Wind sprays salty sea mist over the edge of the bright yellow sailboat, as the sun beats down upon the water on this perfect Sunday afternoon in Biscayne Bay. Tilted almost entirely on its side, it seems as if wind and waves might cause the boat to capsize any second; still, the day is beautiful, perfect. It’s the type of experience of which many only dream. Yesterday, for hundreds of Coconut Grove residents, these dreams came true.
On Sunday from 1 to 4 pm, Shake-A-Leg Miami hosted its second successful Community Bay Day at its facility on South Bayshore Drive, welcoming all members of the Coconut Grove community to experience the thrill and beauty of Miami’s waterfront for themselves. For merely a $5 suggested donation, guests enjoyed a fun-filled day of kayaking excursions, powerboat rides, and sailing adventures across Biscayne Bay- not to mention plenty of entertainment back on shore as well. Music pumped loudly across the full parking lot, children and adults raced across the enclosed facility on bikes and scooters, and some took turns attempting to ‘slam dunk’ a ball into an inflatable basketball hoop. Others sat and socialized, free ice-cream cones visible in the hands of many. Regardless of the activity, it was clear that everyone was having a blast.
Though Community Bay Day is only a monthly occurrence, Shake-A-Leg Miami keeps its doors open seven days a week, year-round. It is one of the largest community watersports centers in the country and one of the most accessible, offering a variety of programs in recreation and education for both children and adults- including those who face physical, developmental, or economic challenges.
At Shake-A-Leg, blind people sail boats, inner-city kids learn how to windsurf, and individuals missing entire limbs kayak to islands and embark on eco-adventures. “I always let the kids steer,” beams Captain Ned, himself a volunteer skipper who has worked with Shake-A-Leg for the past fifteen years. “If I have to, I put my hand on top of their hand, but they always steer.”
It is the dedicated assistance of individuals like Ned that make events such as Community Bay Day even a possibility. Volunteers, both able-bodied and disabled, comprise 90% of Shake-A-Leg’s staff and assist with everything from afterschool programs to boat cleanups. On Sunday, they loaded boats, led eco-tours, and even flipped burgers.
Two of these newly-trained volunteers, Eric Erdvig, 24, and Carlos Garcell, 26, students at nearby Florida International University, served as Able-Bodied, or “AB,” assistants on multiple sailing trips throughout the day. Both became involved with Shake-A-Leg through a campus organization at their school and were eager to return in the future. “We’re out here doing the groundwork today,” explained Erdvig. “We’ll be back next week with more guys.”
It is exactly reactions such as these, which make Community Bay Day a success, according to Shake-A-Leg founder, Harry Horgan. “Our goal today is getting people down to get the story out.” Sharing the beauty and thrills of Biscayne Bay, empowering other in the process, after all, is the organization’s ultimate goal.
At 4:00, as the day’s festivities wind down, the same wind gently rocks the bright yellow sailboat in the still-shining sun, and Horgan prepares to set sail himself. “You don’t have to belong to a yacht club to get on the water,” he beams from his wheelchair at the end of the pier. “This is Dade County’s most valuable resource and, at Shake-A-Leg, we want to make it accessible to everyone.”
And ‘everyone’ really does mean everyone.
Community Bay Day takes place on the third Sunday of every month from 1 to 4 pm at 2620 South Bayshore Drive. The event is free and open to the public. Parking is available in the lot adjacent to the facility and will be validated as long as spots are available. For more information, contact Shake-A-Leg at 305-858-5550, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.