Duluth Sail & Power Squadron offers boat trip for kids waiting for mentorsMembers of the Duluth Sail & Power Squadron were hosts to 11 children and four adults from the Mentor Duluth program on Saturday. The event included an education session and a boat ride.
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
Dave Carlson was a 10-year-old growing up in western Duluth when his father died. He benefited from a group called Fatherless Boys.
“I don’t know who sponsored me, but for three years I went to Camp Miller,” said Carlson, now 72.
Carlson was speaking from the fly bridge of his 40-foot yacht Hat Trick. A member of the Duluth Sail & Power Squadron since 1981, Carlson had four special guests on the boat Saturday afternoon:
8-, 9- and 10-year-olds enrolled in Mentor Duluth, the successor to Fatherless Boys.
Carlson and several other squad members were hosts
to 11 children and four adults from the mentoring program. Rebecca Haavik, an AmeriCorps member who has been working with the program for the past year, said it matches adult volunteers with children from single-parent families. Although there are no income guidelines, most of the children are from low-income neighborhoods, she said.
Saturday’s event was among activities offered every other month for children for whom a mentor hasn’t yet been found, said Cassie Flynn, program advocate for Mentor Duluth. There are about 220 children in that category, up from about 180 when Flynn started with the program about two years ago, she said. Some of the children have waited as long as two years for a mentor, she added.
AmeriCorps and Mentor Duluth personnel provide the programming for the children who do not yet have mentors.
The squadron first paired with Mentor Duluth last September, and another Lake Superior trip had been planned a month ago. It was canceled because of bad weather. Lance Olson, the squadron’s administrative officer, said he was glad the event had been rescheduled.
“We like the opportunity to take them out,” Olson said. These are children who “don’t usually get a chance to go out on the boats so it’s nice that we could give them that opportunity.”
Olson led an educational session for the entire group first, covering topics such as rip currents, swimming safety and how boaters read a chart. After the squadron members served lunch featuring hot dogs fresh off the grill, children and adults donned life jackets and split up into the three boats.
Before stepping onto the Hat Trick, Carlson’s boat, Shawn Owens, 10, said he hadn’t been on a boat before, and he seemed a little nervous. He said he wasn’t too excited about getting on the boat.
Once on board, though, Shawn was full of questions, wondering how fast it could go (about 18 mph, but it was cruising at between 10 and 11 on Saturday) and if he could steer it.
When Carlson pointed out the grain elevators on shore, Shawn was nonplussed.
“Elevators?” he said. “There aren’t any elevators in the lake.”
Saturday’s weather was splendid: temperatures in the 70s, blue sky with harmless clouds and just the right breeze for an afternoon on the big lake.
“This is a good wind for traveling,” Carlson told his four young passengers as he guided the boat from Allouez Bay into the lake.
They were joined by Haavik and Jason Smitke, a squadron member who was serving as Carlson’s first mate.
After a spin into the lake, Carlson guided the boat close to shore, giving the children a close look at two retired freighters and a series of tugboats.
Even the children who seemed a bit nervous at the start of the voyage were enthused by the end. “Thank you,” Shawn told Carlson. “I had fun on this boat.”
Flynn said the Saturday adventure had accomplished its purposes.
“They love it and they have a great time, and it’s just something that the kids wouldn’t get a chance to do otherwise,” she said.
To learn more about the Mentor Duluth program, look online at www.mentorduluth.org.