Mark Herendeen was practically raised on boats.
His parents met at the Coconut Grove Sailing Club. Then, when he was just 2 months old, Herendeen hitched his first ride on “The Morgan 22,” a 22-foot mono-hull with a swing keel.
When he was 9, he received a 10-foot starter’s boat as a gift from his father, the late William Irvine “Bill” Herendeen.
Although it was far from a majestic vessel — Herendeen said it “looked like a rectangle on the water” — it was the perfect boat for a boy to learn how to sail.
“My dad took an old boat, and he made it new,” Herendeen said. “He fixed it up, varnished it, waxed it, applied blue paint, new lines, new wires, gave it a new sail. He did a lot of work.”
Herendeen, now 49, never forgot his father’s efforts. And he never lost his passion for sailing, even though he has since moved away from Miami and is a real estate investor in Melbourne.
On Thursday — 40 years after the purchase of that boat — Herendeen returned to Coconut Grove to participate for the first time in the ninth-annual Miami Sailing Week, which runs through Sunday.
Herendeen is a skilled sailor but not a professional. But in Miami this week there are many sailors who are professional, including some who have competed in the Olympics and in World Championships.
There are four classes of one-design boats competing this week on the waters of Biscayne Bay in Coconut Grove: Melges 24, Flying Tigers, A-Cats and M32 catamarans. In addition, the Star and J/70 classes are also on the water this week, making for a total of about 150 boats on Biscayne Bay.
The event attracts sailors from at least 23 countries.
But for Italian native and Miami Sailing Week event director Gabriele Pedone, this is more than just competition.
He sees the event growing to become the sailing version of Fashion Week in Milan.
The vision in Miami is to make this an all-inclusive event revolving around regattas for skilled sailors, clinics for kids, and art and other activities for the entire community. There is also a charitable component.
“Every major city has an event which is characteristic of the place,” Pedone said. “For Milan, it is fashion, and for Miami, it’s sailing.
“During the winter, Miami is one of the sailing capitals of the world. Biscayne Bay is the perfect place to sail because there is always wind and great sailing conditions.”
Pedone said the future goal of the event is to expand Coconut Grove’s Regatta Park into a fully functional and self-sufficient sailing venue.
“The city of Miami has made a big investment, tearing down the old convention center and building Regatta Park,” Pedone said. “The park has been built, but all the infrastructure for sailing such as extra docks and hoists are not there yet.
“That project will begin in April or May, and I think Sailing Week will continue to have a big economic impact on the city. Thousands of sailors come down here every winter, and that’s great for the hotels, restaurants and other businesses in Coconut Grove as well as Brickell and South Beach.”