OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - David Grafton has a special message to his teenage sailing students with the Ocean Springs Sailing Club. Safety, safety and safety. All learned from personal experience.
Grafton, a 20-year sailing veteran, was on a 24-foot boat during last weekend's Dauphin Island Regatta in Mobile Bay when the killer storm nearly killed him and those on the boat. Wednesday was the first time he had seen his students since the event.
"All together it was about 45 minutes," he said. "It felt like days, really. And we were in the water each time for probably 10 to 12 times each."
The boat, he said, kept flipping over and over. But it, along with everyone on the boat, came out okay. Still, any loss is felt among all sailors.
"It's competition on the water, but at the end of the day, we're all friends," Grafton said. "Actually, I had eight or nine of my high school kids who would have been sailing in the regatta had they not had some boat issues prior to the event. It was the happiest day of my life that they didn't sail that day."
That included Weston Stanley, a junior at Ocean Springs High School, whose father was on the boat with Grafton.
"Those kind of things just don't happen every day," he said. "You just kinda gotta look, check your weather. Most of them knew it was coming, but they didn't know how bad or how fast it was coming."
But he isn't fearful to sail.
"I've got more respect for it now," he said. "A lot. It's in the back of your mind when you are going out. I mean, some of these big races, they sail Gulfport to Pensacola, or Mexico, really. Make sure everything is in check because, worst-case scenario, you're ready for it."
The Ocean Springs Sailing Club has been around for about five years, and this year has about 29 students from grades 7 through 12.