Sailing is my passion. Interview with Captain Mark Waszczuk


Water tourism is becoming more and more popular in Poland every year. Water sports are an excellent form of outdoor activity. Sailing is not only a beautiful hobby, but also a way of life. It is a passion to learn about the world, people, develop skills and gain new experiences. At the same time, sailing is an activity that requires responsibility, both for oneself and for others, as well as for the environment on which we sail. Below is Martyna Malysa’s interview with Mr. Marek Waszczuk – president of the Storm Group, captain and sailing enthusiast – who shared his knowledge of the sport and gave beginners some valuable tips.

Martyna Malysa: What is sailing to you? When did you start your adventure with this sport?

Marek Waszczyk: My adventure with sailing started very early, as my parents took me on a yacht when I was very young – without asking, much less giving permission. Apparently, I didn’t like it at all and effectively made their vacation on the water miserable. Then there were some sailing camps, first licenses, vacations with buddies under sail. So you could say that sailing has always been around me somewhere, but it wasn’t really until I was 30 that I took it up professionally, and by then sailing had already filled my world completely. Now it is my job, my passion, my lifestyle.

MM: You are a captain, sailing instructor, examiner and founder and president of the Storm Group, the largest sailing company in Poland. Passion has become a job and a way of life. How did you manage to achieve this? Was the choice of this career path always obvious?

MW: No, it was absolutely not that I wanted to pursue sailing professionally since I was a child. Of course, I was impressed by such captains as Krzysztof Baranowski, but they were rather idols that one does not even think of emulating, they are somewhere out there, far away, like characters from books. So I sought my fortune elsewhere, and sailing returned over time, as if what I had imbibed in my youth had surfaced.

MM: May Day is in full swing – the sailing season has just begun. Many sailors and power boaters have been eagerly awaiting this moment. Where in Poland is worth going sailing? Where to start, and where to swim if you want to avoid the crowds?

MW: The first association is always Masuria, or more precisely the Great Mazurian Lakes route, but the fact is – you have to reckon with more traffic there and in marinas and on the water. If you’re looking for peace and quiet, it’s worth thinking about either closed lakes not connected to the trail, or looking for ideas for a different location altogether. We have so many opportunities in Poland – the Zulawy Loop, Jeziorak, Ostroda and Elblag with their famous slipways and many, many others.

MM: Where are the quiet zones in Masuria and is sailing allowed in these areas?

MW: For example, sailing is allowed on Nidzkie and Dobskie lakes, but without the help of an engine – so it’s quiet and peaceful there, and there are no motorboats.

MM: Is it possible to sail without a license?

MW: Polish law allows sailing without a license, but with a strong restriction – sailing yachts up to 7.5 meters in length, and motor yachts with engines of up to 10 kW and the so-called “motor yachts”. houseboats, large yachts with larger engines, but with speeds limited to 15 km/h. So there are some possibilities, although in each of these cases the law says that it is mandatory to have the appropriate knowledge and skills, so a sailing or motorboat course in each case is advisable.

MM: What are your sailing dreams? What place and conditions for sailing can be considered ideal?

MW: Sailing has different dimensions – from a small Masurian yacht moored in the wild, to large marinas full of luxury yachts in various places around the world. I have always been captivated by the Mazurian Lakes, and although I sail on various bodies of water around the world, I always return there with joy. I guess that’s where my dreams are – just like Nidzkie with the beautiful Piska Forest and all that atmosphere.

MM: Last year, the first Women’s Sailing Championship – Women On Water – was held in Sopot. How do you recall this event? Is the Group’s Storm crew ready for regatta competition this season?

MW: I’m very happy that we’ve been able to build a racing crew that includes only women. We want to support them and this season we are betting heavily on them – the girls will be competing in the Polish Sailing League, the Women’s Sailing Championship, but also in the international Sailing Champions League. They are very ambitious, and we are rooting for them. And again – mainly to show other girls what a great sport sailing is, how much joy and adventure it gives. But it certainly won’t be easy, there is a very strong cast in the Ekstraklasa.

MM: Are water sports becoming more popular in our country?

MW: Although we are far from countries such as France, England, Australia or the Netherlands, sailing in Poland is becoming more and more popular every year, I would even say that it has experienced a boom in the last twenty years. Mazurian marinas have changed – their standard, services, new marinas have been built, many charter companies have been established, Polish shipyards are world leaders in the production of smaller sailing and motor yachts. Beautiful marinas have been built in the Baltic, and it is possible to charter a modern yacht, which was not possible 10 years ago. The material status of Poles has changed, they can afford more, so they want to sail, actively spend their leisure time in nice places.

