Saturday, November 3, 2012

Saturday at Sebago after Sandy

It was a cool, crisp Saturday morning after the sun rose. The sky was a clear sea blue with barely a cloud. It was hard to believe that four days earlier we were just starting to discover the devastating effects of hurricane Sandy, which dealt its deadliest blow under the cover of night.  It was also time to start help cleaning up after Sandy.

People waiting in line to fill their empty gas comtainers
As we drove south toward and through the Canarsie section of Brooklyn, we saw firsthand, for the first time, the long lines of cars and people we had been hearing and reading about.  Cars were lined up two, three, even four long blocks waiting for gas.  I estimate between fifty and a hundred people holding empty red gas containers and clear milk and water jugs standing in line at the same gas station, also waiting for gas.  This was repeated two or three times as we drove.  Other gas stations seemed deserted, yellow caution tape strung around the pumps with no gas to pump.

Overturned boat being pulled out of basin
Our first stop was Kings Plaza Marina on Mill Basin, where we were hoping to remove the ripped and tattered jib sail from our nearly thirty year old twenty-four foot sailboat “Mischief”.  After about an hour’s labor and some challenging rope work, we finally removed the only visible damage Sandy inflicted on the boat.

While we were working on Mischief, we noticed others in the marina working near the boat ramp.  They were attempting to bring ashore a capsized boat of some sort, probably a power boat, but I could not be sure.  The only thing visible above the water was the keel.

Our second stop was the Sebago Canoe Club on Paerdegat Basin, where we are members and have four kayaks stored on outside racks.  We had come to the club to help clean up and begin repairing and rebuilding after Sandy.

Sebago main walkway after Sandy, before repair
Club members of all ages and races, recent members and long-time members, were already helping out, but much work remained to be done.  With various tasks needing attention, my wife and I began by helping to rake up debris left behind by the tidal surge, placing kayaks back on outside racks, and tying down our own boats for the winter.

After that task was completed, we assisted with replacing the board walk walkway which, lifted off its foundation by the tide, was scattered in several pieces around the club yard.  Even after the walkway was sawed into smaller pieces, it took ten to twenty people to lift and replace the sections.  One crew had started near the dock and was replacing the walk from west to east.  Another crew had started at the sidewalk gate and was replacing the walk east to west.

We all took a lunch break before finishing the walkway work.  Many volunteers had made soups and stews or brought store made lunch items for a group lunch.  Scattered around the club grounds, members ate lunch and told of their own hurricane experiences as well as sharing other news and stories they had heard from others.

Last walkway segment being dropped into place
Refreshed by a hearty lunch and rest, the final sections of the walkway were cut and carried into place until the last piece of the sidewalk puzzle was put into place, only an inch or two  having to be cut off to make it fit into place.  It was like the joining of the transcontinental Sebago railroad sans the golden spike.
Throughout the morning and afternoon others had been hard at work cleaning out the storage containers, cleaning and re-positing sailboats, pulling water logged material out of the club house, and other odds and ends.  It was a true group effort involving forty to fifty people and a testament to the dedication many Sebago members have to the volunteer run, 501C3 nonprofit, membership organization that operates as a concessioner on New York City Park land.

Sebago main walkway after repair
A lot of work still needs done around the club, inside the clubhouse and containers and out on the grounds, but the grunt work which demanded many hands is finished.  With walkway, kayaks, and sailboats back into position, it is now much easier and safer to move around on club property and the grounds look almost normal.

The work accomplished Saturday at Sebago after Sandy was but a drop in the bucket of the massive recovery effort underway in the area.  Many are homeless and living in shelters, having lost everything but their lives.  Some lost even their lives, as bodies are still being recovered, especially on Staten Island., and the death toll is now above one hundred.  Tens of thousands are still without power and the temperatures are dropping.  A nor-easter could bring rain or snow as well as higher than normal tides as soon as Thursday.  Some of the devastated neighborhoods on the Rockaways and on Staten Island are still waiting for relief efforts.  Some residents of the Jersey Shore may not be allowed to return to their homes, if they still have homes, for up to six months.

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