West Marine Blue Future

Indian Nations Council
Boy Scouts of America
Tulsa, OK

BlueFuture Heroes

Every day, in communities across the country, dedicated groups of people are working hard to give more children access to the water. West Marine’s BlueFuture would like to introduce just a few of the wonderful nonprofit organizations that are making a real difference in the lives of America’s young people. They are our heroes.

Mystic Aquarium | Mystic, Connecticut

World Oceans Day 2017 proved to be an exciting time for West Marine, as it was our nonprofit BlueFuture program’s first opportunity to partner with the world-renowned Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut. On June 8, we welcomed aquarium guests to our BlueFuture Kids Zone activity tent, we unveiled our new 30-second BlueFuture video, our fun “pieceless” puzzles were available for purchase in the aquarium’s gift shop, and we contributed Princeton Tec headlamps for the eagerly anticipated horseshoe crab walk.

According to MaryEllen Mateleska, Director of Education & Conservation, the Mystic Aquarium team also was thrilled to join forces with BlueFuture.

“BlueFuture’s commitment to supporting educational programs that connect youth with nature directly aligns with Mystic Aquarium’s mission ‘to inspire people to care for and protect our ocean planet through conservation, education and research,’” she explains.

This important collaboration allowed Mystic Aquarium and the world’s premier Waterlife Outfitter to share their joint values of ocean conservation, education and youth engagement with the thousands of visitors who participated in World Oceans Day programming throughout the day.

“With such significant challenges facing marine ecosystems and their inhabitants,” Mateleska says, “it is essential for organizations with shared values, such as BlueFuture and Mystic Aquarium, to team up to educate and engage audiences of all ages in being part of the solution.”

Mystic Aquarium is dedicated to providing opportunities for youth that enhance their marine science and conservation knowledge while also developing leadership skills. Through programs like Youth Conservation Corps (YCC), the aquarium provides students with the mentors and enriching experiences necessary for them to become environmental leaders.

YCC is a group of dedicated high school students who work to promote marine science and conservation. Through community-based programs and student-led activities—including beach clean-ups, citizen science programs, student summits, and the development of activities for public conservation events—these students are able to accomplish their goals.

“YCC students assisted with all aspects of the World Oceans Day celebration, including leading table-top activities, engaging with our social media followers, and even helping to guide participants during the full-moon horseshoe crab walk,” Mateleska reports.

Mystic Aquarium hosts approximately 750,000 visitors and engages more than 100,000 children in educational programs each year through on-site, off-site and virtual programming. Its school programs are aligned to state and national school standards, and its enriching activities demonstrate the real-world applications for classroom topics. It even has an accredited and licensed preschool right on campus, where young children can use the aquarium as a living laboratory to explore marine science. And, through its informal education and conservation programs, Mystic Aquarium engages scout troops, campers, individuals and families with experiences that range from aquarium overnights and field programs to coastal beach exploration and habitat restoration initiatives.

Joseph Mullin | Wareham, Massachusetts

Normally, BlueFuture Heroes shares the stories of the nonprofit organizations that are helping to improve young people’s lives through access to the water. This month, however, we’re shining our spotlight on a paddler who’s making a difference in kids’ lives in a different way—by supporting their veteran parents.

The really cool part? He’s doing it through an incredible ocean journey, and his story serves as inspiration for all generations interested in spending time on the water.

Starting May 1, Joseph Mullin will embark on a 2,000-mile sea kayak expedition from Quoddy Head, in Maine’s Bay of Fundy, to Key West, Florida. His goal is to bring awareness to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the shocking rate of veteran suicides—18 to 22 per day—so veterans can get the help they deserve. He’s also fundraising through the nonprofit Elder Heart organization and its Mission 22 program.

“Our veterans are taught to always be strong, to stay strong, but the quick transition to civilian life can leave them reeling,” Mullin says. “PTSD is like 20 to 30 emotions hitting you all at once, and how do you handle that? It takes tremendous courage for a veteran to ask for help. That’s why I want to do this. To raise fund and awareness for their sake, and for the sake of their children, because a suicide isn’t just one life lost. It’s a family destroyed.”

