TRAVERSE CITY — A trip to San Diego and some recognition in the national press are just the icing on the cake for Capt. Rorke Miller.
The professional charter boat captain and licensed instructor considered simply being nominated for the 2013 Old Pulteney Maritime Heroes Award a win.
But this week, organizers said people who cast votes online late last year chose Miller to win the second annual award.
The nomination drew attention to the Maritime Heritage Alliance’s SAIL Champion program — a program that gives at-risk teens a chance to crew a 53-foot-long gaff-rigged cutter, Champion — the program where Miller worked as a captain for the past three years. It’s the work that helped get Miller nominated for the award.
And it helped draw attention to his most recent project to help at-risk youth, RED8 Boatworks, a program that gives teens a chance to learn to build high-end wooden stand-up paddle boards alongside professional wooden boat builder and instructor Adam Burks.
“I’m going out to San Diego on Feb. 4 to be given the award,” Miller said. “After that, I don’t know.”
Miller, 37, has taught more than 1,000 people to sail during his career, but says working on SAIL Champion and now RED8 Boatworks have been the most rewarding. Both programs attempt to steer at-risk youth toward a brighter future.
“It’s the job that I was born to do,” Miller said in a November interview with the Record-Eagle. “Together we can all set these kids on the right path. I’m not a counselor, I’m just a regular guy.”
When asked what’s next, Miller simply said that the next class of teenagers begins to build paddle boards in the RED8 workshop on Feb. 9.
“The Old Pulteney Maritime Heroes Award was created to recognize and honor a true hero who uses their love of sailing to advance their community and the lives of others,” said Pat Graney, president of International Beverage USA in a statement released Wednesday. “Rorke Miller has done exactly this with his SAIL Champion and RED8 Boatworks programs.”
Miller has spent the past few months splitting his time between running his company, Sweetwater Captain’s Training, and trying to organize the growth of RED8 Boatworks.
The fledgling program still demands significant fundraising efforts, Miller said. For more information about RED8 Boatworks or to help, go to www.red8boatworks.org.