The idea was to expand a successful school-year program that was teaching junior high youngsters in one of the poorest parts of the city how to scull.

Volunteer organizers predicted that a program that attracted 25 Anacostia 12- to 14-year-olds to learn competitive rowing, a traditionally Ivy League sport, in the mornings before school could lure many times that number to boats on the Potomac during the laid-back summer months.

The volunteers had garnered $8,000 in private grants and had enough borrowed equipment to offer the competitive sculling lessons free to 100 students.

But a month before summer is over, the program is dead in the water. The volunteer group behind it, the Organization for Anacostia Rowing and Sailing, said it never got the word out about the program. And only one child signed up.

"I was under the impression that the Recreation Department was carrying the ball," said OARS leader Diane Dale.

But Chip Faucett, an OARS member and Recreation Department administrator for policy planning, said the city made no such agreement.

"It appears that they thought I was going to do it {recruit}, and I thought they were going to do it," Faucett said.

The mix-up has OARS treasurer Thomas Gore grappling with what to do with grants he successfully solicited from the Potomac Electric Power Co. and the Anacostia/Congress Heights Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness, funded by the Oliver Carr Co.

"If they want it back, we'll give it back," Gore said. "But hopefully we'll get to keep it and put it toward {a program} next summer."

Jim Banks, chairman of the partnership, said Monday he was unaware the summer program had been canceled. He also said he doubted his group would rescind its grant "if we have documentation {the program} is going to go on" next year.

Dale, who runs Johnson Junior High School's "I Have A Dream" program, proposed the summer project this year after the group's before-school program at Johnson and Douglass Junior High doubled in the past two years.

Her group introduced the preppy sport in the Anacostia schools, she said, to teach team-building and self-esteem to an age group most at risk of drug use and dropping out of school.

Twice a week this spring, she and Gore drove the students to Thompson Boat House, next to the swanky Watergate complex, where retired Air Force Col. Al Vilaret taught them to row half-mile courses in eight-seat shells from 7 to 8 a.m.

"They are smart kids and hard workers," Vilaret said. "It just hurts me to think, if they don't get involved in something, where are they going to go?"

"The way that we had planned to do it sounded good on paper," Dale said. "But once we transferred it to action, it didn't work out."