“Will we see a whale,” said a nine-year-old. “Doubtful,” said the captain. “But there have been whales in the bay,” said a nearby adult.” And so the conversation went, as two-dozen children eagerly boarded a large powerboat at Coronado Cays Yacht Club Sunday, each whispering to the next in line behind him, “Did you hear that? Whales.”
They were part of an annual event at CCYC that has been going on for a dozen years. It’s a partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Diego County and CCYC that has become the banner event on the yacht club’s calendar.
This year there were 40 children involved, along with their chaperones and big brothers and sisters. The yacht club provided a light breakfast, boat ride on San Diego Bay, a BBQ lunch, and the day was capped off by a pool party for the children.
“I’ve been involved since 2003 and attended every one of these events since then,” said Amy Benson, director of corporate development at Big Brothers Big Sisters. “It’s always a joy to see the Coronado Cays Yacht Club bring together their club members, and volunteer their time and boats, all to bring a smile to the faces of these children.”
This year eight vessels participated. The day before the event heat records were broken all across San Diego County. On the day of the event, fog covered the coast in the morning, broken up by extremely high winds. Still, a mischievous breeze did nothing to dampen the spirits of this on-the-water adventure.
“Winds are howling,” said Benson, “it’s like a wind tunnel.” Fortunately, most of the boats were large motor yachts this year – no sails to handle in the unexpected blow.
Throughout the morning, volunteers from CCYC and members of Big Brothers Big Sisters, taught the children about boating safety. Boat captains also helped to prepare the children by discussing emergency procedures at sea, information about life jackets, and any other safety information they might need to know.
Participating kids this year ranged from 7-17. One little guy was afraid of boats, but Benson arranged to have him on the largest vessel, and after talking to the captain, he was fine. Before long it was an adventure all the kids could talk about and share for the rest of their lives.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Diego County is a not-for-profit organization created to provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one relationships designed to change their lives for the better.
The organization has been in San Diego for 50 years, and active on the national scene for 100 years. They operate under the belief that inherent in every child is the ability to succeed and thrive in life.
They are the nation’s largest donor and volunteer-supported mentoring network. A closer look at the organization finds participating children are more confident in their schoolwork, have better relationships with their families and are less likely to skip school.
Surveys also show that Big Brother Big Sister children are 46% less likely to begin using illegal drugs and 27% less likely to begin using alcohol. They are also 33% less likely to fight, or hurt someone.
Larry Sangis, general manager at Coronado Cays Yacht Club, was all hands-on with the children this day. Despite his dining room filling up for breakfast and club members asking questions, he was actively involved in the loading and preparations of every child, making sure his yacht club gave everyone present a special experience.
A former marine, Sangis has managed the club for two years. This is only his second time with the Big Brothers Big Sisters, but it is something he really enjoys.
“What a fun day this has been,” he said. “The kids have a nice breakfast when they arrive, and then they get to learn a little bit about boating, navigation, and boating safety before they go out on the water. When they come back in we treat them to a very nice BBQ and then they enjoy time around the pool.
“It’s a great way for us as a yacht club community to give back to the community that supports us. We’re extremely pleased to be involved with such a fine group as Big Brothers Big Sisters.”
The actual event ran like a Swiss watch. Everyone knew where to be and what to do. With this many people, and so many of them being children visiting the water for the first time, anything could go wrong. Watching it all unfold, it was clear a lot of planning went into this.
“Yes, we do take this seriously,” said Sangis. “We not only want the kids to have a good time, but we want them to be safe. The yacht club begins coordinating the event 30 days out, recruiting boats, skippers, line handlers, crew, etc. We work closely with Big Brothers Big Sisters throughout. A certain amount of timing is involved to get all the kids on the water – boats coming in at intervals so as not to interfere with boats departing – but we’ve been doing this for years and have a pretty good idea of what we have to do to make this safe, fun and successful.”
Did the high winds give cause for concern to the CCYC hosts? “The wind picked up quite a bit today, over yesterday,” said Sangis. “That’s a bit unusual. So it just makes it a bit more of a sporting day on the water for all of us. It gives the kids a real idea of what it means to be a mariner. It’s definitely a hearty day.”
At sea, many of the kids got to take the helm under the watchful eye of vessel captains. Afterwards, they shared sea stories at the pool. “This has been very endearing for all of us involved,” said Sangis.