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Every summer since 1974, 2nd class cadets, or juniors, at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., are given the opportunity to sail in the Coastal Sail Training Program providing them the chance to get in tune with their environment, hone their seaman’s eyes and understand the consequences of their decisions.
The Coastal Sail Training Program is a 12-day sail program that develops competent sailors and mariners and helps the cadets to better understand their role in leading others, especially their peers.
With the support of the Coast Guard Foundation, Parents Association and Alumni Association, the academy now has eight new custom-designed 44-foot vessels known as Leadership 44s. These vessels, designed and built by Morris Yachts, are equipped with fully functional U-shaped galleys, spacious interiors, a private head and ample storage room. This is the first year the academy can now put all of the second-class cadets through the Coastal Sail Training Program.
Besides the initial sail training they receive when they first report to the academy and navigation courses they take in the classroom, many of the cadets are novice sailors. During the 12 days of the Coastal Sail Training Program, six to seven cadets and a safety officer spend two days at the academy learning how to sail. The next eight days are spent underway where they sail up and down the New England coast stopping at ports such as: Block Island, R.I., Fairhaven, R.I., Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., Nantucket, Mass., Hyannis, Mass., Woods Hole, Mass., Newport, R.I., Stonington, Conn., and back to New London.
The cadets are expected to understand all the functions aboard a boat. Each day, the cadets switch roles as watch captain, navigator, helmsman, deckhand, cook and in-port officer-of-the-day.
Also while underway, they’ll have the opportunity to spend one-on-one time with an officer where they can gain career advice and learn a little about what life is like as an officer in the Coast Guard.
This is the cadet’s first small boat command, and it’s a pretty powerful thing.
“We have a lot of classes in leadership, but it’s just that – it’s a classroom and this is real life,” said Hart Kelley, the program coordinator. “There are consequences for bad decisions and consequences for good decisions and they’re actually put in those roles of decision making to start learning about their own decision-making process and learn how to be better at it.”
Though this program is meant to be a learning process, it doesn’t mean it isn’t fun.
During the trip, the underway crews dock at the different ports and get the opportunity explore. They also have swim calls and sail at night.
“The Coastal Sail Training Program was extremely educational and a lot of fun,” said 2nd Class Cadet Louis Simione, 19, of New Hyde Park, N.Y. “From my classmates to my officer-in-charge, every person aboard was actively participating in helping each other realize their leadership potential and develop their seamanship skills.”
“Both overcoming challenges and achieving crew goals were a tremendous part of the feelings of accomplishment and joy experienced throughout the trip,” added Simione. “I have nothing but positive opinions of the Coastal Sail Training Program, and I can only wish that I could be given the opportunity again.”
Throughout the 12-day program, the cadets are given the time and opportunity to experience real-life situations such as planning and plotting, organization, decision-making and being able to look at situations, understanding them and identifying the risks and dangers.
“This program provides those opportunities and if they’re going into a career where they’re going to be out on the water, they will have that ability to understand that environment – to have a seaman’s eye and understand the consequences for their decisions,” said Kelley. “That’s a good program.”