A Super Season
Labor Day marked the close of the 17th year of the Friends of the Belmar Harbor (FOBH) providing service to young people and their families through “competitive and recreational sailing, kayaking, ecosystem tours, shoreline cleanups and related activities that are accessible, affordable and fun,” as the FOBH Mission Statement expresses it.
“This was our strongest, most successful summer session since Superstorm Sandy,” said Roy Childers, FOBH Board President. “With the help of our friends and benefactors, we will keep this momentum going and have an even stronger season in 2018.”
Under the guidance of FOBH Waterfront Director Brian Hull and junior sailing instructors John Degeorgis (Seaside Park YC), Shannon Meyler (FOBH), Krysta Cruz (FOBH), Jonathan Wilhelm (Seaside Park YC), Cameron Mulcahy (FOBH), and Marc Cervantes (FOBH), a total of 97 youngsters, ages 8 to 15 enrolled in six, one-week sessions from June 26 to August 8 including programs in beginner Optimist, intermediate Optimist, adventure sailing and advanced/beginner 420. 34% of those enrolled were returning this summer for their second or third season as junior sailors, and a total of 26% had siblings in the junior sailing and/or Discovery Camp programs.
“This really was a super season for FOBH, and not just because of numbers,” commented Hull. “I can say from personal experience that the joy, art and discipline of sailing instills and strengthens in our youth new and existing traits of character. Children learn independent thinking, determination, fortitude and adaptive reasoning; in other words, invaluable traits lasting a lifetime.”
In what was the highpoint of the junior sailing season – The Friendship Cup Regatta held at the Shark River Beach and Yacht Club on August 11 — FOBH Board Secretary Dave Backman helmed his 23 foot Jones Brothers Cape Fisherman called “Out-of-Step” as a coach boat, with FOBH webmaster Steve DellaPietra aboard as photographer. “The scene at the SRB&YC was a blast! Excited kids, coaches and parents all over the place,” said Backman. “We had over 60 young sailors from New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania participating in the true spirit of the name of the regatta – “Friendship.” The boats launched at 9:45AM and, after lunch provided by Mike’s Giant Subs, racing resumed until the 4PM awards ceremony. A sailor from Yardley, PA said, “I always knew the Jersey shore was cool, but this is the first time I ever sailed in a race here. It’s awesome!”
Shark River Discovery Camp
“This is like cool school! We get to have a lot of fun and learn some awesome stuff about the Shark River,” exclaimed Jamie, a camper who returned for his second year of Discovery Camp. 2017 saw many returning campers who brought along some of their friends to enjoy what FOBH and the Shark River Bay have to offer.
With ten one-week sessions from late June to early September, a typical week of Discovery Camp consisted of a swim check, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, swimming, sailing, “critter catching,” crabbing and touring the Shark River via kayaks. During the tour Discovery Camp Director Geoff Moritz informed the youngsters as to how and from where the water comes into the Shark River and described the vibrant marine life that thrives in the estuaries. Frequent stops along the tour afford an opportunity to teach the kids how important it is to keep the water and surrounding areas clean as this local ecosystem is critical to our region.
During catch-and- release crabbing time the campers learned about the five different crabs that live in the Shark River (Spider, Brown, Blue, Fiddler, and Hermit). Questions never ended: “Is this a boy or a girl? Is it pregnant? Why is the shell soft? What do they eat?” Or, when Geoff held a blue claw and made it appear to dance, “Is this crab a disco crab?”
Sailing is also a camp favorite. We had two boats at our disposal (a Hobie Wave and a Menger Cat boat). The campers loved jumping off the Hobie and swimming around or being pulled behind the boat as they sailed along the river.
Some interesting Discovery Camp Numbers: 95% of campers live in the local area (Wall, Belmar, Spring Lake, Brielle, Avon) with the remainder summering in the local area but residing in northern New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York. 65% are boys and 35% are girls, with 22+ campers, aged 7 to 12, enrolled per week.
“Jamie was right, “says camp director Geoff. “This is like cool school. And, like any good school, the lessons learned and memories created last forever.”
“We are financially stable,” says FOBH Board Treasurer Dave Burns. “Our fleet maintenance/expansion fund is in healthy condition, and our annual budget of approximately $125,000 will be in balance at year’s end. However, while it is in one sense a good thing that nearly 85% of our income is generated by registration fees, in another sense we need to increase our unearned income – that is gifts and grants from individuals, foundations, corporations, government and others – to relieve our heavy reliance upon fees and give us more room to grow.”
French & Parrello Associates, Investors Bank, Kearny Bank and Manasquan Bank all provided financial support to the Friends of the Belmar Harbor over the last year. Most recently Ocean First Bank provided FOBH with funds to purchase 7 kayaks for use in the junior sailing and Discovery Camp programs. We are most grateful to these local businesses for believing in the FOBH mission and the youth and families we serve.
In anticipation of our 2017 season, the Jules L. Plangere, Jr. Family Foundation awarded FOBH a grant of $10,000 in April. The award letter cited FOBH’s mission statement as the purpose of the grant: “…to promote the health and vitality of the Shark River Bay and those who live, work and play on, in and around it, by providing to all — but especially to youth and families of limited means, abilities or opportunities – adventures in competitive and recreational sailing, kayaking, ecosystem tours, shoreline cleanups and related activities that are accessible.” FOBH is honored to be recognized by the Jules L. Plangere, Jr. Family Foundation which has supported Monmouth County youth, especially those from families of “limited means, abilities or opportunities,” for generations.
“We are encouraged and re-energized in our efforts thanks to our supporters, most especially the generous gift from the Jules L. Plangere, Jr. Family Foundation,” said Joseph P. McGinty, FOBH Executive Director. “A key goal for winter and spring is to increase support from individuals whose gifts, no matter the size, will provide a reliable buffer against unexpected expenses and ease our heavy dependence upon registration fees,” he added.
McGinty concluded: “It is alleged that Mark Twain wrote the following: ‘Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.'”
“And were he alive today, Twain might add ‘If not for yourself, then do it for a youngster.'”