U.S. Naval Air Reserve veteran, Mullin has personal experience with PTSD, which largely stemmed from his time working as a search-and-recovery diver. “I spent 20 years doing underwater recovery,” he says. “We worked in all types of water, in ponds, rivers and lakes as well as the ocean. We were involved with vehicle recoveries, evidence searches, drownings.” When asked how he managed the strain of recovery work, Mullin falls silent, then observes, “It was always about the families, about giving them closure so they wouldn’t spend the rest of their lives wondering.” Mullin retired from underwater recovery work in 2001.

He says he continued diving for awhile, but he developed shortness of breath and depleted his tanks too quickly. Then he discovered kayaking, and it was the right thing at the right time. “I spent my life on the water, starting with surfing and then diving,” he reflected. “Honestly, I feel more comfortable on water than I do on land. It’s both energizing and peaceful.” When Mullin began planning his fundraising adventure, he realized his old kayak would never be able to make such an intense offshore journey. It performed like a barge upwind and proved to be unsteady in following seas.

So, Mullin is now the proud owner of a 17-foot, 6-inch Necky Looksha Elite touring kayak, which is more than up to the performance challenge and can carry more than 60 pounds of gear. Mullin will pick up resupply boxes at various waypoints on his route, and he’ll also go ashore for periodic fundraisers. The rest of the time, he’s on his own. ‘I’m staying in the ocean, about a half or three-quarters of a mile offshore, rather than paddling the Intracoastal Waterway,” he notes. ‘Ironically, the ICWA is too dangerous due to all the boat traffic and wakes in a confined space. I know the ocean. I can handle it better. I study the water and find my line.” Mullin expects to be on the water for at least six months.

He hopes to arrive in Key West in December, but the finish line is not his main priority. “Success for this trip is going to be the amount of money I raise to help my fellow veterans get the help they need,” he shares on his website. “Saving lives and families is more important than the miles I paddle or the people I meet… they are just a plus.” We at West Marine were pleased to be able to work with Garmin to help facilitate the donation of a GPS unit for Mullin’s long journey. We wish him bon voyage and look forward to following his progress as he uses his own waterlife to make life brighter for so many others, of all ages. To learn more, visit https://acske2017.org.


Sameer Azimi, Outdoor Outreach | San Diego, California

In fall 2016, West Marine awarded a BlueFuture grant to Outdoor Outreach, a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to connecting young people with the transformative power of the outdoors through its Adventure Club, Partner, Military and Leadership programs. The grant funds will support after-school, weekend and summer programs this year, including 25 stand-up paddleboard outings, 35 kayak outings and 10 boating programs.

That means BlueFuture is contributing to valuable on-the-water experiences for at least 600 young people from low-income, “park-poor” communities. And, it will provide opportunities for young adults to continue contributing to those communities as on-the-water mentors and educators for hundreds of teens, multiplying the grant’s impact many times over.

Every dollar has a significant impact on young people’s lives through Outdoor Outreach, which has served more than 10,500 youth in the last 17 years. One in four of them are refugees or immigrants, like 19-year-old Sameer Azimi.

Born in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sameer came to the United States 12 years ago when his family escaped the Taliban. While Sameer, his mother and two younger brothers were cleared for green card status, his father wasn’t able to join them until eight years later.

While attending El Cajon Valley High School in eastern San Diego County, Sameer immersed himself in Advanced Placement and intensive college-prep courses. He soon realized he needed to find an outlet to relieve stress, and that’s when he first became acquainted with Outdoor Outreach.

“The Outdoor Outreach Adventure Club allowed me to do so many things for the first time, like surfing, camping, snowboarding and mountain biking,” Sameer says. “I had no idea how much I would love everything that has to do with the water, like SUP and kayaking.”

Although Sameer was an honor student, he struggled to find a part-time job. He says prospective employers kept telling him he didn’t have enough work experience, but no one would give him that first necessary opportunity to gain experience. Outdoor Outreach once again provided a solution.

“I was approached by an Outdoor Outreach instructor who told me that I could also become an instructor,” Sameer recalls. “I would be able to take the El Cajon kids out on the Adventure Club trips, and I would get valuable work experience. That really hooked me.”


