A serendipitous friendship is developing between two local non-profits this summer at the Toffey Rowing Center in MacWilliams Park. When COVID restrictions and venue closings placed Youth Sailing Foundation’s popular summer camp in jeopardy, Vero Beach Rowing graciously made available their brand new, state of the art boathouse as a host port for YSF’s 8-week program. Since June 1, sailors and rowers have been sharing quarters and peacefully coexisting as they participate in their respective camp programs.
With dozens of sailors joining an equal number of scullers each week, the new facility is getting a real workout from early morning to late afternoon, Monday through Friday. Coordinating sailing dinghies with sleek rowing shells requires adept synchronization both on and off the water. The rowing and sailing instructional staffs skillfully direct the colorful excitement of rigging and launching, as twelve rowing shells and sixteen sailboats take to the water and later return to the dock.
When inevitable thunderstorms drive the rowers and sailors inside, the huge 14,000 square-foot boathouse easily accommodates everyone for land drills and classroom work. Both groups quickly realize the common bonds that make everyone part of the same crew. A mix of fun on the water and serious learning creates a healthy atmosphere of mutual respect.
Vero Beach Rowing Director Brian Colgan remarked to YSF Executive Director Stu Keiller, “Perhaps we will get some rowers from your sailors,” to which Keiller good naturedly replied, “Maybe when your rowers get tired, they’ll come aboard a sailboat and let the wind do the work.”
In all about 176 sailors will participate in YSF’s camp over the summer, with about 35% receiving scholarships made possible by Quail Valley Charities and other individual donors. Special COVID-19 protocols are being observed in order to keep campers and staff safe and healthy while enjoying their activities, and instead of camp T-shirts, this year YSF provides each camper with a neck gaiter, which doubles as a mask. YSF’s camp provides natural social distancing as kids learn to sail solo in 8-ft Opti dinghies, while still managing to develop camraderie among the young boaters. These lessons learned on the water often translate into long-lasting life skills, building confidence, self-esteem, discipline, and focus.
Youth Sailing Foundation of Indian River County, Inc. is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit devoted to eliminating cultural and financial barriers to sailing. Numerous youth programs are offered throughout the year, many of them free to participants. For more information or to make a tax-deductible donation, please visit www.ysfirc.org.