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Captain’s Log: A Seafaring Tale to Tug at the Heartstrings

A boat trip helps turn the tide for three children harboring the effects of an abusive domestic situation.

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The harbor is a great place to establish an emotional connection with the sea and its critters. (Capt. David Bacon / Noozhawk photo)

I’ve got a heartwarming seafaring yarn to share. Many of you read the story that Noozhawk’s Mollie Helmuth wrote last July about Seafaring Opportunities For Those In Need (SOFTIN) Inc. (click here for the story), a nonprofit organization my crew and I started to provide at-sea education, skill building and self-esteem building for the disabled, impaired, victims of abuse, elderly and youths at risk. We run these trips regularly, and it is only fair to share some the joys we experience.

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Capt. David Bacon (Ramona Lisa McFadyen photo)
On this trip, three young siblings came aboard, along with a caregiver. We knew the youngsters were victims of an ongoing violent and abusive domestic situation. They needed new experiences, and we wanted to instill in them an emotional connection with the critters of the sea. We were astonished at the way these children came aboard — trembling, furtively looking all about and clinging to one another tightly. Our work was cut out for us.

We’ll call them Johnny, Sally and Suzie. My crew members, Capt. Tiffany and Ramona Lisa, showed the kids around the boat, holding items up for them to see and touch. They were fitted with life vests and we cast off, all while telling them stories about the boat, the sea and the critters.

The professional caregiver knew enough to sit quietly and let the crew work with the kids, who were beginning to show a little interest but remained deep within their emotionally fortified shells of fearfulness.

We cruised the harbor slowly on calm, flat water and showed them the different types of boats. We made progress when Sally said the sails on the sailboats looked pretty and answered by pointing when we asked which was her favorite sail. Johnny was next when a diesel engine aboard a commercial fishing boat fired up. He said it sounded like a truck. Suzie was observing everything, but was noticeably silent.

Watching us take on live bait perked the interest of all three, and I was heartened to see Suzie quickly scoop up a sardine that had fallen to the deck and gently put it in the bait tank. But still she was quiet.

Near the harbor entrance we gathered pelicans, gulls and cormorants about us and let the children feed the birds. Tossing fish to the birds got the children to laugh, point and pick favorite birds. Next, we visited the sea lions on the buoys outside the harbor and introduced the kids to fishing. They had a blast, and it felt great to see Johnny and Sally chatting like any excited children. Suzie was happy and having fun, but still she didn’t speak. She listened with interest as we talked about water quality issues and marine debris prevention.

On the way back to the slip, the caregiver quietly shared with us that the children made more progress today than they had been able to achieve in months of therapy. They actually came out of their shells and were able to act like kids. We felt great, yet disappointed that we perhaps hadn’t quite got through to Suzie. But that changed in a profound way.

As the group disembarked and walked up the ramp to the marina gate, Suzie stopped, turned around and stared at us. Then she broke into a wide smile, ran back down the ramp, hugged all three of us and loudly said, “I had fun. Can I come back?” We assured her she was welcome.

As she ran happily back up the ramp, Ramona Lisa, Capt. Tiffany and I were all wiping our eyes. It’s OK; we’ve had enough of these experiences to be comfortable shedding a tear of joy among ourselves.

To learn more about SOFTIN, to make a much-needed donation or to recommend someone we can help, visit www.softininc.org.

Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a new nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need.

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» on 01.17.09 @ 10:34 PM

Animals, sea life and the birds are a wonderful experience for everyone….how great that you are helping these children and others…...God Bless

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