There is a single program that has been one of the most popular summer camps in the history of the City of Marco Island Parks and Rec. It began almost 10 years ago. The program grew; it was refined and became great. It is the sailing program. This program went through a number of changes this past year including a name change and location change. It is better now than anyone dreamed it could be when it began.
The Micky’s Sailing program has gone through a complete metamorphosis to become the Marco Island Community Sailing Center (MICSC). Local attorney, William Morris and accountant, Terri DiSciullo handled the paperwork and legalities of setting up the 501(c)(3) organization which is in process. At the helm of the new organization is Rocky Cale, President with Dean Heard, Treasurer and Sheri Heard, Secretary. The change began when Bryan Milk, Parks and Recreation Director approached Rocky about the program, knowing he had successfully revamped a similar program in Ocean City, NJ. Rocky led the program for four years and is a Past Commodore of the Ocean City Yacht Club.
Besides a name change, the Marco Island Community Sailing Center has a new home. Its official permanent location is in an idyllic spot at the base of the Jolley Bridge, just to the right of the Marco Island Yacht Club parking area. “We entered into a lease agreement with Marco Island Marina Association (MIMA) which runs the marina. We are applying for a five year submerged land lease permit to expand a floating dock to be built off the deck we have now. The floating docks would be a tremendous asset to the program,” continued Rocky. The Johnson Brothers donated the dock which is in use, thanks to the effort of Dean and Rocky who refurbished it.
“It’s an improved site location, but our first priority will be to address the need of more storage. A 6 X 10’ shed to store rigs, rudders and other equipment isn’t enough. Our 13 Optimist Prams are the International standard for teaching sailing. We have six 420’s Olympic Class boats, which are being stored off-site and we plan to add a fleet of Laser boats, each with three different sized rigs, in the near future. We need the ability to expand and increase the fleet,” Rocky noted.
In fact, the group recently purchased two coach boats which were brought in from Key Largo. “We purchased the boats and will hand over the keys and deed them to the City of Marco Island. The boats are a great addition to coaching the kids on the water and they double as safety boats. Whether they’re operating as advance boats or if there is a problem with a boat stuck in a current, an instructor can get out there quickly.” Recently, a Sunfish was donated to the center. It has already proven a useful training tool for the fleet.
Sue MacMorris is the program’s primary instructor. MA Kline and Rocky are also instructors. Sue is assisted by her son, Jordan MacMorris. She has taught sailing to area youngsters each summer for the last three years. Sue enjoys instructing kids on the finer points of sailing. “We are definitely in need of more instructors. We would like to offer more courses. There is more we can do if we had a few more certified instructors. It’s a very rewarding experience.”
Her son Jordan finds the experience rewarding, too. Kids recognize him when he is out and about and comment about what they learned in the program. Jordan helps Sue with instruction of the course and he drives the coach boats as needed. He was shown on the cover of the Coastal Breeze News July 27th edition guiding a few sailors in the water. “Besides sailing, there is an environmental aspect for the kids as well. They’ve been collecting small glass pieces if they find them in the sand. They take responsibility for keeping the area clean. Sometimes they spot a dolphin or manatee. It’s just an added benefit of being out here on the water. The location is calm, scenic and free from heavy boating activity.”
Sue mentions, “The lessons they learn and the experiences they have stay with them forever. They learn to listen to instruction, they learn water safety, working as a team, the different parts of the boat, sailing terminology and more. Best of all they learn by having hands on experience.” Helping Jordan and Sue are volunteers Matthew DeSantis and Tyler Blaskovich. Both have completed the beginning and intermediate levels of the course and now assist instructors. They help out getting the Opti’s rigged up at the start of the day and help break them down at the end of each session. They’re another set of eyes for the instructors. Matt said, “I was among the first to be invited to sail in a regatta from Marco Island.” An experience he is proud of. Tyler is known for his knot-tying ability and can show the young sailors a few knots. Rocky continued, “One of our students, Zach Shemel has his own boat. Zach has been with us since he was eight years old. Students have a keener interest if they have their own boat.”
“We have to thank MIMA for getting us access for the new location, particularly Elmer Wheeler,” said Mindy Matusiak, Parks and Rec Recreation Manager. “MIMA helps us with fundraising and earmarks proceeds from the Nautical Flea Market to this program. We must thank Rose’s Marco River Marina for housing the program for so many years. We appreciate all they did for the program. With this new location, we can continue to grow the program, adding a winter break session this year and eventually grow it into a year round offering with intermediate, advance and even adult programs. We’ve had about 100 kids through the program this summer alone.”
Rocky has a vision for the Marco Island Community Sailing Center to “offer a structured, fun, educational environment with an emphasis on safety and the knowledge of seamanship that provide a lifetime of boating enjoyment.” He also has a vision which includes exhibition races and regattas with possible competitions with other Junior Sailing clubs. “We need more instructors, if anyone is interested, they can contact Mindy at Mackle Park. Level I and Level II US Sailing certification is a four day course. The MICSC may reimburse the $450 fee for providing two years as an instructor. “Eventually, the program should have a natural progression, grooming students to become instructors,” Rocky added.
To register or for more information on upcoming programs, including US Sailing certification, contact Mackle Park at 239/642-0575. For questions regarding the Marco Island Community Sailing Center, contact Rocky Cale at 239/642-1825.