Hale Scout Reservation Logo

Boy Scouts of America, Indian Nations Council | Tulsa, Oklahoma

If you’ve had access to big water all your life, the idea of boating likely conjures images of coastal Maine, the sun-drenched Gulf of Mexico, the San Juan Islands, or perhaps the Great Lakes. Yet all across this country, children are eager to learn on-water skills, and they don’t need an ocean—or an inland sea—to do it.

The Boy Scouts of America, Indian Nations Council has been operating in eastern Oklahoma for more than a century. Chartered in 1911 as the Tulsa Council, this group has a rich heritage of building leadership skills in young people through a broad array of activities, including paddling, whitewater rafting and sailing.

Today, the Indian Nations Council serves more than 21,000 young people in 18 counties. They operate several summer camps, including the premiere 620-acre, 87-year-old Hale Scout Reservation in Oklahoma’s Kiamichi Mountains. According to Scott Thiessen, Indian Nations Council’s assistant director of support services, 5,000 11- to 18-year-olds attend the camp each summer.

“We get kids from as far away as Texas, Arkansas, Kansas and Missouri,” Thiessen says. “Roughly 3,000 of our campers are from out of state. While they’re here, they go canoeing, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, powerboating, sailing and fishing. They play on the waterslide and enjoy a variety of other water toys. For them, our lake is the heart of the camp.”

The younger Scouts, those between 11 and 13 years old, are often new to Waterlife activities. They’re eager to have their first experiences on the water and to learn new skills, while the older Scouts are pursuing additional merit badges and seeking to build on that foundation.

“For example, the Scouts who have learned appropriate paddling skills have the opportunity to go on a whitewater rafting trip,” Thiessen says. “That’s really unique and special, especially for the kids who don’t have many chances to travel.”

This past fall, Thiessen and the Indian Nations Council applied for and earned a BlueFuture grant from West Marine. The $1,500 grant will be used to replace aging equipment at the Hale Scout Reservation.

“We use Sunfish to get our kids out on the water,” Thiessen says. “They’re great boats, more than enough for learning sailing skills, but they’re getting older. So, we’re using the BlueFuture funds to upgrade our sails for the 2017 sailing season.”

To learn more about the Boy Scouts of America, Indian Nations Council, visit www.okscouts.org. And for details about the Hale Scout Reservation, visit www.halescoutreservation.org.


Maine Maritime Museum Logo

Maine Maritime Museum | Bath, Maine

For 21 years, the Maine Maritime Museum has offered a hands-on traditional boatbuilding curriculum to students who spend one day each week in the museum’s boat shop. Not only is the Discovery Boatbuilding Program an important vehicle for teaching STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), it puts students in a working environment that emphasizes safe practices and shop skills, as well as personal growth, teamwork, leadership, responsibility and problem-solving.

The innovative program began in September 1995, when a local school principal collaborated with a museum contact to teach a group of middle school students how to build a boat. That boat was launched in spring 1996, and with it, the Discovery Boatbuilding Program took off. Today, the museum partners with South Bristol School, West Bath School and Woolwich Central School, teaching children from fifth to eighth grade.

“It’s a big commitment for a school, because the students spend an entire day here each week throughout the school year,” says Kurt Spiridakis, Director of Watercraft and Traditional Skills, who has been with the program for 10 years. “Each school comes a different day of the week and is responsible for building two boats.”

During the first semester, students learn about basic woodworking techniques, wood technology and three-dimensional thinking. Each student builds increasingly difficult projects to hone their skills, including a three-legged stool, a toolbox, and a half model of the boat they’ll be constructing. The young people build a 12-foot, flat-bottom skiff during the second semester; then, on graduation day, the students launch and row their boats in front of their entire school.

According to Spiridakis, the boats are traditional Maine designs, inspired by the history of the area.

“We use the same native species used by Maine boatbuilders for hundreds of years,” he says. “They had to use what wood they had available, so we do the same.”

The three semi-rural school districts are anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour away from the museum in Bath, in a region where schooners were built for two centuries. Some students are descended from those who built the wooden ships.

“It’s their heritage, but they may not know anything about it,” Spiridakis explains. “Through our program, they understand the value of working with their hands as well as their minds. They learn to solve problems, and while mistakes will be made, they learn that those mistakes can be fixed with time and effort.”

He also noted that the program serves two additional purposes: It promotes the uniqueness of Maine, and it serves as an engine for economic development.

