Born for sailing

By: Robert Guttersohn, | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published July 24, 2012

MACOMB TOWNSHIP — Before the weekend of July 20, 12-year-old Cruz Schroeder had never visited Mackinac Island.

For his first trip there, he took arguably the most adventurous route that anyone can, riding wind in a 36-foot sailboat as part of the 2012 Port Huron to Mackinac race.

When he and the rest of the crew docked at Mackinac Island after taking fifth place in their class, he said all the veteran sailors on the island were surprised to see Cruz walk onto Mackinac with the rest of his veteran crew.

 Cruz Schroeder, 12, poses with various flags collected from different sailboats he’s crewed. The young sailboat aficionado participated in the Port Huron to Mackinac race July 21.

Cruz Schroeder, 12, poses with various flags collected from different sailboats he’s crewed. The young sailboat aficionado participated in the Port Huron to Mackinac race July 21.

Photo by Deb Jacques

“It was kind of crazy,” Cruz said of the experience and the reception the older sailors gave him. “They were all surprised. They were all coming up to me and saying, ‘Congratulations.’”

It may have been his first trip to Mackinac, but it was far from his first time on a sailboat. The competition and sailing club flags, set on the living room floor of the Schroeder home and varying in both color and size, are testaments to that fact.

“He’s always the youngest one, pretty much,” said his mother, LoriAnn Schroeder.

Among them is the flag for the North Star Sail Club junior sailing program that he got into three years before the club’s standard minimum age. Then there’s a Junior Olympic Bronze Medal he earned for sailing in Macatawa Bay near Holland, Mich.

His parents explain that their son’s fascination with boats began during visits to Marine City, St. Clair and other coastal cities in Michigan, where he would watch in awe as the freighters passed along the Great Lakes.

Then a trip on a family friend’s sailboat when Cruz was 5 solidified his love for water.

“He was like a sponge, asking a million questions and absorbing all the answers and information,” said Cruz’ father, Mike Schroeder, in an e-mail.

He said Cruz immediately began asking if he could start sailing. His father denied him until he turned 10.

“It’s fun to be out on the water and feel the wind,” Cruz said of the experience of sailing. He said the other kids at school are surprised to hear that he sails. “A lot of kids think it’s boring.” While most students his age are waiting for the summer because of the break from school, Cruz said he wishes he were on the water in his sailboat.

His first boat was an 8-footer in which he learned the basics of sailing.

“The boon was so low, so it was hard to move,” he said. “When you would move in the boat, it kind of shifted around.”

LoriAnn said it is best for him to learn on the small boat because they are the hardest to control when compared with the larger sailboats.

What impresses her most is how her son can now look at the surface of the water and know from what direction the wind is coming and how strong its gusts are.

That talent, Cruz said, comes from practice.

Much as he was when Cruz first wanted to sail, Mike was hesitant when his son floated the idea of sailing inthe Port Huron to Mackinac Race.

“Later, after some serious consideration, I began thinking maybe I should reconsider,” he said.

Mike met with the leader of the crew that was inviting his son to join them for the race.

“They whisper things like ‘Sailing career’ and ‘Olympics,’” Mike said of the meeting. “Those are accomplishments that could very well be within my son’s grasp, and no matter how much I fear for his safety, how could I ever deny him the opportunity to achieve such life-satisfying goals?”