launches Maiden Voyage for 2010
Two year’s worth of labor and cash came to fruition on the
morning of March 18th, when the Rotary Ojai-West’s rebuilt pontoon
boat left a dock in Lake Casitas, California, bearing forty kids from
San Antonio School, their teachers and some parents.
They were treated to real-life, close-up lessons in ecology,
biology, and science during a free tour of the lake, its wildlife and
For many of the children, it was the first time they had seen a Bald
Eagle in the wild.
The vessel, still unnamed, was previously owned by Ojai’s
International Center for Earth Concerns. But it had been parked unused
at anchor for a year, gathering seagull droppings and algae.
The Center could no longer afford to keep it running.
offered it to the Rotary Club for free, if the club would put it back
in service. Rotarian Les
Gardner jumped at it.
thought it would be an ideal tool for our club and the community,”
Les said. “Not just for the local green movement, but for the
quickly put the matter before the Rotary Club’s Board of Directors.
Some were skeptical at first, but the decision to go ahead was
made in record time. The
club’s funds were allocated to handle expenses.
Then the paperwork and the grunt work began.
C.J MacLeod and David May teamed up to bring the pontoon craft
back to life, starting with sponges, brushes, and
sitting at anchor, a boater accidentally ran into it.
That dent had to be fixed,” Dave recalled.”
The boat was originally designed to be powered by many car
batteries, most of which were completely dead. The electrical cables
had to be replaced, the batteries had to be legally disposed of, and a
gas-powered engine put into use instead.
“Also new fire extinguishers, a new canopy, new markings, and
so on,” Dave said.
best reward for me is watching the faces of the kids,” he said.
Last Thursday their teacher, Sandra Hansen, told me that some
of them said it was the best field trip they’d ever been on.”
carry young students safely and legally, a Coast-Guard certified
Captain must be aboard, and the youngsters must wear life preservers.
Captain Ed Cuchna was one of the lecturers on Thursday’s tour
of the lake. Captain Jim chase, who is also a Rotarian, said that
“Being out on the water gives the lessons a relaxed and fun
atmosphere. It’s stress-free, and that’s got to help the learning
District Governor Jane McClenahan has organized a dozen Rotarians and
spouses into a team of docents, who compile and teach lessons about
the multiple uses of the lake, the history of the area, and the
engineering and construction of the Casitas dam.
The local plants are always on display, and frequently students
can see animals in the wild as well.
Rotary club will be making their boat available to schools,
non-profit, and public service organizations on a continuing,
not-for-profit basis in the years to come.
Gardner told us that “We plan to take Ojai seniors out for some
fresh air later this year. And
free rides are a feature of our two annual charity fund-raisers, the
Ojai Wine Festival and the Big Chili cookoff.”
The main mission of
the Casitas Rotary Boat will be educational.
is cash-poor now,” explained Mike Caldwell, a mechanical engineer
who is also a Rotarian and President of the Ojai Education Foundation.
of dollars have been slashed from the Ojai Valley’s school budget.
That means teacher layoffs, and the crisis has killed funding
for field trips,” he said. “The
Rotary Boat gets kids out for hands-on experience. They can see the
importance of clean water, and conservation.
It makes history come alive for them.”
“It makes them ask why,” he concluded.