Captain Gerry ShimekGerry Shimek

“One of the great things about being an Instructor Captain with Northern Breezes is I get to help folks realize their dreams,” says Captain Gerry Shimek. “I enjoy the excitement that overtakes the crew when students complete a maneuver they didn’t think they could do. The smiles on their faces when they realize they are able to handle a big boat are the best.”

Capt. Gerry teaches the full range of classes from basic keelboat through advanced coastal cruising. He frequently captains flotilla boats and it is not unusual to find him helping with fleet maintenance.

The son of a fisherman and recreational boater, Gerry has been drawn to water throughout his life. “Growing –up, the river was the playground for my buddies and me. Our moms would tell us to ‘go out and play and don’t come back until supper’ so we’d head to the river to fish, ski, and just mess around. Several times a year dad and I would go the lake. I remember the summer he started letting me take the boat out by myself –I wasn’t even a teenager!”

“Like a lot of folks, my first sail was on a Sunfish. With no one to show us how to do it, my friend Bob and I mostly just laughed and got wet that summer. A few years later, I learned to sail a dinghy while a counselor at a summer camp in central Minnesota. I sailed on and off for several years after that – whenever the opportunity presented itself. In the early 90s, I bought my first sailboat with the idea that it could be a new family activity. We got out and had some wet and wild times sailing that unballasted dinghy. “

“Although I was having fun and learning while sailing an open dingy, it eventually dawned on me that my friends and family might enjoy sailing on a boat that didn’t require so many gymnastics and offered a little more protection from the weather. So we bought our first keelboat and sailed it in the nearby lakes of northwest Iowa and southern Minnesota. Having a little more comfortable boat started to open up sailing adventures for my wife, Laura, and I. We took the boat on lake vacations and weekend sails with friends and family. Eventually, we started to talk about trying a ‘big boat.’ ”

“We met the Northern Breezes folks around 2009 and liked the progressive learning approach used by American Sailing Association. Northern Breezes captains were patient as they helped me correct some of my bad habits. They also taught Laura to sail independently through their classes. Shortly after we got our basics, they helped Laura and I learn how to sail as a team. This has led to interesting and fun flotillas and Bareboat charters. “

Gerry earned his first instructor certification in 2012 and his USCG Captains license in 2013. Presently, Gerry is certified by American Sailing Association to teach Basic Keelboat, Basic Bareboat, Basic Coastal Cruising, Coastal Navigation, Docking, and Advanced Coastal Cruising. In addition to teaching for Northern Breezes on Lake Minnetonka, the St. Croix River, and Lake Superior, Gerry skippers flotilla and charter boats. “I think that everyone having a role in sailing the boat makes the trip enjoyable for all on board. So even if our trip is not part of a class, I get folks involved, increasing their skills, and enhancing that sense of satisfaction that comes with handling the boat.”

When not teaching for Northern Breezes, Gerry works as a wildlife biologist. He sails with his wife, Laura, and their boat dog, Catie, on their Seaward 22, Beggars Ride II, on inland lakes, the Mississippi River, and the Great Lakes. “We love to travel by water,” he says, “hopefully we’ll see you out there!”