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As fans of cold water paddling and adverse conditions, I found myself at Goldstar Battalion beach in Huntington on Saturday the 14th of November waiting for Alan Mayors to arrive. A gale force warning was in effect. Air temperature was 49°, water temperature 59° and the sun was shining on the whitecaps in the harbor. I had unloaded my gear onto the beach and was partially dressed and loaded. Dry suit was on, but skirt, PFD, and dry bag were resting in the cockpit. I had lent Alan my Gearlab paddle to play with earlier and didn’t bring any of my other Greenland paddles with me that day, except my Norsaq which is always on my deck.
I knew Alan would be running late as there were some closed roads on route to the beach. I strolled into the cool, but far from freezing, water and burped my dry suit. When I came back to shore, two gentlemen, one in his 40s and one around 70, were walking their dinghy to the water to row out to their mooring. I waved and smiled, and they waved back. I didn’t think much about them and carried on fiddling with my gear as the older man rowed off and the younger (turns out to be the son) came back by me and sat in his car.
A few minutes go by and the son got out and walked away down the beach, while I’m standing with a building behind me as a windbreak and to soak some warmth from the sun. My eyes returned to him as I see him jogging along at the far east end of the beach. He jogs intermittently and walks some. Then starts running back towards his car and me. While he is running back my way, I start scanning the water to see what he was reacting to, but I can’t see anything unusual. Just a few boats on moorings, no people, no moving objects. I approach him as he nears, and ask if everything is alright. He replies, “I’m not sure,” and starts to get in his car, when he seems to think a moment and turns back to me.
“I think the dinghy is taking on water and he can’t get into the boat,” he says to me. I ask him where the dinghy is as I can’t spot it. He points out the boat to me, and says that the dinghy and his father are on the far side of it.
I tell him that I’m going to grab my gear and paddle over to him to assist. He thanks me and says he’s going to drive over to the dock that is closer to them (about a quarter mile east of us).
I sprint to my kayak on the beach and grab the dry bag that has my car keys as I don’t have a paddle out, but do have my euro paddle in the car. With speed being my primary goal, I grab the paddle, and put it together, leaving my VHF radio in the car. I put the paddle together, close the doors and sprint back down to the kayak where I quickly pull my hood on, skirt up, buckle on the PFD and literally throw the kayak into the water.
If you’ve ever seen my 6’ 1” body squirm my way into the cockpit of the Tahe Greenland, you know it isn’t always the fastest action, but with haste as my muse I just sat way back on the rear deck, pointed my toes, grabbed the cockpit rim and slammed my legs on in. Snapping the skirt on slowed me a bit as I had neoprene gloves on, and the constant small waves were trying to sneak into the cockpit (which only sits about ¾ of an inch above the waterline with me in the boat). Locked and loaded, I swung the euro paddle around and pushed off. I literally hadn’t used a euro paddle in over a year and it took a good 30 seconds of adjusting to the stroke and feeling it catch the wind in order to smooth myself out and get full control.
Shortly after that I reached the spot I had been directed to, but the power boat was not there. No boat, no dinghy, no person. “This could be very bad or very good,” I thought. I scanned the waterline but saw nothing. Scanned the shore and nothing. I circled around the couple of boats that were moored nearby in case I just had the wrong one and the man was on the far side of one. No such luck. I paused and started to think about the wind direction and tide direction—both of which were strong and westerly—and spotted the son up in the parking lot of the Harbor Boating Club, a few hundred feet further east. I followed his sight line down below and saw his father in the water, clinging to the dock and struggling with the current.
I spun the kayak and sprinted over. The son spotted me coming in but his attention, and mine, were on his father. The father mustered his way onto the dock about 10 seconds before I reached him. He was wearing jeans, a sweater and jacket, and had one calf-high rain boot on. No PFD. The other boot lost to the sea. He was able to get to his feet on the dock but was stumbling around. He was clearly exhausted and cold, and unsure how to proceed. The gangway had been removed for the winter. The dock was not connected to shore. Under the water there was a chain link fence connecting the dock to the shore acting as a strainer, and my hull kept riding up onto it, but I clung to a piling to keep off of it and avoid being swept away over the fence or under the dock.
I guess some of my ancient PADI Rescue Diver training kicked in and I first asked the man if he is injured. He said no, and I mentioned his limp and awkward movement, but he insisted that there was no injury. I accepted that and explained that he was safe, but the biggest threat ahead of us was the cold. We needed to quickly get him onto shore, out of the wet clothes and into dry clothes, or even undressed and in his son’s car. He understood.
