The Marco Island Community Sailing Center is teaching kids to sail. But over two weekends in early February, in conjunction with US Sailing, MICSC helped the students to become teachers.
John “Jabbo” Gorden has been a US Sailing Instructor Trainer since 1998. “Overall, US Sailing teaches about 100 [Level 1 training] courses per year and about 1,000 people are certified.” Gorden, along with John Newman taught the two-weekend course held at the Marco Island Yacht Club and the MICSC Sailing Center which is only accessible by water or through the Yacht Club entrance.
Only a year and a half ago, Rocky Cale took over the MICSC program, created a new business plan for the organization and filed for non-profit status – all in just four months. He was also able to arrange the recent Small Boat Level 1 Instructor Certification Course by US Sailing. Rocky decided to have the four-day, 40-hour course over two weekends, “because many of the kids in the course are still in high school.”
Out of the class of 11 (maximum class load is 12) six of the students were in their teens. Whether a teen or an adult, expectations are high. In order to simply take the course the prerequisites are lengthy: Be at least 16 years of age, have small boat sailing experience, experience in operating a safety boat, ability to swim 50 yards both with and without a personal flotation device, a current US Sailing Membership, a National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) Safe Boating certification, a completed US Sailing Medical Form and Safety Boat Skills Self-Assessment Form and have the ability to exhibit appropriate personal and interpersonal skills.
“We go through sailing, power boating exercises, perform drills that they would do with their students; they give presentations,” explains Gorden. Students also perform knot tying exercises, practice capsize and recovery and are given a swim check, three written tests and two other drills. “The ultimate goal is to give them hands-on learning on how to teach other people to sail.”
Conner Harding of Naples is 16 years old and has been sailing for seven years. He plans to use his Level 1 Instructor Certification to, “coach a laser team out of Naples but I currently sail out of Fort Lauderdale. I drive over every Saturday to practice.”
Adam Winton came from Fort Myers to get his certification. “I wanted to take the class and this is the one I found closest to me.” Winton sails in Fort Myers and also has a background in camp counseling. The 16 year old hopes to combine these with his new instructor certification to garner more opportunities for himself.
Matthew Boutell is also from Fort Myers and is 16. He has been sailing for eight years. Boutell is, “going to help teach summer camps at the Edison Sailing Center in Fort Myers,” with his certification.
All three young men began sailing at an early age, which is no surprise as Gorden explains that, “overall, the emphasis is on youth training.” Marco Island Community Sailing Center lends proof to that. Last summer, MICSC ran ten one-week camps, teaching 98 local kids.
With the help of the City of Marco Island and its Parks and Recreation Department and the Marco Island Marina Association (MIMA), Rocky has revamped the program. “When I first got here, they were sailing out of the Rose River Marina,” he explains. Rocky set up an agreement, leasing MICSC’s deck area from MIMA and the beach area is provided by the city through the Parks and Recreation program. “The city was very gracious; they cleared it for us, trucked in 30 loads of backfill and they moved the fence back so we would have a secure area. Bryan Milk, Alex Galiana and Mindy Gordon with Parks and Rec have been really supportive of the program.”
MICSC utilizes 13 optimist boats – the basic training boat for youth sailing and six 420’s – more advanced two-man boats. “They came from St. Mary’s College but were in storage for six years,” explains Rocky, who was finally able to utilize them at MICSC’s new location.
Looking forward to the future growth of the non-profit sailing center, Rocky relies on donations and also on sales from the Annual Marco Island Nautical Flea Market, where all proceeds go to MICSC. This year’s Flea Market will be held at the Marco Island Marina (MIMA) on March 9th from 8:00 AM until 1:00 PM. Sellers can reserve a space for $10 by calling 239-642-2531. Admission is free. To learn more about the Marco Island Community Sailing Center, call Marco Island Parks and Recreation at 239-642-0575.