by DAVID L. WALDO & ALICIA MARTORELLA
The WaterFront Center (WFC) in Oyster Bay, NY provides a unique opportunity for youth ages 6 through 18 to enjoy the marine environment. Through a variety of activities, WFC Juniors learn about, explore and care for the ocean, creating lasting memories which we believe heighten their awareness and appreciation for the world around them.
The WaterFront Center offers a variety of programs that engage Juniors (and adults, too!) in marine discovery and sailing activities. Our youngest participants enjoy habitat exploration and are introduced to the diversity of marine life all around them before even stepping aboard a boat. We engage their senses and take advantage of their curiosity for the natural world. Then adventures at sea begin, as they learn to row and fish, a treat for six year olds and our volunteers, alike! As Juniors get older, WFC programs grow with them, providing new opportunities at each level to keep them engaged and connected to the marine environment.
What makes WFC unique is the emphasis on connection – the connection between an individual and the environment around them. Environmental education is a by-product of learning to enjoy the estuary responsibly, to catch and care for marine life respectfully, and to sail and paddle safely. The diversity of activities enjoyed by our Juniors, from rowing, kayaking and sail-ing to catching eels, studying marsh habitats and tracking water quality, creates a greater understanding, and undoubtedly an ap-preciation for how we each impact the environment in which we play. And that’s what WFC is all about: playing responsibly in the natural world. As sailors, we are fortunate to experience the wonders of be-ing on the water. At WFC, our sailors experience the excitement of the sport while developing a deeper appreciation of the playing field. WFC Juniors learn how to sail everything from Optis, Pixels and Sonars to larger keelboats such as our Mariner 36 and J/105. Using a diverse fleet of boats allows children to gravitate to what they are most interested in. Courtney, one of our Juniors, told us: “I really love sailing at the WFC, sailing is different from anything that I have tried, I love it so much! And trust me- I’ll be back next summer!” It is our goal to not only teach sailing, but to create lifelong sailors. Dockmaster Morgan McCurdy witnesses this process each day. “I helped a timid sailor land at the dock with fear in her eyes and then watched as she hopped off her Opti and began bragging to her peers that she almost capsized “more than they had,” she said. I love seeing the enjoyment on their faces.” We hope she’ll be back next summer, too. In addition to dinghy and keelboat sailing opportunities, WFC Juniors also find out what it was like to sail during the 1800s aboard our National Historic Landmark, Christeen, an oyster sloop restored and crewed by volunteers.Christeen’s captain teaches young sailors how to hoist the sails, while naturalists lead water studies such as plankton tows, water quality testing or set-ting and hauling traps to study the marine life of Oyster Bay. Perhaps the most important skill all of our Juniors learn is sharing. They come to the WFC and find out that millions of people use the water for numerous reasons. It is our job and theirs to protect and sustain their local estuary, the Bay, the Sound and the water-ways beyond so they can be used and enjoyed by future genera-tions. For more information, visit thewaterfrontcenter.org. ✦
David L. Waldo is the Executive Director of The WaterFront Center, and Alicia Martorella is the Sailing Director.