“Midcoast Maine has one of the largest concentration of wooden boatbuilders in the United States, from one guy in his yard to Bath Iron Works, which employs thousands,” he says. “Although it may be a dying art from a broader perspective, wooden shipbuilding is thriving here to some extent.

“Now, we’re teaching middle school kids, so we’re not focused primarily on job skills,” he acknowledges. “But critical thinking, problem-solving, teamwork, confidence—these are skills that will serve them well all their lives.”

Spiridakis observes that it’s always a struggle to raise funds for the boatbuilding program, so the Maine Maritime Museum is grateful for its 2016 BlueFuture grant from West Marine.

“The funds will pay for the materials we need to build the stools, toolboxes and boat models, and the materials we need to build the boats themselves,” he says. “Programs like this are so important, because the kids see tangible results. They learn what you can do with your hands outside of a classroom.”

To learn more about the Maine Maritime Museum, visit http://www.mainemaritimemuseum.org. And for information about the Discovery Boatbuilding Program, click “Learn” in the top navigation bar.


New England Science & Sailing Logo

New England Science & Sailing Foundation | Stonington, Connecticut

New England Science & Sailing Foundation (NESS) is a nonprofit ocean adventure education organization that emphasizes inclusiveness, personal growth, experiential learning and stewardship. At its seven locations in southeastern New England, NESS engages students in marine science, sailing and adventure sports programs that build confidence, teamwork and leadership skills.

NESS staff believe that marine sciences, adventure sports and sailing are ideal platforms for inquiry-based learning, transformational personal discovery, teaching respect and responsibility for the sea, and creating connections with the community. The nonprofit organization operates year-round with families, schools and organizations to provide high-quality programs that blend an innovative curriculum with exciting ocean adventures.

Spike Lobdell, NESS founder, president and CEO, was encouraged to sail as a child. He says it changed his life, and he wanted to combat the perception that it was “only for those wealthy enough to participate” by ensuring that all students would have access to the water, regardless of abilities or financial means.

“Hands-on learning, especially on the water, can make a big difference in a child’s life,” says Lobdell, who founded NESS in 2004. He serves a full-time volunteer, and in more than 12 years, he has never accepted a dollar in compensation for his work.

In those 12 years, NESS’s student body has gone from 14 kids to approximately 6,000, and the organization has partnered with 100 schools and organizations. More than half of the participating children, ages 4 and up, are from low-income communities; they receive scholarships and other types of financial aid that allow them to participate.

“Underserved kids are so often told that they can’t do something,” Lobdell reflects. “We show them that they can. We encourage the kids to learn by doing, by problem-solving—not by rote learning. It’s very different.“

NESS creatively links water-based activities with a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education. While the organization had incorporated STEM education into its programming for many years, it recently formalized its curricula while maintaining what Lobdell calls “the fun factor.” In fact, US Sailing selected NESS in 2012 as one of five community sailing centers nationwide to pilot its new REACH curriculum, integrating sailing and STEM education.

What’s more, NESS’s low student-to-instructor ratio means students truly become part of the NESS family. And it’s making a difference, Lobdell says.

Many of the NESS youth participants attend bottom-performing schools. Interestingly, in communities where NESS operates, absenteeism has decreased while scores continue to increase.

“It really is all about giving these kids access,” Lobdell says. “So many of them live half a mile from the water, but they’ve never been out on it.“

He remembers an eighth-grader who came from particularly tough circumstances. The only place he felt safe was in NESS programs.

“We were out on the water one day, and he said, ‘Hey, look! I’m driving a $3,000 boat!’” Lobdell recalls. “We laughed and said, ‘It’s actually a $100,000 boat, but we trust you.’ He started crying and told us, ‘No one trusts me.’ That was a pivotal moment for him. We heard from his teachers, and it really got him going.“

Moments like that—what you see in a child’s eyes—stay with you, Lobdell says.

Despite NESS’s success, the organization still relies on grants and other contributions to operate. Just 40 percent of its $2 million-plus budget comes from program revenue, so Lobdell says they were thrilled to receive a West Marine BlueFuture grant this past spring.

