Boaters and sailors alike flock to Lake Minnetonka in droves each summer to enjoy life on the water, yet no one understands this better than the Minnetonka Power Squadron (MPS). While island living is of the most glamorous perks, it is the squadron’s mission to promote safety on the lake that truly drives the group. A rich history of education and safety, the MPS strives to protect the sanctity of lake living.
With 40,000 members nationwide, the United States Power Squadron makes up the world’s largest boating organization. The first power squadron was formed at the Boston Yacht Club in 1913 to represent the small number of sailors with powerboats. Today, there are more than 450 branches both nationally and internationally.
Locally, the Minnetonka Power Squadron boasts a membership of approximately 500 boating enthusiasts. The nonprofit exists to educate boaters, contribute to local civic causes, and support the larger fraternal organization.
Robert Gaddes, executive officer of the MPS, says, “Most of what we do is to promote boating safety.” The group offers public boating classes to all interested boaters on everything from using a boat trailer and piloting to the rules of navigation. “We want to teach people how to operate their boats in a safe manner,” he says.
A Sense of Duty
The organization’s civic endeavors are centered on maintaining the natural beauty and health of the lake and the surrounding ecosystems. This summer they will partner with the DNR and the Lake Minnetonka Conservation District to staff boat ramps and identify invasive species on incoming boats.
Among other volunteer activities, the MPS has also played a major role in the Lake Minnetonka Clean-Up Day. Volunteering to skipper their own boats, MPS members take divers out on the water to assist in pulling junk from the depths of the lake. This has proven to be an especially popular expedition, as they occasionally discover small treasures and early twentieth century scuttle boats that now rest on the lake bottom.
If you’ve ever noticed the smells of barbecue wafting and campfires stoking on the eastern half of Big Island, you’ve seen the MPS at play. Gifted to the organization by Ed Streater, an early member, use of “Streater Cove” is one of several member benefits.
Like a lake home up north, members dock their boats at Streater Cove each summer to camp, fish, boat and barbeque. “Lots of relaxation, that’s what a typical summer day is there. It’s like having a cabin on the water,” says Gaddes.
Events such as Luau Night, Shrimp Fest, Casino Night and a Fourth of July bash highlight the members’ summer schedules on the island. “We actually have enough members that we’ve even assembled our very own island band,” Gaddes laughs.
A Worthy Cause
Gaddes explains that their membership base is quite varied, stating that the club has members with everything from boat cruisers for taking their children on the water all the way up to 50-foot boats with full cabins on them. In addition to use of Big Island, member benefits include discounted insurance and boating merchandise. In order to join, boaters must take the initial safe boating course and are expected to update their boating safety education regularly.
“We do have fun,” says Gaddes, “but we also do our due diligence.” Entering into their 50th year in 2011, the Minnetonka Power Squadron has long watched over the lake, helping to promote safety awareness out on the open water. Next time you see their flag flying high, you’ll know of the large contingent of MPS members working behind the scenes to preserve the sacred state of lake living on Lake Minnetonka.