Sailing through boot camp

Published on August 15th, 2022

Capt. Mike Martel, who sails out of Bristol, RI, holds a 100-ton master’s license and is a lifelong boating and marine industry enthusiast. He enjoys delivering boats to destinations along the U.S. East Coast and in the Caribbean and writing about his experiences on the water and other marine topics. Here’s a story he shared with Points East Magazine:


Sometimes, in the life of a naïve teenager, what seems to be the worst kind of nightmare turns out to be one of the more delicious lessons in the new and unfathomable world he is entering.

A stranger in a strange land will always seek out things that are familiar in some way. Sometimes it’s a place, a loosely-definable querencia, a little spot of turf where one feels safe or comfortable perhaps. And so it was that the first thing I saw when I stepped outside the U.S. Coast Guard Training Center Cape May gate, on my first boot-camp, off-base liberty, was the Corinthian Yacht Club of Cape May, NJ.

I was a homesick, 18-year-old recruit, young for my age, lost, and somewhat bewildered. After weeks of difficult training, I now had a precious weekend of freedom all to myself, but I had no transportation, no plans, no place to go, and no friends to share it with. What good is freedom all by itself, I wondered?

Some of my fellow recruits from my squad had rented a hotel room in town, bought some booze, and were going to look for female company. Sensing I was not up to their standards of street toughness, maturity, or worldliness, I was not invited to join them. So I decided to explore this new world on my own.

The center of town was a good mile away – a long walk in the hot, late-summer sun – so I wandered the short distance over to the Corinthian. I was, after all, a junior member of the Bristol Yacht Club in my own hometown of Bristol, RI, having joined under the auspices of my grandfather, a longtime senior member. And I grew up sailing on the Bristol waterfront.

I suppose it was only natural, then, that my compass would point me toward the white-painted clubhouse complex when I walked out the training-center gate. Many such clubs have a policy of reciprocal privileges. Perhaps, I thought, inside, there would be shade, convivial company, and a cold drink. – Full report

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