NEW BEDFORD — Isaiah Rodrigues spent the first 10 years of his life without ever setting foot on a boat. In fact, he said the first time he tried sailing he hated it.

Now, six years later, Rodrigues, a junior sailing instructor, arches his back to level the weight with sailing partner Adilson DeBrito as their nearly 14-foot Bahia sailboat bends in the howling wind.

Zipping around Clarke's Cove on a gusty Friday afternoon, the two teens let out a shout of excitement as the ocean spat salt water on their faces.

"It's just fun now," Rodrigues, a West End native, said. 

Fun is the name of the game at the Community Boating Center (CBC) of New Bedford, located on Padanaram Avenue just a stone's throw away from Clarke's Cove. More than fun, executive director Andy Herlihy believes he and his team are instilling the youth of the city, some of whom have never been on the ocean before, with pivotal life skills that can carry them far beyond the water. 

The 43 junior instructors — Rodrigues and DeBrito included — spent the last week in June prepping for CBC's summer youth programs, which started Monday. Last Friday before being treated to linguica dogs and Bubba Burgers on the grill, the junior instructors were certified in CPR — just one of the skills an instructor is expected to learn in its four-year junior instructor program.

"I think this helps them build a skill set that's transferable to the real world — specifically leadership and communication skills," Herlihy said. 

With clouds rolling in fast, the instructors scurried on the docks to prep their sailboats. Herlihy noted that if they weren’t in a training period for the instructors, they’d likely not sail on such a gusty afternoon.

“They have to know how to maneuver in these conditions when they’re teaching,” he said.

On the water, Rodrigues and DeBrito sped around their peers while others struggled keeping their boats from capsizing.

“Notice how they’re staying close to the turned over boats,” Herlihy pointed out. “They’re trained to do that to help out should anything go awry.”

Having opened its doors to the youth of Greater New Bedford in 1998, CBC aims to equip at-risk teens and children with character development, integrity and sound judgment with sailing as the vehicle.

“We like to promote positive life values through boating,” Greg Pimentel, program director and former junior instructor, said. "It's also an opportunity to separate whatever is troubling them at home and just enjoy the water."

Herlihy added that making sailing, a sport associated with the affluent, available to all socio-economic levels can open doors to future marine occupations that may never have been on the youths' horizons. 

"We hope to break the stigma that sailing is only for the wealthy," he said. 

Director of Program Training, Andy Chin, said of the 43 instructors there's a even ratio of male to female while 35 percent are non-ethnic minorities. In the case of DeBrito, he was urged to sign up for the program seven years ago after his school, Global Learning Charter Public School, heard he had sailed around his home island of Cape Verde. 

"I love just being out there on the water," he said.

They also love just being at CBC's headquarters, located on the border of New Bedford and Dartmouth. Chin said over the past two school vacations the CBC was flooded with junior instructors to help get ready for the season or just to hang out. 

"It's become the cool spot to hang out, which is a good feeling," Chin said. 

CBC's education doesn't end in the waiter. In the spring and fall months, they've worked with such local schools like Renaissance, DeValles, Our Sisters School, Nativity Preparatory School, Global Learning and Alma Del Mar to offer enrichment opportunities centered around boating. Pimentel said they'll come into classrooms and teach students about ocean stewardship and boat design. 

Having been a part of the Sea Lab program since September, Pimentel added that CBC taught nearly 1,000 students about STEM subjects and the uses of wind turbines. 

"This program has evolved beyond just raising a staff," Herlihy said. "We know not everyone is going to be sailors, but this is an opportunity to build a skill set and leadership qualities in other fields."

With New Bedford's rich maritime history and possible future in offshore wind gaining speed, CBC hopes to groom the next crop of maritime industry leaders right in the city's backyard.

To read more about the Community Boating Center and its summer programs, Standard-Times writer Barbara Veneri highlighted its services in Monday's paper in her Sea Notes column.

Follow Wesley Sykes on Twitter @WesleySykes_SCT.