Person of the Week: Al Walker: Sailing Through Life – By Eric O’Connell – Published July 3, 2018
“I’m just a guy plodding through life doing 100 things.” That’s how Al Walker describes himself and judging by his busy life, that’s a fair assessment.
Al is currently the operations director of the Clinton Sailing Club (CSC). In this role, Al says he does a lot of the online work for the CSC including designing the website, setting up the sign-up-and-payment pages, and some of the social media work for the club. As well as his jobs on the computer, Al is kept busy with boat maintenance. The club operates a multitude of different boats in all different sizes, he says, so “something is always needing maintenance.”
Al says he got involved with the sailing club in a “roundabout way”. It was Father’s Day a few years ago, when Al got together with some of his friends and their kids and headed out on the water for some fun.
“We grabbed anything that could float,” Al jokes.
As Al watched the boats go in and out of the harbor, he made a remark to a friend that he wished he could sail again. Later that same night, Al says his friend began texting him pictures of boats for sale with the idea of them buying one together.
After they made the big purchase, Al posted pictures of himself sailing on Facebook, and a mutual friend connected Al with CSC founder Alan Felgate. In 2015, Al became one of the original members who planned for the CSC’s inaugural season in 2016.
Felgate remarks that Al “is the guy who keeps everyone sailing having fun and staying safe!”
Al’s favorite part of being in the CSC are the “behind the scenes things” he is able to witness. As an example, he says that when parents come to pick up their children, he will be in the parking lot fixing a boat and overhears the conversations between kids and adults.
“I can hear the kids saying ‘we did this and that all by ourselves,’” Al says. “Hearing that makes it all worth it,” says Al.
A Family Tradition
Al was introduced to sailing as a kid, thanks to his father who served in the Navy in Annapolis. When Al and his brother reached an appropriate age, ”my father said ‘okay family, we’re learning how to sail.’”
Bitten by the sailing bug, Al and his brother signed up for several different classes and were “always on the boats.” As he got older, he chartered boats for trips with friends, including one memorable adventure in the Bahamas. Al and his friends followed a tour boat to what they assumed was a popular scuba diving spot but discovered when they were in the water, it was in fact a shark feeding excursion and they were now unexpectedly diving with sharks.
“We realized that wasn’t the place to be,” Al says with a chuckle, noting that the sharks weren’t interested in “anything but the fish” and that there were no close calls while they were in the water.
In addition to his CSC commitments, Al has been an active member with several boards and commission in town, currently serving on the Shellfish Commission and Water Pollution Commission.
He says that the Shellfish Commission is “working very hard to get a recreational shellfish bed established,” and periodically collects water quality samples and sends them to the state to prove that the quality has improved.
Many people in town would also recognize Al from his volunteer involvement with Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) for Clinton. He says he was prompted to join the group by his kids, Julia and Davis, and enjoyed being involved, including running the PTA communications.
“Having kids really makes you puts your tentacles out in a town,” Al says.
Al says he enjoyed staying involved with his kid’s activities through coaching soccer and helping with baseball when they were younger.
Hailing from Virginia, Al moved to Clinton in 2004. When not busy, Al says he likes to walk dogs, and “shuttle my kids around to different activities,” including getting out of the water, noting that they have both become good sailors. Al says he hopes to do a long trip on a boat again sometime.
Asked for a destination that he would like to sail to that he hasn’t yet, Al replies, “That list is endless.”