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West Meets East in Annapolis With Ronnie Simpson and Rocking the Boat Bronx

While on the East Coast at the Annapolis Sailboat Show last week, I was invited to join Ronnie Simpson and US Patriot Sailing to take 15 teens from Rocking the Boat Bronx (RTBB) for a sail on the Chesapeake. Eager not just to meet the kids (and go sailing) but also to learn more about the program, I said, “Yes!”

Ronnie Simpson and the crew from Rocking the Boat aboard Sparrow at the docks of the Annapolis Sailboat Show.
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Nicki

RTBB is an organization that engages over 200 teens per year in a series of STEM-based programs that last throughout their high school careers and into college. The students study sailing, boatbuilding, and environmental sciences, working their way from students to paid interns, and, with comprehensive social support, are able to map out a path for long-term goals.

“Generally, students who enter the program have never been in a boat and often don’t know how to swim. Over the course of four years they learn not just to swim and to sail, but to teach sailing to others while working toward receiving an internationally recognized US Sailing instructor certification.” — RTBB.

The group was visiting the Annapolis Boat Show and the Naval Academy along with other sites in the area. Many of the teens are on track to sail in college or pursue an education in maritime trades. While walking the docks and checking out the boats on display, they came upon Ronnie and the Open 50 Sparrow. The kids were pretty excited to tour the boat and meet a skipper who is preparing to race around the world.

From “I want to sail around the world” to “… there are so many opportunities.”
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Nicki

With life jackets and crew support from US Patriot Sailing and permission from the Annapolis Boat Show, plans were made to take the group out sailing before they traveled back to New York.

Just before 9 a.m. on Sunday, October 16, the group collected at the end of D Dock to fit life jackets before climbing aboard. Once Sparrow was out of the harbor and the sails were raised, the students were given an opportunity to helm the Open 50 in a mild breeze out on the Chesapeake. Athena Arnold, a local sailor who works for Chesapeake Sailmakers, provided guidance and navigational support to the young sailors.

Athena Arnold leads the way.
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Nicki

I spent the sail hanging out on deck getting to know some of the sailors, many of whom had been sailing for years. Some of the kids had a clear path chosen, and some were still figuring it out. None of them had met someone aspiring to do an around-the-world race, nor had they been on a boat like Sparrow. During our conversations, while cruising across the bay, I saw inspiration opening their minds up to something more. “I want to be an adventurer like Ronnie.” “I want to sail around the world.” And “I am going to continue my path in Maritime — there are so many opportunities.” These were just a few of the answers I received when I asked, “What do you want to do with your life?”

The teenagers from RTBB had a great time aboard Sparrow.
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Nicki

I think in order to dream a dream, you need to know it is a possibility first. Rocking the Boat Bronx shows their students a world of possibilities they likely did not know about while growing up, and on that beautiful Sunday morning in Annapolis, a whole new world of possibilities opened up before their eyes.

On this week’s episode of Good Jibes, I chat further with Ronnie about his Global Solo Challenge campaign, and about his intention to change lives and make a positive impact with his sailing goals, which clearly he already is doing.

1 Comment

  1. Memo Gidley 5 months ago

    So awesome Ronnie to show kids what can be done!

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East West Rendezvous
Last week we posted images of some of the many West Coast connections we met at the Annapolis Boat Show. We thought we'd pass on a few more of the friends you might recognize.