NINETTE — Alf Iverson and his wife Betty, are 82 years old. The Minnedosa residents have been sailing for more than 27 years.
Iverson said his love of sailing just sort of happened.
"I really liked the boating and sailing part of it. We did buy a 17-foot sailboat about five years before I retired."
After taking courses in sailing, including a stint in the Virgin Islands, both of the Iversons are experienced sailors.
This week, the couple will be celebrating their 60th anniversary. They don’t argue, and work as a team when out in the water on their boat, Alfabet.
Iverson’s still agile, slipping off his sandals to climb on top of the boat to adjust the foresail on Saturday. Betty is first mate, filling in the gaps when Iverson is too busy steering. Together, they are a team and enjoy being on the water in their portable cabin.
Iverson has owned two sailboats in his lifetime. Alfabet is his second.
For the past 16 years, they have been active members of the Pelican Yacht Club in Ninette.
On Saturday, they hoisted their sails and participated in the "Picture Perfect" event to promote sailing in the province and the country as it’s Sail Manitoba and Sail Canada’s first co-ordinated effort to promote the sport on a local and national level.
Open to yacht club members only, due to COVID-19, the event saw sailboats of all shapes and sizes in the water. Sheila Baird, the commodore of the Pelican Yacht Club, said the event is being held to promote sailing across Canada.
"It is weather dependent though," she said.
Decreased water levels on the lake due to the drought also impacted the number of participants in Saturday’s event. Sailboats with longer keels sat on shore, while sailboats with shorter ones inched their way out of the harbour and into deeper water.
Regardless, there were still about 11 sailboats out on Pelican Lake for Saturday’s event.
Boats were expected to sail past the Terry Fox Park in Ninette in the Parade of Sails, Baird said.
Smoke from wildfires in the province made for a hazy day. Winds were perfect, though, as sailors from the club hoisted their sails and skipped across Pelican Lake’s surface. Boats with larger foresails almost touched the lake’s surface as their sails caught the wind and pushed their boat within inches of the water’s surface.
Pelican Lake is in a bit of a valley, which makes manoeuvring sailboats against ever-changing winds a challenge. However, Saturday’s winds were practically perfect as club members exchanged stories with the common thread of how good the winds were once they docked.
Pelican Lake is Manitoba’s largest navigable lake in the southwest of the province. It is about 11 miles long and one mile wide with a surface area of 10.8 square miles.
There are more than 15 sailing clubs in the province who are members of Sail Manitoba, the provincial organization that is sponsored by Sport Manitoba and club funding, according to Sheila Bellideal, the organization’s executive director.
For Saturday’s event, 11 clubs across the province held events, she said.
With many clubs participating in a national event, Bellideal is optimistic it will encourage more people to learn how to sail.
"It’s a sport you can do by yourself or with a group of people. You need a boat and a body of water. And you can just go," she said.
Bellideal said since the pandemic, she has seen an increase in awareness and interest in the sport. She hopes that the event will turn into a yearly thing where the province and the country take one day out of the year to recognize a sport that appears to be gaining in popularity.
For the Iversons, sailing is a great sport. They’re content to explore Pelican Lake after years of hauling their boat to Florida.
"It’s such a rewarding type of experience," Iverson said. "We train new sailors at our club. That goes on all year. It’s such a wonderful thing for people to put in their time. It’s a great learning experience for teenagers. It doesn’t get any better. You have to get along and work together at the same time."
For the Iversons, age is just a number. They have no intention of retiring from sailing or selling Alfabet.
"I have no desire to get rid of it anytime soon."
For further information on the Pelican Yacht Club, see pycmb.ca. For further information on Sail Manitoba, see sailmanitoba.com.