Photograph by John Nickerson

I first got involved with WaterFire for the morning build on July 9, 2016.  I had heard about this opportunity through VolunteerHub. I was assigned to the wood boat Eos and enjoyed it. I continued to do a few more morning builds that summer, and a few in 2017. In the Winter of 2018 I was in a dark place in my life.  I ended an abusive ten year relationship in October 2017 that had put me in the hospital. I was battling depression and feeling isolated. It was then I received an email from Jamie about a training program for new Wood Boat Captains.

I instinctively knew this was what I needed to get me out of my funk, get me back outdoors, and to learn something new. As a Captain in Training, my activities are to show up for both classroom and river training sessions, take the suggestions on maneuvers from Captains who train me and to then implement my training on the river during morning builds and WaterFire Lightings.  My job is to inform my crew of what to expect, how to behave and to ensure their compliance and safety while we are on the water. I take these responsibilities very seriously. The camaraderie I have experienced on and off the river from volunteers, Captains and WaterFire Staff is truly the reason I keep coming back. I have never laughed so much at my foibles, never learned so much about docking and boating, and I have never had so much fun doing any other activity. 

The most important work that WaterFire does is bringing people together.  Bringing volunteers together who become lifelong friends, bringing artists together with patrons who come to love their creativity, bringing corporations together in a philanthropic way to benefit their employees by becoming volunteers, and the Corporate Sponsors that benefit the community by providing the resources to allow a WaterFire to become reality. I am most proud of the confidence I have built by the many hours I have committed to my role as a Captain in Training. Two years ago I wouldn’t have believed I’d be driving a boat and have peoples’ lives in my care on the water.

My favorite WaterFire moment was the night of the Blue Dream Orbs in Summer 2019.  We were in the Basin awaiting the orbs to float down the river that never arrived. Two kayakers serendipitously came through the Basin. Captain John asked them to kayak upriver to see if they could locate any orbs. The kayakers came back with over 400 orbs IN THEIR KAYAKS, and assisted the crew to dump the orbs into the wood boat. It is a night I will be talking about for years to come. And yes, I intend to be involved with WaterFire for as long as WaterFire is around.

– Donna Noonan