Rutgers, The State
University of New Jersey
New Brunswick, N.J.
Hometown: Newark, N.J.
Education: Graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, N.Y.
Currently lives in Piscataway, N.J.
Though he has been sailing for 37 years, it was always hard for Jim Vernere, facilities supervisor at 45,000-student Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, to find enough time to really enjoy it. Now that he has entered retirement, effective at the end of the school year, Vernere is ready to hit the waves.
"I got into sailing in my early 20s. I rented a house on the shore with three other guys and we all had motorcycles, canoes and all these toys. One of my friends was into sailing, and he bought one of those little Sunflowers, which is a Styrofoam boat with a sail that you could put on top of your car. I would go with him and play around with that boat. He’d let me take it out on my own, and I guess I got hooked.
I’m still good friends with him, so he’s had boats over the years that he’s let me play around with. We went in as partners [to buy] a boat. I guess I just learned to sail from him and learned from doing. You could say I’m a self-taught and read sailor. I’ve been sailing for about 37 years now. It wasn’t until I’d been sailing for a number of years that I really started getting serious about getting certifications.
To get certified for sailing there are a couple of different certifying agencies in the US. There is ASA, which is the American Sailing Association and then there is US Sailing. They both have similar paths for students to learn how to sail. I’ve done all mine with the ASA through the New Jersey Sailing School. With my experience, I was able to skip the student-level classes and go straight to instructor level. You basically take courses that are very similar to the student courses, but you have to do a student teaching as part of your evaluation. You also have to demonstrate your skills on the water and then pass pretty strenuous tests. So I did that and now I teach pretty basic sailing, navigation, coastal cruising and chartering for the N.J. Sailing School.
I’m still working on some skills. At the end of the month I’m going to take my instructor’s class for catamaran cruising, which is mostly what they charter in the Caribbean islands. You pretty much take those courses on your own and when you feel like you’re ready, you go in and take the exam. It’s what you do beyond the classroom work that really matters. You have to demonstrate your skills in the water. They have instructor’s evaluators, so there is always someone who knows more than you.
My first boat was a Bristol 29.9, which is a very well-recieved boat. I’ve sailed from Annapolis, Md., to Florida and in a race from Annapolis to Bermuda. I’ve chartered boats in the Caribbean as well, where we’ll just sail around the islands.
While I was working full time, I just taught part time. So I taught weekends in the summer, fall and spring—about one or two weekends per month. I also teach safe boating for the state. I get students from all walks of life—doctors, lawyers, students, fathers, sons, daughters, husbands and wives.
I was filing out this survey that asked if you could use one word to describe why you like sailing, what would it be, and I think the answer that came up most was freedom. I think there’s definitely a sense of that for me. When you’re out there on the water, it’s very quiet. It’s a chance to shut everything else out. With my retirement, I have big sailing plans. I want to get up to Maine this summer. I also want to work my way down to the Bahamas on my own boat. The great thing is I have no schedule and I can just follow the weather.”