Sheepshead Bay

Riding the wind, reading the water: Partnership between yacht club and boat building charity for kids

Kids build sailboats, learn maritime ropes and life lessons as a result of local boating partnership

June 26, 2023 Wayne Daren Schneiderman
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SHEEPSHEAD BAY — It was nothing but smooth sailing from stem to stern on a sunny afternoon in Sheepshead Bay this past Tuesday, June 20, as 12 young sailors/junior architects took turns cruising in a vessel that they themselves constructed.

Caylee Cardona, 11, taking the “Dream Team” out on her maiden voyage.

This inspiring activity is a result of the recent partnership between Miramar Yacht Club, founded in 1944, and Brooklyn Boatworks, a new nonprofit organization based in DUMBO that provides hands-on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education for children via the constructing of wooden sailboats.

The end game, according to David Shin, commodore of Miramar Yacht Club, is to instruct and excite them about sailing and the maritime industry.

“This is about building the skills, character, and confidence of young people in and outside the classroom, using the vehicle of building a wooden sailboat,” Joyce Goodman, board chair for Brooklyn Boatworks, told The Eagle. “And in the process, they learn STEM, and environmental issues, leadership, and cooperation.”

Brooklyn Boatworks typically works with underserved schools (middle and high school children), but for this particular event, for the first time, they worked with a community center in the Sheepshead Bay/NYCHA houses. The children would gather two times a week alongside instructors from February to June to create their sailboat — the seven-and-a-half-foot-long “Dream Team.”

Students worked from blueprints, using marine tools and materials. They were also responsible for every aspect of the boat-building process, ensuring that they learned from their mistakes, and took ownership and pride in the successful completion of each phase of the boat build.

“It’s about kids experiencing the goal they’ve been working for — to have built a boat, see that it’s seaworthy, and go out in it and have that sense of accomplishment,” Shin explained.

But there is even more to the equation than that. Looking forward, this program is slated to help better prepare students for future employment.

“By 2030, there will be 11.6 million jobs available in the STEM and trades fields — great, high-paying six-figure jobs that kids don’t know about,” said Maggie McNicholas, executive director of Brooklyn Boatworks. “So you can be that marine biologist; you can be that maritime welder; you can be that boat captain. These jobs are in very high demand, and we’re here to help students see the possibilities.”

Brooklyn Boatworks was founded by Brooklyn-based naval architects Carl Persak and Jeremy Wurmfeld. Its program is designed to replicate boat-building techniques used in shipyards throughout the world.


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