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Macomb 12-Year-Old Sets Sail on First Port Huron to Mackinac Race

Sailing aboard Pendragon, Cruz Schroeder will be one of the youngest participants in the 2012 Bayview Mackinac Race.

Her name is Pendragon and she is 12-year-old Macomb Township resident Cruz Schroeder’s ticket to the finish line of his first Bayview Mackinac Race.

One of the youngest participants in this year’s race, Cruz was given the opportunity to join the Pendragon’s nine-member crew by a surprise invitation from the boat’s owner earlier this year.

“I play darts at my sail club every other Friday in the winter and I was sitting there playing when Chris (Gerkin) came over and invited me to crew on the Pendragon,” Cruz said. “I wanted to do it because it’s going to be my first long-distance (race) and it’s always cool to be out there at night. It’s like a whole different world out there.”

While the answer was an instant yes for Cruz, it took some convincing for parents Mike and LoriAnn.

“Last year he wanted to do it and I told him he would have to wait a couple years,” Cruz’ father Mike Schroeder said. “Even before this (sailing) season really started he came home and told me that Chris (Gerkin) had invited him to do the race. My first comment was, ‘Well it hasn’t been two years yet’ … I didn’t really feel secure putting him on a boat with a crew that wasn’t his family.”

But Cruz was persistent and months of daily reminders eventually resulted in a meeting between parents and crew.

“We all sat down one night and we talked to (Chris Gerkin) and he said if he didn’t think I was capable of doing (the race), he wouldn’t have invited me,” Cruz said. “I was really happy.”

It was Gerkin’s assurance of safety first combined with the once-in-a-lifetime nature of the invitation that ultimately persuaded the Schroeders to allow Cruz to take part in the race.  

“I still hesitate because it can get pretty bad out there when storms roll in, but we talked about it and weighed it out and he is into (sailing) so much that to be denied that opportunity might not be the best thing,” Mike Schroeder said.

Eat, breathe, sail

Discovering his passion for sailing at age 5, Cruz was accepted as a junior member of the North Star Sail Club at age 11 (14 is the normally accepted age) and can now be found at the club sailing four to five days a week.

Whether it’s skippering in the junior sailing program or crewing on the sailboats of older club members, Cruz is the first to admit that his favorite place in the world is the deck of a boat on the open water.    

“It’s fun to be out on the water and every once in a while there will be a wave over the bow and you’ll get misted. When it’s a hot day it’s really nice,” he said.

Assigned to man Pendragon’s foredeck, Cruz can look forward to quite a bit of mist over the two-day race. Set to depart Port Huron Saturday afternoon, Cruz and crew will likely arrive in Mackinac Harbor on Monday, where the Schroeders say they’ll be waiting to greet Cruz at the finish line. 

However, they may have to fish him out of the harbor first.

“On your first Mackinac Race, when you get there, you have to jump in Mackinac Harbor and its usually really cold, even in July. It’s about 50 feet deep, but it’s so clear that you can see all the way down to the bottom.”

So what’s next for this young sailor?

“Eventually I would like to get into the Volvo Ocean Race and sail solo single-handed around the world,” Cruz said.

Mom and dad will need a little more convincing for that one.

Follow the Pendragon's progress on the race website.

Jenny Whalen (Editor) July 13, 2012 at 01:01 PM
I love watching the Mackinac Race. It's tradition for my family to go up to Port Huron and watch the boats take off near the bridge. Do you follow the race?
Darleen Schroeder, Cruz's Fla. Memaw July 13, 2012 at 07:58 PM
I am Cruz's memaw in Florida, and myself and Cruz's Florida family will be tracking the progress of the race and of course, praying and rooting them on. I never thought I would ever be able to see one of my grandchildren, especially at 12 yrs. of age, taking part in an event so spectacular. Cruz is a wonderful young man and I feel honored to be his Memaw. Memaw Schroeder
Robyn DiNardi July 14, 2012 at 01:31 PM
Robyn DiNardi, Cruz's Fla. Aunt I am Cruz's aunt in Florida, along with his unclei Henry, and his 3 cousins. Jacob,Sophee, and Celina. We are just so excited for him, and will be tracking along also. We know how awesome Cruz is and are so amazed he is following his dreams in such a brave way. I do believe this is one race of many to come in his BRIGHT FUTURE!!! YOU GO YOUNG MAN!!! We Love You Sooooo Much!! The DiNardi's in Florida
William July 15, 2012 at 03:27 PM
William Schroeder, Grandfather from MI Cruz good luck to you and your crew members. Follow that dream!!
Chris Gerkin January 04, 2013 at 09:11 PM
I was a pleasure having Cruz on board.
Dawn Riley January 04, 2013 at 09:12 PM
Get this kid out to our Acorn program ;-)!!!! http://www.oakcliffsailing.org/acorns Dawn

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