Sailing To Better International Relations

Could learning to sail play a small role in improving international relations? Well, sailing does require communication, understanding, and partnership. Maybe that’s why sailing on the Bay has become a much-enjoyed component of the New Story Leadership (NSL) program for young emerging leaders from Palestine and Israel. Each summer for the past five years participants in this Washington, D.C.-based program have had the opportunity to experience the beauty of sailing the Chesapeake aboard boats hailing from Shady Side’s Leatherbury Point Marina.

 Mohammad Al-Hroub, 22, takes the helm of Sparkle Plenty while NSL staff member, Matthew Gianitsos, observes. Photo courtesy of Tory Salvia

“Each year I’m amazed at these young people,” says Tory Salvia, NSL sail coordinator. “They get along so well and support each other. They are smart, funny, and intent on getting the most out of the sailing experience. Many have never even been on a boat before. This year, a 20-something Palestinian man wanted to learn every sailing term. This was his first trip outside the Middle East. Though he lives just a few miles from the sea, he is not allowed to go there. He loved steering, tacking, and helping out when we anchored for a swim on the Rhode River.”
A trio of boats hosting the students sailed out of Parish Creek on the West River: Giselle, a York Harbor 36 skippered by Phil Christenson; Halcyone, a Pearson 30 skippered by Bob Ogden; and Sparkle Plenty, a Mariner 36 skippered by Salvia. During the after-sail party at the marina, the crews shared experiences, and many expressed a desire to return some day to the Chesapeake for more sailing and exploration. A couple of weeks later, group members had an opportunity to discuss the NSL program before members of Congress. Several mentioned their sail on the Bay as one of the highlights of the program.
“Each year, before we go sailing, we give the students a bit of a history lesson to orient them to the Bay and the Chesapeake’s impact on the region,” explains Salvia. “This year I chose the theme of ‘adapting to change.’ We talked about how the Bay has changed and how Leatherbury had evolved from a family-operated oyster and crab processing plant to a small marina. Being prepared for change and adapting to changing circumstances are life skills everyone needs to develop.”
Founded in 2009 by Paul Costello, NSL brings students from Israel and Palestine together in Washington, D.C., for a summer of government and private internships and leadership training. The program allows young leaders from the region to interact in a neutral environment and find ways to cooperate and construct a new story of peace and cooperation. Costello (an Aussie) has developed similar successful programs for Irish and South African students. Several alums from those programs contribute their time to NSL. Visit to learn more.

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