewing for folks that had so much experience and recognition,” Auwarter re-called. “Racing all up and down the East Coast, competing and winning. You don’t take that lightly, because those people really understand what they’re doing, and so if you can crew for them, you’re going to learn a lot, and that was better than any class I could have enrolled in.”

The club now boasts a membership of 57 people of diverse backgrounds and a range of ages. Rockville Centre resident Karen Greene has deep connections to sailing. A trustee on the club’s board, she has been a member for 20 years, and recalls joining with her husband.

“When my husband and I got married, we didn’t have a honeymoon — we bought our first sailboat,” Greene said. “When we had kids, we kind of gave it up for a while, but I always missed it, so we came back and we came to the board to be members.”

Husband-wife teams frequently sail together, while newcomers find mentors and friends among experienced sailors. The club offers various social events, including a New Year’s Day social, a Super Bowl party, and the highly anticipated Memorial Day commissioning party.

The club’s junior program introduces younger members, ages 5 to 17, to sailing and helps them develop their skills on the water. The program is in the process of being relaunched after a 17-year hiatus, and the club leadership sees it as a vital component in ensuring the organization’s future.

“One of the things that Karen and another one of our commodores, Greg Laufman, was interested in doing (was) growing our youth sail program,” Auwarter said. “Who is the next generation of sailors? Hopefully, it comes by way of these families and their children, and trying to accommodate them by the club sponsoring and purchasing additional boats that are more aligned with the youth sailing program.”

The junior program offers lessons, races and social events for the younger sailors. Members with school connections are encouraged to spread the word about the program, and the club.

“We have to invest a bit more in figuring out how to have properly certified instructors, but as long as the parents are on site and taking charge, it’s been successful,” Auwarter said. “It’s one year in, but I think every year we’re going to build on it.”

The club collaborates with organizations like the South Bay Sailing Association, which provides assistance with equipment and, potentially, grants or other funds for the junior program.

Island Park resident Carole Meyers is the club’s photographer, and has been a member, along with her husband, for 40 years. She attributes their longevity to the club’s positive atmosphere.

“It’s a very active group, with great people,” Meyers said. “It’s a home away from home, and in the summertime we have dinner down here, and bring our own dinners. We’re all friends.”