Honoring the 2016 Charles F. Chapman Award for Excellence in Teaching winners

By Yvonne Hill

You don’t become a Charles F. Chapman Award winner by remaining safely in port; you must chart new educational ground and expand the limits of your teaching skills. The 2016 winners, sailors all, exemplify this Chapman spirit. They share a wealth of boating knowledge and experience, a love of teaching, a dedication to their students, and a desire to make the water a better place through education.

At the 2017 Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida, Jeff Taylor, Tom Alley and Lu Abel received the 2016 Charles F. Chapman Award for Excellence in Teaching. Named after Charles F. Chapman, a founding member, former chief commander and noted educator, the award honors talented instructors who share their boating knowledge with exceptional passion and skill.

A national committee selects the top three educators from a pool submitted by district educational officers. This year, the committee received 18 nominations, one from each participating district.

Each winner receives a plaque honoring the achievement, a four-year USPS-certified instructor card and a gold Chapman Award lapel pin. The winners’ squadrons receive their choice of award. A permanent log of all winners and nominees resides in the United States Power Squadrons Memorial Library in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Please join us in congratulating these dedicated volunteer educators and honoring their service to USPS and boating education.


“Jeff Taylor loves to teach just as much as he loves to sail.”

Jeffrey D. Taylor of New York’s City Island Sail & Power Squadron in District 4 has been a member for 19 years.

Jeff Taylor

Jeff Taylor

He started teaching America’s Boating Course within months of joining the squadron. He’s also taught Sail and regularly teaches Navigation and Junior Navigation.

Jeff, a U.S. Coast Guard licensed captain, has made several runs transporting sailboats from New York to the Caribbean for the winter and back again in the spring.

A dedicated and generous instructor, Jeff offered to teach a special Junior Navigation class to members of a neighboring district who couldn’t find an instructor.

More than one former student praised his dedication to his students. “He took us out on his time, on his own boat, as many times as needed for us to get our sights and finish our sight folders,” a former student said. “While on his boat he also gave us sailing lessons to further encourage a deeper appreciation of safety at sea and of the historical significance of celestial navigation.”

A believer in supplementing coursework with practical examples, a fellow instructor said Jeff often takes students out on his sailboat Principa “to go over everything from parts of the boat, to understanding points of sail and effects of trim …. All the while he presents everything in manageable pieces and keeps it fun as his students make the kinesthetic connection.”

A former student explains Jeff’s dedication to his students: “He spares no effort to go out of his way to make sure his students are learning, and strives to be readily available to everyone. … If Jeff sees that a student is just not getting it, like a great sailor, he will switch tacks and make an approach from a different direction.”


“Tom’s knowledge and skill commands respect from the old salts, and his patience and calm demeanor inspire the newbies.”

Thomas M. Alley of New York’s Seneca Sail & Power Squadron in District 6 has been a member for 28 years.

Tom Alley

Tom Alley

A U.S. Coast Guard 100 ton certified captain, Tom also holds a B.S. in chemical engineering, an advanced amateur radio license and scuba certification. A sailor and navigator, he’s also an accomplished racer and tactician.

At one time or another, Tom has taught all courses offered by his squadron and has been described as the squadron’s “brains and backbone” as well as its “heart and soul.” Despite being a premier instructor, Tom “has developed a cadre of excellent instructors” to ensure the future of the squadron’s educational program.

As an instructor, Tom “challenges the most knowledgeable to dig deeper for greater understanding and supports and carefully explains difficult concepts to newer students,” said a former student and fellow instructor.

Another student said, “His students are nearly 100 percent successful, and if someone has trouble, he follows up and personally offers or arranges tutoring to help them re-test and pass.”

In addition to being a top-notch instructor, Tom created the Seneca Junior Sailing Program. The program offers educational and on-the-water sailing experiences for youth in grades 8 through 12. Each year students learn to sail, race and cruise with volunteer coaches.

Last year, Tom also introduced a seminar on fiberglass boat repair and maintenance. Together, the class refurbished a Fleetwind 12 sailboat.

According to Katie Alley, a Junior Sailing participant who happens to be Tom’s daughter, “He will spend one-on-one time with students to make sure they understand a concept. He will demonstrate a knot if a student asks to see it again. He will turn quizzes into fun games, and if a student answers a question wrong, he will tell the student why he or she was incorrect.”

A pioneer in on-the-water instruction, Tom takes his Seamanship students out to practice docking, anchoring, the rules of the road and tying knots.

Another Junior Sailing student said, “Tom’s passion runs as deep as Seneca Lake. … Tom is as passionate about sailing as he is about imparting his knowledge and his joy of sailing to his family, friends and students.”


“Lu interjected just the right amount of humor to make the class enjoy the time spent in a subject important to the safety of our boating activities.”

Luther C. Abel of Northern California’s Santa Clara Power Squadron in District 25 has been a member for 40 years.

Lu Abel

Lu Abel

In those 40 years, Lu has taught every United States Power Squadrons course from Seamanship to Navigation, Engine Maintenance, Weather and Instructor Development, often multiple times and through multiple course revisions. He has taught or co-taught more than 100 courses and reached more than 1,000 students. He’s an instructor’s instructor.

Lu joined for the education and decided to give back by teaching.

“I love teaching,” he said, “especially finding simple explanations for complex concepts.”

The retired computer engineer with a Ph.D. said, “I love simplifying and clarifying, making even the most complex concepts accessible to my students. In fact, if I were to choose one other profession to practice, it would be as a high school science or math teacher.”

Although he has served as an instructor as well as a squadron and district educational officer for most of his tenure, Lu’s love of United States Power Squadrons extends beyond education. He has served on both his squadron and district bridge and has been a staff commander at the national level.

A former student said Lu frequently attracts students from other squadrons in the district, especially for his advanced grades courses.

One former student noted that Lu’s knowledge of Weather was self-evident: “He presented a very clear logical flow of material in a manner that was easy to digest. … We all left the seminar with a better understanding and appreciation of the weather, which will stay with us so we can plan our enjoyment and safety on the water.”

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