MM: Sailing is a beautiful and very exciting sport. While sailing, we learn humility, respect for the element that is water. What else does the sport teach us and why is it worth doing?

MW: Certainly consistency and responsibility for one’s actions and the people around, cooperation in a group, but also self-reliance, openness, because when sailing we often meet other people in ports, taverns, charter companies. It is worth sailing, because this sport gives freedom, the opportunity to get to know the world and people. And after all, that’s what life is all about.

MM: Is sailing a safe outdoor activity? The most important advice for novice sailors?

MW: I think sailing is a very safe activity. Provided, of course, that we follow the basic rules, have a little sense and humility. But if we don’t have them, simple cycling can be dangerous. So I think it’s important to teach sailors to be responsible for themselves and others, give them basic tools and encourage them to sail, allow them to gain experience.

The most important advice? Certainly life jackets – it’s like seat belts in a car – here we have a lot of work to do, because in Poland over the years the view has been established that a life jacket is an embarrassment or an obstacle and it’s best to hide it deep so it doesn’t get in the way. In the West, people normally swim in life preservers and no one is ashamed of it. The second is to check the weather forecast – today everyone has a smartphone with them, and with it constant access to the Internet, which is full of free weather apps. If you know the weather forecast, have the proper life-saving measures and a little common sense – there is nothing stopping you from putting up your sails and sailing out into the world.

MM: My love for sailing and the Mazurian Lake District was infected by my dad, who was a sailor. Now that I am a mom myself, I am trying to pass on this passion to my children. Sailing is great fun and also a real school of life. Why send your child to sailing classes and when is the right time to do it?

MW: The timing varies, as sometimes a five-year-old will catch the sails very quickly, while another child at nine will be afraid and difficult to convince. But I have this one observation and probably advice – sailing comes in by osmosis. Most often it doesn’t work that a child goes to camp and comes back shouting: I want to be a sailor. Rather, it happens more slowly, subconsciously, the child after returning says: it was ok, but then, after some time, he sings a shanty to himself or recalls the adventures of the vacation, draws a yacht, and years later it turns out, for example, as in my case, that sailing will dominate all his life. So don’t be discouraged, but take your children sailing, send them to sailing camps, colonies or semi-camps.

MM: When we go on a cruise, we are responsible for the yacht, the safety of the crew and the environment in which we sail. The Land of the Great Masurian Lakes is also a “natural wonder” that we should collectively take care of. How to sail ecologically to keep the lakes and coastal areas clean? What rules should we follow when mooring in the wild?

MW: Above all, we must remember that this is a common good and it is our duty to take care of it. I for one don’t think that orthodoxy is advisable and that you can’t, for example, moor to a tree, but there are so many very important issues where we can really reduce the destruction of the environment – such as segregating garbage and throwing it in the right places, disposing of fuel or oil, avoiding the production of unnecessary plastic, using toilets in the right way, i.e., “I don’t want to use the right way. Emptying them in places intended for this purpose. These are small things, but multiplied by thousands of people on the water they have a huge impact.

MM: What are ecomarines and why should you use them?

MW: Well, that’s right – I touched on this topic in a previous answer. We have such a lecture on yacht construction, in which we teach future sailors about how to use the yacht and the facilities on it, including toilets. Wojtek Starck, the captain who is giving this lecture, does a simulation and calculates the number of sailors on the Masuria in one year times the number of poops and some scary numbers come out.

And this illustrates the importance of using new solutions that enable us to protect nature. That is, for example, eco-marinas – places that provide for the collection of wastewater from yachts. More and more yachts have a system for collecting waste in sealed tanks and pumping it out in designated areas, rather than pouring it overboard.

In conclusion, sailing is a very exciting sport that gives freedom, teaches humility and allows you to learn about the world and people. It is also a safe form of outdoor activity, as long as basic safety rules are followed, such as wearing life jackets and regularly checking the weather forecast. Passing on the passion for sailing to the next generation is a great way to spend time with the family and teach children responsibility and teamwork. Sailing is also a school of life that develops skills and character.

When cruising, we are responsible not only for the yacht and crew, but also for the environment through which we sail, which is why eco-sailing is so important. Let’s protect the beauty and purity of nature, especially in a place like the Land of the Great Masurian Lakes.

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