Harold Greene, the Annapolis Housing Authority director, took a lookat the 15 kids decked out in blue-and-gold sailing suits and let outa good laugh yesterday.

"A lot of these kids had never even been in the water before this spring," Greene said. "You should have seen them when they had to jump off a boat into Spa Creek a few weeks back. I didn't know if we'd ever get some of them in the water."

All 15 kids, residents of the city's public housing developments,took the plunge into Spa Creek, in due time. All of them know how toswim now and proudly displayed their certificates to prove it.

Pretty soon, all of them will be little sailors.

Yesterday, they sailed into City Dock aboard a 50-foot, blue-and-white racing sloop -- part of a ceremony kicking off "Sail Into Life," a new program that will teach them the finer points of keeping a sailboat afloat.

The youngsters, ages 10 to 14, will set sail on daylong trips aboard theirfloating classroom, the Gem, every Wednesday through August.

The youths, who have completed swimming lessons and a safe-boating course, also will sail on yachts out of the Annapolis and Eastport yacht clubs on Wednesday and Friday nights.

"Sail Into Life" is sponsored by the Annapolis Housing Authority, the Marine Trades Association of Maryland and the St. Mary's College Foundation, which provided instructors from the college's renowned sailing program, as well as the 50-foot boat.

Housing authority officials joined representatives fromthe federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, Annapolis Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins, other local lawmakers and the program's co-sponsors for yesterday's ceremony.

Organizers, who said the program is the first of its kind in the nation, said they plan to film "Sail Into Life" and hope it serves as a model for other similar efforts nationwide.

"Sail Into Life" has relied primarily on donations. The Marine Trades Association provided the children sailing outfits, while St. Mary's College provided instructors and use of the boat.

Tax-free contributions may be sent to Sail Into Life, St. Mary's Collegeof Maryland Foundation, St. Mary's City 20686.

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