The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 13 No. 9 - December 12, 2012


Cortez youth program re-launched

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

From left, Sean Wardell, new director of the Turner
Maritime Challenge at Cortez, with two boatshop
volunteers, Bill Stapleford and Joe Hunter, aboard the
Egret, a double-masted shallow water sailboat
that will be used in the program.

CORTEZ – Young men and women from 14 to 20 who aspire to become sailors and rowers are invited to apply for the Turner Maritime Challenge at Cortez.

The newly-reorganized program will use the Sea Scouts manual for its programs. A division of the Boy Scouts of America, Sea Scouts has parallel goals with TMCC, according to the new leader on deck, Sean Wardell, a new Cortez resident and former Great Lakes freighter officer from Cleveland, Ohio.

“We will be the only one in Florida with all the components” of the Sea Scouts program, said Wardell, who will assist in instructing the classes under the direction of Skipper William C. Drake, of the Boy Scouts of America, and with help from volunteers.

In the classroom and on the water, students will learn parts of a boat, sail and rigging, knots and lines, navigation rules and aids, points of sail, capsize recovery, rowing commands, piloting and reading the weather, according to the curriculum. A swim test will be required.

The TMCC program is funded primarily by a $325,000 bequest from sailor and folk musician Jay Turner and administered by the not-for-profit Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage (FISH).

The program offered classes in 2010-11, but after disagreements about its curriculum, the FISH board suspended operations and voted unanimously in June to search for a new director and a new direction for the stalled program, with a focus on the commercial fishing history of Cortez.

Commercial fishing will not be included in the program curriculum, Wardell said, however, people in the commercial fishing industry will be involved in the program, and students will take field trips to the Florida Maritime Museum at Cortez, U.S. Coast Guard Station Cortez and A.P. Bell Fish Co., a commercial fish house in Cortez.

The course will touch on net mending, and boatbuilding and repair, to be taught at the FISH volunteer boat shop, may be added later in the course, he said. Cleanup projects at the FISH Preserve in Cortez and scavenger hunts for marine life also are on the agenda, he added.

“We are bringing young people here and exposing them to the culture,” he said, adding that the students will use sailboats, rowboats and pole skiffs built in the community. “The first fishing boats were sailboats. They need to know the history of Cortez.”

Long-term goals of the course include a 50-mile rowing cruise and a two-week cruise/camp outing, Wardell said.

Between 12 and 14 students are needed for a full complement, or “ship,” by the end of January, he said, adding that five have signed up, three from the previous program. Students are not required to be members of Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts to take the course.

To apply for the program or volunteer, call 941-792-8200 or e-mail

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