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Fill Your Sails, Feed Your Soul!

Yes, You Can Learn to Sail in Kansas - Discover the Joy of Sailing at Lake Perry.

“I’ve been in love with the idea of sailing since I was a child,” said Paul Barnett, owner of Paramour Sailing. “I would spend summers with my grandparents on Brighton Beach watching sailboats glide across the horizon. That vision stuck with me. I fell in love with the beauty and the calming nature of sailboats.”

In the late 80’s, Barnett was living in Chesapeake and on the verge of buying a sailboat when work took him to Kansas City. “I thought my dream of sailing was over,” he said. “Then, in 1990, my wife Lori gave me sailing lessons at Shawnee Mission Lake taught by the Johnson County Sailing Society. As soon as I finished the class, I was hooked. I knew I had to sail more, so I bought my own boat.” By 1991, he was teaching a sailing class. By ‘92, he was a primary instructor and he’s been teaching ever since. “When you get so much enjoyment out of something,” he said, “you have to share that experience with others.”

The name Paramour was actually coined by his son. Paramour is a French word that means an illicit lover, especially of a married person. When Barnett bought his boat, he needed a good name. “We had a family conference,” he remembered. “My oldest son said, ‘Dad, sailing is your illicit love. It’s your paramour’ and we all agreed it was the perfect name.”

In 2020, the owner of Kansas City Sailing was ready to downsize and suggested to Barnett that he take over the sailing school. Having recently retired from his corporate job at Sprint/T-Mobile, the timing was perfect. Barnett named the school after his boat and Paramour Sailing was born.

“Everyone can sail,” Barnett shared. “All you need is a good attitude and a willingness to learn.” He says only a little physical capability is required as the equipment, like mechanical winches, does the heavy lifting. “My oldest student was 84 years old. He had sailed earlier in his life and I guess the water just called him back,” Barnett said. “He remembered a lot, and what he lacked in mobility he made up for in intellect and problem-solving. So it’s never too late to set sail.”

So, let’s say you have that tickle in your soul, where do you start? Paramour Sailing offers a variety of introductory sailing classes at the Perry Yacht Club on Lake Perry just 25 minutes northeast of Topeka. Barnett suggests three different starting points depending on your level of interest.

Intro to Sailing is an ideal class for those who have never sailed, want to brush up on their skills, or complete the prerequisite for the American Sailing Association Basic Keelboat Certification.

Private Lessons are perfect if you want to check sailing off the bucket list, treat yourself and your family or friends to a fun day on the water, work on specific sailing skills, or practice on your newly purchased boat.

Zero to Hero is Barnett’s personal favorite course and ideal for those who are really interested in learning to sail. This course includes four days of sailing and boat handling plus classroom learning. It covers everything from Intro to Sailing up through ASA Keelboat Certification. There are no prerequisites aside from a little advanced study. “It’s four days of sailing immersion,” he said. “I get a kick out of seeing how my students evolve through the course. I’m always surprised at how well people take to it. With a little one-on-one attention, I can take someone who has never sailed and give them the skills not only to sail a boat but to rescue someone who has gone overboard.”

ASA 101 certification is the first step to sailing the world. Barnett offers two paths to accomplish that first-level certification - the Zero to Hero four-day course described above and, for those with previous sailing experience, a two-day ASA 101 course. “Wherever you are on the experience scale,” he said, “we’ll meet you there!”

You don’t have to live near the ocean to discover the joy of sailing. Just head up to Lake Perry and don’t forget to pack your sense of adventure. “You can make a sailboat go anywhere, even into the wind, without a motor,” Barnett shared. “It’s kind of magical.” Visit to learn more about sailing lessons with Captain Barnett at Paramour Sailing.

“There’s nothing like being on the water with the wind in your sails. It’s the most zen activity I know.”

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