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.

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