Dave WaldoAs the Executive Director of The WaterFront Center in Oyster Bay, NY, Dave Waldo has the helm of a unique community sailing and marine education facility where he shares his passion for the sport with people of all ages while providing opportunities for learning about and enjoying the marine environment.

“I grew up in Huntington and I’ve been on the water all my life,” says Dave. “My dad, Lewis Waldo, is the reason that I sail. My family has a photo of me on the family sailboat, a 1946 Luders 24 sloop named Sylph, when I was six months old. I’ve been involved with sailing ever since. When I was eight to ten years old I had a great Opti coach at the Huntington Bay Club named Xander. She brought my sailing up to a level where I was competitive at Junior Sailing Association of Long Island Sound events and beyond.”

A 2005 graduate of the University of Washington, Dave earned degrees in History and International Studies. “I was on the sailing team and we went to the Nationals,” he says, “although we were more of a club program. My first coaching position was at Centerport Yacht Club. I was there for five years and it was an amazing experience. In my first year, I worked with intermediate Blue Jay sailors. Those are the kids that a lot of instructors have trouble with – many of them don’t want to sail but their parents want them to sail. I had my share of struggles, but most of those kids were with me for five years. They grew into racing 420s, and I was able to grow the program from competing in local events on Long Island and sometimes Connecticut to the club supporting the kids going to the Buzzards Bay Regatta and the 420 North Americans in New Jersey. A lot of the kids on the team during my last season were part of that first group. There was great camaraderie, and they spurred one another on. I’m really driven in everything I do, and I hope my love for sailing made them realize they were learning a sport that they can do forever. They saw my willingness to give it everything I had, and they did the same.”

“I was working in commercial real estate after college, and was looking for a new path. One of The WaterFront Center board members, Mary Warburgh, is a family friend. She suggested that I apply for the Executive Director position, and I was hired in June of 2009. The vision of The WaterFront Center is for everyone to understand and appreciate the marine environment so that they may enjoy and preserve it for all time.”

“My job is to give our staff the tools to succeed, whether it’s our Sailing Director, Alicia Martorella, who has put together a successful high school sailing program and an adult racing program, or giving our Education Director Cameron Jenness the resources he needs to expose students from Pre-K through high school to the marine sciences, whether it’s exploring the beach or taking a closer look at plankton, fish or invertebrates. Our Program Director Margaret Reddington keeps it all together – scheduling events, booking boat rentals, keeping the front desk staff organized and making sure everything runs smoothly.”

“Our newest initiative is our STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) program. Last fall we hired a STEAM Coordinator, Michael Donato, and we’ve partnered with St. Dominic Elementary School in Oyster Bay. There are 72 students in the program, and they come here for 28 days of sailing in the fall and spring. We also do in-school education at St. Dominic and other schools.”

“We take about 2,000 people out on the water every year, whether it’s a two-hour sail or a Learn to Sail experience. We have 13 Sonars for adult instruction, a Rhodes 19 for rental, three cruising boats that we use for our Basic Cruising classes. People can take them overnight to Connecticut, Block Island or wherever they want to go. We have 45 Optis, 19 420s, nine Pixels and seven Sunfish in our junior program, and lots of kayaks and stand-up paddleboards.”

The WaterFront Center’s flagship is the oyster sloop Christeen. “The Christeen is the oldest oyster sloop in North America,” says Dave. “She was built in 1883 in Glen Cove. She was completely restored, and given to The WaterFront Center in 2000 to start her new mission as a floating classroom. We have marine science programs aboard Christeen including plankton tows, dredges for oysters, clam and mussels, and microscope work and navigation. We also have public sails so people can enjoy the marine environment from a new perspective. Oyster Bay is extremely beautiful and the water is very clean, and our location on West Harbor is a perfect place for people to get their first taste of sailing.”

“Every year, we host Bay Day the first Sunday in June. It’s open to the public, with free sails on Christeen and Sonars, free kayak demos, arts & crafts and live music. We have an annual benefit party at Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club, and this year was our most successful ever – we raised more than $50,000. In September, we had a benefit regatta with employees of ten companies racing our boats.”

When he’s not working, Dave races with Scuttlebutt’s 2010 Sailing Family of the Year, the Storcks. “The Storcks are incredible,” he enthuses. “I grew up racing against John and Erik, and I trim kite and do some tactics on their J/80 Rumor. They really enjoy racing as a family and everyone has the same goal: to win the race. I also sail Sylph in the classic yacht regattas on Oyster Bay, sometimes singlehanded. I love sailing that boat – it’s a great way for me to get away from it all. Sailing is a great way to bring people together, and everyone here – the people that work here and the people that come here – all have an interest in seeing The WaterFront Center continue its mission.”