Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Sebago Day to Remember

Joe Glickman coaching Laurie Pea on her forward stroke
Yesterday afternoon, Sebago Canoe Club Commodore Tony Pignatello posted this comment on facebook: “Coming back on the Open Paddle I saw about 50 kayaks on the water. Open Paddle, Stroke Clinic, Level 2 classes plus individual paddlers. That's what makes us one of the best in the city. Thanks to all who gave their time.”

I was one of those paddlers Tony saw. My wife was another. She and I were not participating in the same activity but happened to be on the water at the same time.

Yesterday was indeed a day at the Sebago Canoe Club to remember, a day that rivaled our annual open house in terms of people and activities. Vicki and I pulled into a nearly full parking lot a few minutes before 9:30 AM. Vicki came to the club to participate in the second half of the ACA Level 2 class. I came to participate in a Forward Stroke Clinic led by Joe Glickman, one of the premier paddlers in North America.

As the stroke clinic and ACA Level 2 class were gathering and preparing for the day, the open Paddle was finishing outfitting. A few minutes later, they were all standing in a circle, paddles in the air, Stonehenge like, making introductions and receiving a safety briefing and short paddling instruction. I estimate that about thirteen to fifteen paddlers were among the group.

While the open paddle carried kayaks down to the water and began to paddle, five students and three instructors as well as a dozen or more participants in the Forward Stroke Clinic stood around Joe Glickman as he demonstrated the forward Stoke. After half an hour or more of instruction on terra firma, the two groups broke apart and the ACA Level 2 class hit the water, paddling out into Jamaica Bay while the Forward Stroke Clinic finished outfitting.

By the time the Forward Stoke Clinic put their kayaks into Paerdegat basin and headed out toward Jamaica Bay, the ACA class was already out of sight. As those of us in the Stroke Clinic paddled, Joe observed our forward stroke. Once in the bay, we caught up with the ACA Class, passed it by, and paddled into some shallow water where Joe offered each Stroke Clinic participant some one on one instruction.

Sitting on the bow of each participant’s kayak and facing the paddler, but with his feet on the bottom of the bay, Joe prevented the paddler’s kayak from making forward progress while observing the paddlers’ forward stroke. From Joe observing me while paddling out toward the bay, and from the one on one session, I learned that I need to keep my paddle shaft and shoulders more parallel, follow-through from 11 O’clock to 12 O’clock, and focus on not allowing my right hand to drop during the follow-through.

While were receiving our individual instruction, the nearby ACA Level 2 Class paddled away toward Ruffle Bar and were eventually out of our sight. Those of us in the Stroke Clinic eventually paddled to the concrete ramp at Floyd Bennet Field, each paddler focusing on their forward stoke as we paddled.

At Floyd Benet Field, most of us beached to stretch our legs. As we were standing on the beach, we watched two large NYPD Boats circle nearby to the south. Eventually, a helicopter took off from Floyd Bennet Field, hovered about 15 yards above the bay between the two police boats, and three scuba gear clad swimmers jumped out of the helicopter into the water. The swimmers eventually climbed into a motored raft and headed toward shore while the helicopter flew away. Apparently the NYPD was doing the same thing we were doing, capitalizing on a beautiful day on the bay to practice and refine their skills.

Already having been out on the water several more hours than we had expected, and having paddled farther than we expected, we climbed back into our boats, paddled toward Sebago, again focusing on our forward stroke while paddling, even though Joe was no longer observing us.

Back at the clubhouse, the open paddle had long been back and there was no evidence of their even having been there. With our boats on the wash racks, washed but not put away, we sat around a picnic table and pulled our collective lunch resources to enjoy a late lunch. As we were finishing eating, the ACA Level 2 class began pulling in to the dock, so we hastily put our boats away to make room on the wash racks for their boats.

After the ACA Level 2 Class had washed and put away all their gear, instructors and students gathered around cold beers in the Sebago Club house for some post class debriefing. Those few of us still around from the Forward Stroke Clinic were permitted to listen in. Hearing both students and instructors debrief the day as well as the entire two-day class was itself instructive.

