Teen sailors “fleet-up” at YSF

Mylee is a member of the Vero Beach Varsity Sailing Team and volunteers as a camp instructor

In the US Navy, to ‘fleet-up’ means to be promoted from within.  For example, one can fleet-up from Executive Officer to Commanding Officer of a ship.   Here, teens are fleeting-up from sailing students to certified instructors, teaching the next wave of sailors at YSF Summer Sailing Camp.  

Partnering with Quail Valley River Club and The Moorings Yacht & Country Club, YSF has expanded its annual summer camp to four weeks at each resort and increased enrollment by 50%.   A total of 144 kids, age 8 to 13, are learning to sail this summer in a fun and safe environment.  Most are local residents, though quite a few are visiting Vero Beach on vacation from other parts of the country.  Youth Sailing Foundation, working with Boys & Girls Club, Homeless Children’s Foundation, Gifford Youth Achievement Center, and Youth Guidance, has awarded 30 scholarships this season so that a broader range of kids can experience the joy of sailing, plus fun activities and pool time at these wonderful facilities.  All segments of the Vero Beach community come together at YSF Summer Sailing Camp. 

Teen staffers (blue shirts) L to R: Cody Lanier, Matthew DiPietro, Eddie Pines, Holly Gandolfo, Sydney Ohs, Brendan Williams, Peik Sander

Camp Director Donathan Williams has fifteen teen instructors on staff to work one-on-one with the campers.   These young people, all local residents, represent a wide variety of economic and social backgrounds, and all have learned to sail at YSF.  Most have already earned US Sailing’s Level 1 Instructor Certification by passing a series of rigorous on-water and written tests, administered by a US Sailing Examiner utilizing YSF facilities and boats.  

Holly at the helm



YSF camps provide an opportunity for these young adults to gain valuable experience teaching, coaching, and ensuring the safety of children just a few years their juniors.  For many this is their first real job.  Whether they are serving as paid staff or earning volunteer hours, the level of commitment is the same.  The confidence and skills they learned through sailing at YSF provide a solid foundation as they take on serious responsibilities out on the Indian River Lagoon.

Sailing instructors must also be able to operate power boats. Pictured L to R are Holly Gandolfo, Mylee Smith, Shane Michos, Bryan DeJesus Camacho & Maria McGuire

Perhaps the most important reward for the long hours of intensive work is the bonding between student and instructor that quickly develops out on the water.  A small boat under sail provides a unique platform for learning practical skills, the value of which extends well beyond sailing.   Student and instructor work together and share a mutual sense of accomplishment as the boat catches the wind, gathers speed and flies over the water.