I quickly thought about my options for getting him to shore. It was not far at all. Maybe 50-75 feet to the neighboring private beach, but it was across and against the tide and wind, and we had to keep off that fence or risk puncture wounds or being trapped under the water. I was having trouble controlling my kayak while along the dock, and the water was broadsiding me. My first thought was to have him on my foredeck and paddle him to shore. I quickly ruled that out as a) that would put him right up against the fence to start, b) the Tahe has less rigging than most other boats leaving him less rope to cling to, and c) in my assessment, he was too weak to hold on, and having him lose contact and drift into the dock/fence would be a disaster – physically and emotionally for him. I explained to him my plan.
I paddled to the nearby beach, ditched the kayak, and swam back out to him. Then I explained that he needed to get back into the water and rest his back against my chest. This, he explained later to me, was the hardest part of the whole ordeal for him. He had to muster up the courage to slide back in. It didn’t take him long though. He sat on the edge of the dock, and as I explained that he’d be just as warm (if not warmer) in the water with me, he slipped off the edge, and hung on to a piling. I reached under his arm and across his chest and told him that he only had one job, and that was to keep his head above water and let me do the work. With my body and PFD providing buoyancy for us both, I leaned back and kicked off of the piling and fence to get some starting distance and began my side/back-stroke against the current. We moved slowly, but it was not far to go. It wasn’t long before he exclaimed, “I can stand here!” and I stood up and gave him a shoulder to lean on as we waded to shore, up the beach and up a short flight of stairs to the street level.
The private beach was closed and locked with a chain link gate. His son was on the street side, and there was conveniently a storage box a foot or two from the fence. I helped the older man up onto the box, and provided my back as a bridge over to the fence. He slid across into the arms of his son. I made sure that the son understood that the wet clothing should be his first concern and he explained that he had dry clothes in the car for his father. He promptly carried his father around to the parking lot where the car was.
By this time several locals had arrived including a few with keys to the gates. Seeing that he was safe and far from alone, I headed back down to the beach, got back in my kayak and started paddling west against the tide and wind. The adrenaline was beginning to fade and exhaustion starting to toy with me as I made my way all of maybe a third of a mile back to Goldstar.
As I near I see Alan on the shore. Tired, I’m excited to get back and relay the story. I can’t hear over the wind, but I realize Alan is yelling something and has been giving me the bird for the entire time I’ve been able to see him. I finally get in hearing range and he’s clearly upset with me that I was out, not answering the radio (as it was in my car), and nowhere to be seen. We had just talked that morning about always having the radio, so I agreed with him, but between pants I explained the story and his anger and concern changed to understanding. He smartly advised me to check my blood sugar after that adventure (I am a type 1 diabetic) and despite having loaded on carbs prior to getting to the beach, I was dropping quickly. Good call, Alan! (My wife is proud of him for thinking of it!)
As Alan got his gear ready, I saw that an ambulance had pulled in to the parking lot, so I grabbed my radio(!) and walked the road around to check in with them. I got there to find two squad cars, two unmarked cars with sirens, and an ambulance. I spotted the son talking with the EMTs and explained that I’d come over because I’d seen the ambulance, and he said that everything was ok. Another boater who was on land, had called the harbor master on his VHF, and the ambulance on his cell. I chatted a bit with the son, the boater, the EMT and then they explained that the father was “calling for the hero” from the car. I went over and talked with him as he sat in dry clothes and wrapped in a Mylar blanket, for five or ten minutes and then took my leave to head back to Alan again as there was still rolling practice to be had over in Puppy Cove.
–While I didn’t stop to take any photos during the adventure, here is a more fun shot of Alan in training in the much more protected waters of Puppy Cove.
The Great Jack-O-Lantern Sail
By Rhonda Moziy
Halloween, a time for frolic and excitement, a time to enjoy autumn leaves at the peak of their splendor. Belmont Lake State Park was the setting for NACK’s Third Annual Great Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular Sail.
The bright sunny day on Saturday, October 24, 2015 was met with all kinds of Halloween themed activities. The park was surrounded with pumpkins, skeletons, haystack mazes, balloons, monsters on stilts, children in costumes, activity booths, games and more.
We set up our Safe Paddling with NACK stamp station. Our kayaks were displayed with skeleton heads, spider webs, cemetery fences, and black lanterns. Wooden kayak simulators with paddles were eagerly awaiting visitors and little kayakers. We were ready.
Upon entrance into the event, children were given stamper sheets. Their mission was to complete a Trick-or-Treat Scavenger Hunt by getting a stamp at each station. Completion of these sheets would allow them to enter into a Trick-or-Treat Raffle Drawing.
Crowds of kids in costumes ran from station to station participating in the many activities. They meandered around a Hay Maze, daringly entered into a spooky den, took guesses at the big candy corn jar, tried their luck with Bean Bag Toss; all while keeping an eye out for Frankenstein who was roaming around on big stilts. Safe Paddling with NACK and climbing aboard big red fire trucks with the North Babylon Volunteer Fire Company was only part of the festivities.
While Matt, Buddy, Mike, Bob, Ann, Chris, Alan, Steve and John took turns running the kayak simulation stations; I took my place at the wooden picnic table waiting and eager to greet our little guests.