About seven and a half hours after we arrived at Sebago, Vicki and were a slightly tired, a slightly bit more tanned, and slightly improved paddlers. Throughout the day and as we headed toward home, we were both amazed at the level of activity at the club that day, three major events, but a few individual paddlers and sailors doing their own thing. We were also impressed with the level of expertise possessed by so many of our club members, expertise they were willing to share with others as trip leaders, assistant trip leaders, and instructors.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

About the July 2011 Header

This month’s header photo, posted nine days late, features a view looking across Rockaway Inlet. I took this shot about two years ago while on a kayaking trip. I was one of three or four paddlers from the Sebago Canoe Club who paddled from Paerdegat Basin, through Jamaica Bay, to Rockaway Point at the western tip of the Rockaways. The shot is from the northern shore of Rockaway Point, looking north across Rockaway inlet toward Brighton Beach, Manhattan Beach and Sheepshead Bay.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A 360-Degree Firework Spectacular

Paddlers receiving a safety briefing before the trip
Two dozen paddlers, some in traditional decked sea kayaks and others in single and tandem sit-on-tops, enjoyed a 360-degree firework spectacular last night from the vantage point of Jamaica Bay between the two islands known as Canarsie Pol and Ruffle Bar.
When my wife and I arrived at the Sebago Club House a little before 5:00 PM, some paddlers already had their boats ready for the paddle, even though it was still hours a pot-luck barbecue picnic away. As more and more members and guests arrived, so did more food. There were several choices of chips, salads, grilled vegetables, burgers and beverages to enjoy, and enjoy we did. No one went away hungry and a lot of leftover food went into the clubhouse refrigerator afterward.

Around 7:30 PM, after cleaning up from the social, we put butts in boats, and boats and paddles in the water. The shore to sea breeze blowing through Paerdegat Basin suggested we mind enjoy an easy paddle out into the bay but have to paddle against a head wind on the way back. As soon as we cleared all the docks and were in the wider part of the Basin, however, the breeze calmed, but we still enjoyed an easy paddle out into the open waters of Jamaica Bay.

Once in the Bay, we tightened our formation at buoy 13and then crossed the channel toward the western end of Canarsie Pol. As we crossed the channel, a spectacular sunset illuminated the distant buildings of the Rockaways, painting their drab concrete grays with a luminous reddish orange luminescent glow. The setting sun also showed us that the scattered clouds were clearing, suggesting we might enjoy a fine view of fireworks.

Once clear of the channel, we turned west, and past the Pol. After clearing Canarsie Pol, we headed toward Ruffle Bar. As we paddled toward the Bar, we started seeing fireworks in the darkening sky over the Rockaway’s. Midway between Ruffle Bar and Canarsie Pol, with the highpoints of the Manhattan skyline visible over the tops of the trees on Canarsie Pol, stopped to wait for the NYC Fireworks. As we waited, however, we continued enjoying pyrotechnics over the Rockaways, as well as from many other distant sites, some from perhaps as far away as Long Island. With a clear 360 degree horizon, we could see so many fireworks around us that I lost count of how many sites we could see.

Finally, with the darkening sky in the west, we started seeing the fireworks set off from barges in the Hudson. Thanks, Macy’s! I have watched the New York City Fireworks from the banks of the Hudson. While being closer to fireworks and enjoying the display as part of a large crown has its advantages, one cannot see the fireworks from all the barges when that close. Our vantage point from the waters of Jamaica Bay not only allowed us to view the display from all the barges, but afterwards, rather than moving with the throngs toward an overcrowded subway, we paddled past a variety of birds in the city’s largest Wildlife Refuge while enjoying the wide-open expanse of the glassy smooth Bay.

Once the New York City show was over, occasional displays of random fireworks continued to entertain us as we paddled back to Paerdegat Basin. The eerie reflections of terrestrial lights off the glass-like Bay almost lulled us into a hypnotic dream-like paddling cadence as we crossed the main channel, but as we approached the construction area near the Belt Parkway bridge over the basin, realty once again claimed us as we carefully negotiated the narrow channel under the bridge and into the basin.

Once back at the club, we carried boats and gear up to the wash racks where we rinsed it free of saltwater. After we put it all safely away back into lockers and on top of cars, we settled around tables in the clubhouse were we enjoyed a post paddle desert of Italian pastries, beer, wine, conversation and fellowship. About fifteen minutes before midnight, we said good-bye to friends old and new and headed home. It was a spectacular Sebago Canoe Club Fourth of July to remember.