“It is wonderful that the BlueFuture grants are unrestricted,” he says. “That allows us to put the money toward programming, yes, but also toward equipment. We have more than 100 sailboats and more than 250 watercraft in our fleet, and maintenance is expensive.“

NESS also got a recent boost from the National Recreation Foundation, which awarded Lobdell the 2016 Robert W. Crawford Achievement Prize in recognition of his service to the youth of New England. He will formally accept the award on Saturday, November 5 at a ceremony at Hotel Emma in San Antonio, Texas.

Other prize winners include famed Olympian Jacqueline Joyner-Kersee (2014), retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant General John B. Conaway (2012), and Hall of Fame football player Ronnie Lott (2005).

And, Lobdell will continue working hard alongside his first-class staff—which now comprises 22 full-time employees, 10 AmeriCorps member volunteers and more than 30 others—as they pursue their long-term vision. To enhance the curriculum, to work in partnership with schools anywhere, and to provide a meaningful “classroom without walls” to all those who wish to be part of it.

Learn more about New England Science & Sailing Foundation


Rocking the Boat Logo

Rocking the Boat | Bronx, New York

At Rocking the Boat in Bronx, New York, young people work together to build wooden boats, learn to row and sail, and restore local urban waterways—revitalizing their community while creating better lives for themselves. As they say at Rocking the Boat, kids don’t just build boats. Boats build kids.

And those boats build thousands of kids. According to Adam Green, founder and executive director, the nonprofit organization welcomes roughly 5,000 kids through its doors each year. Of these, about 200 are regular participants in intensive, high-impact programs.

It all started as a volunteer project in 1995, when Green took a semester off from Vassar College. Although he wasn’t a hardcore boater at the time, he’d been affected by his experience teaching kids about the Hudson River, its tributaries, and maritime conservation aboard the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater.

“I was looking to teach in an experiential way so I could really connect with young people,” he reflects. “So I thought I’d take on a boatbuilding project with a handful of kids.“

During his first project, eight junior high school students met once a week in a defunct shop classroom to build an 8-foot wooden pram.

“In the end, it was floating in the pool,” he says with a chuckle. “It actually worked. And I saw such brightness and energy, such a spark, in the kids. It’s exciting and inspiring to teach something real, to demonstrate concrete reasons for learning something, which I think was somewhat lacking in my own middle-class learning experience. It’s out of the ordinary, and it’s special.“

When Green founded Rocking the Boat, he didn’t realize that he was creating a “youth development organization,” a term he says he didn’t know at the time. He quickly realized, however, that his programs were about more than just teaching kids certain skills. They were about instilling a sense of pride and purpose. Building and using wooden boats were a powerful means to educate and empower young people, specifically those from underserved communities.

“We work with a deeply underserved population,” he explains. “There are so many issues preventing kids from being successful.“

Indeed, the majority of Rocking the Boat’s students hail from the Hunts Point section of the South Bronx, which sits in the poorest Congressional District in the nation and in the poorest zip code east of the Mississippi. Public schools here are overcrowded and underfunded, resulting in discouraged students and contributing to an alarmingly low on-time graduation rate of just 35 percent.

“To truly transcend barriers, we need to offer more than experiences,” Green says. “We’re not just teachers; we’re also are mentors, advisors and guides. Our goal is to help kids on every level, including socially and emotionally.“

To provide the level of social support needed by local youth, the organization has three social workers on staff, plus a college and career counselor.

Green and his team also worked hard to expand their programmatic offerings. Rocking the Boat now incorporates wooden boatbuilding, water-based environmental research, and sailing youth development programs, paid apprenticeships, community rowing and sailing, and an on-water classroom that incorporates a sizable fleet of hand-built wooden boats. (Rocking the Boat is currently building its 50th boat; an impressive 38 of them are active in the on-water fleet, along with another 16 modern sailing dinghies and support boats.)

“Everything we do has a practical purpose beyond individual experiences,” Green says. “We augment each experience, give it a deeper meaning. For example, the boats we build either go into our own fleet or go to outside clients. We just built a 25-foot steamboat for the Stevens Institute of Technology, for example, and we built a 29-foot traditional whale boat for the Mystic Seaport Museum.

