Call of the Sea volunteer Mike Wing named Center for Volunteer Non Profit Leadership’s annual Heart of Marin Volunteer of the Year!
Mike Wing has been an active volunteer at Call of the Sea since April 2021. He is an author, scientist, and full-time science classroom high school teacher. He holds a PhD, and is the author of the book Passion Projects for Smart People. On his days off he joins Call of the Sea, dedicating his free time to being a key part of the volunteer crew. He volunteered over 285 hours in 2023, in areas ranging from school sails to community sails, participating in maintenance days, and helping to train new volunteers in our monthly orientations and Aloft trainings. One thing you will hear frequently from others on board is “We love Mike Wing.” He radiates positivity and enthusiasm that is contagious. Anyone familiar with ship life understands each vessel comes with its own unique culture. Call of the Sea promotes a culture of equity, belonging and fairness. Mike continually encourages that atmosphere by volunteering to train new employees even when others may find their skill level or competency challenging. Several crew members feel most comfortable going to Mike when in need of motivation and reassurance. His amiable spirit creates an atmosphere of acceptance for everyone around him. When Mike was asked how he feels about Call of the Sea, he said “I feel like I’ve joined the nicest cult in the world, the tall ship universe!”
The role Mike takes on is also physically demanding. It involves climbing almost 100 feet in the air (aloft), working with the rigging, prepping and putting away our top sails. During 2023, Mike Wing trained several new crew members to safely and confidently climb aloft. Also during this time, Mike noticed a need for a Naturalist on board to support our educational programs. Without hesitation he used his own knowledge and funds to create a Naturalist Kit and immediately sprang into action teaching students and our crew about the marine life in the SF Bay Area. The onboard kit required skins, skulls, and other parts from local marine mammals. Mike took on the arduous task of getting permits for possession of these items for educational use. The kit inspired Call of the Sea to develop a more robust observation activity where students really learned to connect to the environment through animal identification.
When Call of the Sea partnered with the Utah School for the Deaf on a 4-day seamanship program, our crew learned sign language to be able to work directly with twelve deaf middle school participants from the school. Mike was our primary volunteer, sharing his knowledge with these brand-new sailors. In addition to his commitment to the crew and students on board our vessels, Mike has been an asset during community outreach events, acting as a spokesperson for the organization. As a professional science educator, Mike has given other teachers the confidence to book field trips with Call of the Sea.
One of Mike Wing’s biggest impacts is his ability to teach in-depth lesson plans around plankton, microplastics and sail theory. Plankton tows are an essential part of every one of our programs at Call of the Sea and Mike took on that role whenever he was on board. When new crew members came on board, Mike took the time to fully train them on the lesson plans, allowing the Education Manager to focus on other critical duties. This boosted crew morale and decreased the workload of those around him. Mike has also been an active participant in our microplastics program. Working closely with the environmental organizations 5Gyres and Materevolve, Mike and another crew member, Amy Green, spearheaded a project which impacted environmental change within the city of Sausalito. Mike described the issue in this way: “In 2021 and 2022 every time we did a manta trawl (basically a net for plastic particles) the most common thing we came up with was little blue bits of Styrofoam. They come from Styrofoam billets that support floating docks. Amy and I presented the issue to the Sausalito City Council and suggested some slightly more expensive alternatives that do not slough off plastic particles into the ocean. Sausalito said yes to a ban on unencapsulated blue foam floatation!”