Rocking the Boat celebrates 50th boat launch

After more than 20 years of helping south Bronx kids learn and grow, Rocking the Boat is preparing a new ship to join its fleet, its 50th vessel to date.

“The boat is a herreshoff 12-and-a-half sailboat, a famous model sailboat, that we started in November of last year,” said director of programs Debbie Forrester. “The plan is to build three of them to use in our sailing fleet for our sailing program.”

The boats are built by older students in the job skills program.

Until now the organization has mostly focused on Whitehall rowboats, which are used by younger students in their environmental program.

“They learn to row on the river and do environmental monitoring and restoration work on the river,” Forrester said.

Last November, students completed a replica Steamboat in conjunction with the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, which designed a steam engine for it.

Every Monday, students will be racing with students at SUNY Maritime College in Throggs Neck.

Founded in 1995 by current executive director Adam Green of Manhattan while he was a student at Vassar College, the non-profit organization teaches high school students from the Hunts Point area how to build sailboats they then pilot on the Bronx River.

Some also learn to sail on the East River. However, Forrester said the main thing students learn is self-confidence.

“The main thing is social, emotional learning – teaching them to be confident in what they do and who they are, and not to be afraid to challenge themselves and try new things,” we said. “We try to give them a sense that they can accomplish anything they put their mind to.”

Over the years, approximately 560 students have taken part in the programs.

Some have gone on to study environmental studies in college and a recent student is currently attending The Landing School, a professional boat school in Maine. A whole new group of classes start Monday, September 19.

On Saturday, September 17, Rocking the Boat will hold its eighth annual fundraiser, Rocking Manhattan.

Starting at 8 a.m. volunteers will leave from Brooklyn Bridge Park Marina and row around Manhattan Island.

The rowers will make stops along the route for breakfast in Long Island City and lunch in Inwood before returning to the Brooklyn marina at around 5 p.m. for a celebration dinner.

Sponsors contribute with cash donations and in-kind donations of food and space.

Nine fundraising teams will participate this year with the goal of raising $300,000 for the general operating fund.

Funds are raised before the event by participants or through online donors, said director of corporate partnerships and special events Jennifer Sanchez.

“Each boat pledges to raise a minimum of $20,000, although many raise more than that,” Sanchez said. “It’s up to the team captain how that money is raised. Some will divide that money up by the number of rowers in a boat, while some will decide to raise more than other team members.”

Reach Reporter Arthur Cusano at (718) 260-4591. E-mail him at acusano@cnglocal.com.

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