“Similarly, in our environmental programs, we collect data for our scientific partners, and work on building and maintaining wetlands,” he continues. “Essentially, we’re consultants for our clients; other community organizations contract with us. And each summer, we get 3,000 people out on the water in programs run by our former students.“

All of this has a tremendous impact on Rocking the Boat’s youth participants. As Green observes, the real power comes when kids choose to participate in programs because they understand the value.

Others have seen the value as well. Green has received numerous awards and accolades for Rocking the Boat, including an Echoing Green Fellowship, a Union Square Award Fellowship for grassroots organizing, and a Manhattan Institute Social Entrepreneurship Award. He was named one of 25 international CNN Heroes in 2014, and in spring 2016, he and Rocking the Boat earned a West Marine BlueFuture grant.

At press time, Green was gearing up for one of Rocking the Boat’s major fundraisers: Rocking Manhattan on September 17. That day, he and 99 other rowers will row 26-foot gigs 29.5 miles around Manhattan Island in three legs. He hopes to raise $21,000 (reflecting the 21 years since he founded Rocking the Boat) in what he calls a truly thrilling experience.

Check out Green’s Crowdrise campaign

Learn more about Rocking the Boat


National Safe Boating Council Logo

National Safe Boating Council | Manassas, Virginia

Each year, West Marine commemorates National Safe Boating Week with a weeklong, safety-inspired fundraiser in its stores across North America and on westmarine.com. During the fundraiser, the world’s premier Waterlife Outfitter donates $5 from each life jacket purchase to its nonprofit BlueFuture Fund, which provides much-needed grant funding to community-based organizations dedicated to getting young people on and around the water in both recreational and educational capacities.

A group of boating safety enthusiasts founded NSBC in September 1958 as the National Safe Boating Committee. The nonprofit organization was incorporated in 1975, and today it boasts a diverse membership of more than 330 U.S. and Canadian nonprofit and for-profit organizations, all with an interest in reducing boating accidents and enhancing the on-water experience.

One of NSBC’s great successes in recent years has been its North American Safe Boating Campaign, simply known as “Wear It!” This yearlong effort across North America focuses on spreading the message of boating safety and the critical importance of always wearing a life jacket each and every time you’re on the water.

“We’re really seeing progress with the ‘Wear It!’ campaign,” says Rachel Johnson, NSBC executive director. “We’re reaching boaters at the local level with our messaging, and fatalities have gone down. Yet we’re still losing more than 500 boaters each year, so that remains our challenge.“

Johnson says she hears the same protests, time and again: I’m a good swimmer, so why do I need to wear a life jacket? And why should I take a safe boating class? I’ve been boating all my life, and nothing has ever happened.

“People don’t realize that knowing something and doing something are different, and they need to carefully consider the type of activity they’re undertaking, where they will be doing it, and what the weather and water conditions will be,” Johnson says. “For example, what if the water is very cold, and your body doesn’t respond the way you think it will? What if you hit your head?“

Together with its members and partners, NSBC offers a universal message: We’re all the same. We all want to get out on the water, we all want to have fun, and we all want to get home safely with nothing but good memories.

“This organization is near and dear to my heart, so it’s fantastic to see all the support we have,” says Johnson, who has been with NSBC since 2007. “We’re so proud of the work we’ve done. The future is very bright.“

Learn more about the National Safe Boating Council.


Sea Scout Base Galveston Foundation Logo

Sea Scout Base Galveston Foundation | Galveston, Texas

Through its BlueFuture Fund, West Marine is dedicated to supporting nonprofit organizations that get young people on and around the water, whether it’s for recreation, education or specific career training. The Sea Scout Base Galveston Foundation in Galveston, Texas, is a powerful example of a BlueFuture partner; its challenging, hands-on programming allows young people to explore the natural wonders of the marine environment while learning maritime skills and the value of teamwork.

Sea Scout Base Galveston is a reality thanks to the inspired vision of husband-and-wife team Charles and Rosemary Doolin. Introduced to Scouting in 2002, when their son served as a deckhand on a Sea Scout vessel near Dallas, the Doolins have taken their desire to teach young people about the sea and transformed it into today’s state-of-the-art operation in Galveston.

