Sailing for a song: Free rides on Lake Calhoun include a singalong

  • Article by: JEFF STRICKLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 6, 2014 - 9:35 PM

You’ve heard of singing for your supper. Now, two gentle souls who love sailing – and singing – offer free rides on Lake Calhoun.

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Werner Meybaum waved to folks on shore before taking off on a trip around Lake Calhoun. The retired computer engineer offers “almost free” rides on his sailboat.

Photo: Photos by KYNDELL HARKNESS • kyndell.harkness@startribune.com,

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The sailboat was close enough to the shore that you could hear it: the “Itsy Bitsy Spider.” Complete with the accompanying hand gestures.

Credit Werner Meybaum, a retired computer engineer who offers free rides on his sailboat every evening that the weather cooperates.

Make that almost free.

Riders have to be willing to sing, and Meybaum loves kids’ songs, especially “Itsy Bitsy Spider.”

“Deep inside all of us is a child that wants to come out and play,” he explained. “When we start singing ‘Itsy Bitsy Spider,’ I see a joy come out on their faces. That inner child in all of us appears. Magic has happened.”

It just so happens that Magic is the name of his boat.

Meybaum and the Rev. Bill Morton, a retired United Methodist minister, are the driving force — along with the wind, of course — of Sailing Lake Calhoun. This is the eighth summer that they have given rides on their boats.

Their website promises “no strings attached, no hidden agenda.” Their motivation is simple: They want to spread the joy they get from sailing to everyone they can.

“I’ve discovered how much fun it is to share something you love with other people,” Morton said.

There is no set schedule. The rides typically start in the late afternoon and last until sunset. They usually last 20 to 30 minutes, although no one is watching the clock. If there are a lot of people waiting, the trips will be shorter. If it’s a quiet night, the boat will stay out longer.

Would-be riders gather on the boat dock at the Lake Calhoun pavilion. Sometimes they flag down the sailboat, other times the offer comes as a surprise.

Beth Steuer and Kaitlin Sikich were sitting on the dock with a couple of out-of-town visitors — Andrew Schlicksup of Phoenix and Sarah Sweeney from Milwaukee — when Meybaum swooped in next to them on his boat and asked if they wanted to go for a ride.

“I’d heard rumors about this but I didn’t know it actually happened,” Steuer admitted.

“This would happen only in Minnesota,” Schlicksup said.

Two men, one mission

Meybaum, 74, is an effusive man who, once you’ve met him, will greet you with the kind of robust hug normally reserved for a long-lost friend. Morton, 81, is quieter but equally friendly, one of those people who remembers everyone’s name after just one handshake.

Their philosophies differ. You “ride” with Meybaum, but you “sail” with Morton.

Meybaum pilots a large, heavy boat that holds up to eight adults, who sit in a sunken cockpit low enough that no one has to duck when the boat changes direction and the boom on the sail comes whizzing overhead. Passengers are encouraged to sit back and relax — at least until Meybaum decides that it’s time to start singing.

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