The sailing program at the yacht club is thriving with four instructors, 75 students, and 26 training boats, but it wasn’t always that way. When Henry Jeffers became commodore in 1990, there were no training boats for kids.

The situation changed rapidly under Henry’s leadership. His tenure ended in 2000 and he continues to run the sailing program to this day. He began his time as commodore by visiting other clubs to learn about their sailing programs. In one of his visits to the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club, he discovered they had six 420s for sale. The price was $35,000. To finance the purchase of the boats, Henry borrowed $5,000 from five of his East Chop friends, and put up the last $10,000 himself. The boats were purchased, and the loans were paid off in three years.

He devised a similar program for purchasing Optimists, the backbone of the program for beginning sailors. The cost of a new one is about $800. Donors who bought a boat got to name it, and they then loaned it to the yacht club for three years. After three years, the boat was returned to the donor, but according to Henry, no donor has ever reclaimed their boat. More recently the yacht club has set up an Opti Fund. Yacht Club members can earmark money for the Opti Fund each year when they pay their dues. These two programs have enabled the club to acquire 18 boats.

The goal of the program is to teach kids how to sail and become comfortable around boats. Racing is a secondary goal. If you want a good smile, come to the yacht club on a morning when the kids are sailing the Optimists around Oak Bluffs harbor. It’s bumper cars, and no one is enjoying the scene more than Henry Jeffers. We owe thi s kind and thoughtful man, who has kept the equipment running and new boats coming for 27 years, a large debt of gratitude.

This is the second time I have said goodbye to Janet Jeffers. Two years ago a good friend of mine told me the sad news that we had lost her. When I announced the news in my column, the phone started ringing “off the hook” when the Gazette came out that Friday.

You can imagine that calling to apologize was a task I dreaded. She had not read the column or heard the news, but when I told her what happened she laughed hysterically. She made the call so easy. We had a fun conversation.

That same wonderful spirit was in evidence in the party the Jeffers family hosted in her memory last Friday. Henry, son Jim, daughter in law Raquel Mazon-Jeffers, Joseph Saliba, the longtime family friend who introduced Henry and Janet, and Joan Potter told funny and warm stories about her. It was a wonderful celebration of the life of a very good woman.

Finally, the answer to the trivia contest you’ve all been wondering about. Again, nobody called me with the correct answer. The question was the location of the first pier for ferry boats coming from Woods Hole to the Vineyard. The answer: the beach club parking lot.

Send East Chop news to