The Doolins also have demonstrated that their commitment goes beyond the Sea Scouts. Sea Scout Base Galveston hosts non-Scout programs as well—such as the US Sailing-sanctioned Galveston Community Youth Sailing Center, and the BaySmart Express Program, which provides educational opportunities for schoolchildren and Cub Scouts, as well as valuable maritime training for students who seek to pursue Merchant Mariner credentials.

BaySmart Express is a 111-foot aluminum vessel capable of carrying 85 passengers. She also serves as a world-class floating school.

“The ship provides an immersive experience,” says Eric Steele, the foundation’s director of educational programs. “Students learn what it’s like to be a deckhand, an engineer, even the captain. They get tastes of each area. Through the program, we’re introducing kids to potential career pathways.“

Programming incorporates STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education from stem to stern, along with dedicated maritime skills. Perhaps unexpectedly, such technologically advanced, hands-on programming comes with a hefty price tag.

“For that 111-foot vessel, we have to pay for everything from insurance and the crew to the curriculum,” Steele explains.

Sea Scout Base Galveston applied for and won a West Marine BlueFuture grant in 2015, and Steele says the foundation already used $500 of the grant money for its scholarship program. He says the remaining $1,000 likely will be used to expand the scholarships so more kids have an opportunity to experience BaySmart Express.

“The reality is, we have equipment at this point,” he says. “Yes, it breaks or wears out and needs to be replaced, but for us, extending the opportunity to another 50 or 60 kids has a far greater impact than new equipment.“

Learn more about the Sea Scout Base Galveston Foundation.


Alameda Community Sailing Center | Alameda, California

Founded just three years ago by a local group of sailing enthusiasts, the Alameda Community Sailing Center is dedicated to providing opportunities to participate in sailing and other environmentally friendly activities on San Francisco Bay through access and education. According to founder Kame Richards, who also owns Pineapple Sails, the new center met a great need in the community.

“The center’s youth programs are designed to support working families, make sailing affordable and educate the kids in water safety and environmental stewardship,” he says. “Students attend classes five days a week, seven hours a day with extended mornings and evenings, and each session lasts two weeks. Prices are competitive, but scholarships are available for those in need. Nearly a third of our kids have received scholarships over the past three years.“

Doug Perry, who serves as treasurer for the nonprofit organization, noted that the group wants to knock down price barriers that keep people away from sailing.

“Our camps are inexpensive, the kids learn valuable life skills, and those of us who have our own boats will keep an eye out for bright, motivated kids and invite them to sail and even race with us,” he says. “We want to get the kids immersed and the parents involved.“

During the Alameda Community Sailing Center’s first season, 62 students attended the summer camps. In 2014, that number rose to 83. This past summer, the center saw a whopping 152 kids attend its programs.

“We could possibly accommodate 200 students this year,” Perry says. “Our community sees the need for our programs, and we’re putting the critical pieces in place. We’re definitely growing.“

The majority of students are what Perry called “core beginners,” new sailors ages 7 to 13 who spend their time in JY Club Trainers. The center is working hard on developing a teen program; it works closely with an area charter school to raise interest among local youth, who will sail two-man Flying Juniors.

And, the center is embarking on an adult program. It hosted one trial class in fall 2015, which comprised four days over two weekends.

“We want to engage the parents and get them out on the water with their kids,” Perry says. “It’s so important for families to have an opportunity to connect, work together as a team, spend recreational time outdoors and make lasting memories.”

Next on the sailing center’s list: Implementing a boat rental program and obtaining better equipment.

“Right now, we have hand-dollies and a sandy beach for launching boats,” Perry says. “We’d love to have a better way of doing it. Our kids are always enthused, but teens and adults aren’t as excited about wrestling boats 100 yards across a parking lot.”

Fortunately, thanks to an angel donor, the center was able to purchase much-needed new JYs for the children’s sailing program.

“We got the funding at the end of last season, so we purchased the new boats for 2016,” Perry says. “Our old boats were on their third sailing school, and we all spent more time fixing them than sailing them. With the new boats, we’ll have less maintenance, and we can put more kids on the water.”

And scholarships will continue to be a key piece of the puzzle when it comes to putting more kids on the water. As a 2015 BlueFuture grant recipient, the Alameda Community Sailing Center was able to fund two full scholarships and one partial scholarship for the upcoming 2016 sailing season.

Learn more about the Alameda Community Sailing Center.