Tucked away under the Eastern Promenade on the waterfront is a unique educational opportunity for anyone wishing to update their small boat safety knowledge or become licensed to captain a 200 ton ship – all under the auspices of the United States Coast Guard.
The Learning Center was the brainchild of experienced off-shore sailor Phineas Sprague, Jr. He manages the Portland Complex, 58 Fore Street, home to the Portland Yacht Services, on which the Learning Center is located. “The best boating experience comes from knowledge presented in a structured format,” said Sprague. “The instructors enjoy sharing and have joined to develop an educational center for naval sciences, technical aspects of maintenance, repair and vessel operations.”
Captain Matt Ridgway was hired in 2010 to direct the Center and expand its enrollment which he has succeeded in doing. His first year as director there were ten students and the last year it grew to thirty-five students. Little advertising is done; its growth has been due to word of mouth. For some, enrollment represents a career change or to advance a career, but for most students it’s a “milestone in recreational boating,” said the affable Ridgway yesterday afternoon at the Center’s classroom. Ridgway teaches his students a USCG approved courses, MLC certifies them and then they are licensed by the USCG. The courses are 80 hours long and all material, such as charts and text are provided. The cost is $l,095. Once a year the USCG audits the program.
Ridgway grew up on Long Island where the waterfront was part of his life. After receiving a BA in environmenal science, he decided to earn his 100 Ton Near Coastal Master’s, his 200 ton near coastal Mate’s Livense and an AB from the United States Coast Guard. He was a captain for the Portland Schooner Co. before assuming his duties at Marine Learning Center. Ridgway, 30, is also waterfront manager for Portland Yacht Services during the summer where he hires five seasonal employees and supervises them. He and his wife Carrie have an infant son, Morgan.
For more information, please call Captain Ridgway at Portland Yacht Services – (207) 774-1067.