I was the official stamper and presenter of the treats (decorated Halloween pencils and chocolate kit Kat bars). We were visited by Superheroes of all kinds, Ninja turtles, lady bugs, bumble bees, princesses, witches, a cupcake, a Christmas tree, Dracula, and even Wilbur the pig took time away from Charlotte’s web to stop by.
My hand became fixed in a steady up and down motion as I stamped little yellow papers. The never-ending line of eager kayakers kept up with excitement. To add to the enjoyment, Alan put one of our decorated kayaks on wheels, and ran in circles giving on-land kayak rides to the kids.
Meanwhile, down at the waterfront lake house, folks of Belmont Lake State Park carefully arranged 50 artfully carved pumpkins meticulously on individual small black square rafts. Each pumpkin individually stood out on their own stadium linked together waiting to be displayed illuminating as gleaming lights in the night.
Once darkness fell, crowds of kids and their parents lined the shoreline. Our dedicated NACKERS geared up for the Great Tow. Kayakers were ready and eager to be tied up to their rafts of pumpkins. One by one, kayakers took off with pumpkins illuminating the night while onlookers cheered. The pumpkins were methodically displayed as they circled the lake for all to see.
After all kayakers came safely back, the eager owners of the pumpkins waited patiently to claim their carved masterpieces. They were excited to know that their pumpkins were famous displays of the night. While the evening came to a close, our smiles spoke the pleasures of all the hard work that was put into the day. A complete salutation that it was all worth it. We can’t wait to do it all again next year.
July 14, a day with a mixture of spotty sunshine, various blankets of clouds and a delightful temperature in the mid 80s, NACK members Lynne Basileo, Bob Horchler, Troy Siegel and Matt Ferrizz. launched their kayaks from the sandy beach on Shore Road and began their outing paddling the protected waters of scenic Setauket Harbor.
The harbor’s edge is lined with a combination of historic homes and those of modern times. As we paddled around to the west, we viewed various estates, including a breath-taking horse farm sitting on seemingly endless acres of historic land. Proceeding across the harbor, we leisurely paddled east along the shore of Old Field Beach, while being entertained by seagulls, cormorants, herons and terns, and to where Setauket and Port Jefferson harbors merge, making our exit out of the harbor and into the Long Island Sound.
Heading west along the coastline, we were delighted to have a close up view and photo opportunity of the Old Field Lighthouse. Another mile and a quarter from the lighthouse brought us to our first rest area and trip destination—Flax Pond.
Flax Pond is a tidal estuary of natural beauty, located on the north shore in Old Field. It is 146 acres of salt marsh owned by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC). Paddling inside Flax Pond, one could only hear the sound of chirping birds at the water’s edge, small bait fish breaking the surface, the clattering of the reeds caused by the soft breezes and the water dripping off one’s paddle into the salty body of water. On the return trip back, we picked a spot where we could portage across to the harbor side to a section called The Narrows, which leads into Conscience Bay, to enjoy a second break and relaxing lunch. Our lunch was soon to be cut short as we noticed the thick, dark clouds appearing from the south over the treetops. Back in our boats, we paddled as if we were in a race attempting to reach the finish line of our 12-mile trip in record time. Within minutes of approaching our put-in, the skies opened and warm summer rain came pouring down.
Landing on shore, we unloaded our kayaks and proceeded to secure them on our cars. While attaching the tie downs, the sky started to clear, with patchy sun poking through. All enjoyed a good day on the water!
Everything about the kayak trip was perfect:
The weather was spectacular. Although we all know that you should dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature, the water was mostly near 80°, the air temperature about 85°, with a mild southwesterly wind topping out at about 10 MPH.
Lynne, Paul, Troy and Bob completed a 13-mile round trip from Oak Beach parking lot, to the island of East Fire Island, and back.
Lynne’s maiden voyage as an ACA Level 3 Trip Leader showed she was ready for the task. Along the the way, she was announcing the island names and markers from her chart as we were passing or approaching, and kept an eye on the weather, conditions and her paddlers.
Paul, who was the Trip Leading Back-up in Training, was assigned to be the navigator, as we were paddling in his “Stomping-Grounds,” and it showed. He also was the historian.
We stopped along the way at Sexton Island for a quick snack, and then continued around the north and east sides of West Fire Island, stopping along the southwest side of East Fire Island for lunch.
There, Paul found laying in the sand an old friend named “Wilson” (remember the volleyball that Tom Hanks had befriended in the movie Cast Away)? “Wilson” made the voyage back to Oak Beach on the deck of Lynne’s boat.
On the way back, Paul showed us the location of some of the oyster beds and fish trapping areas, both along a section of the bay called Wing Inlet.
Troy, a Licensed Master Boat Captain, who operates a water taxi in the summer right in the area where we were paddling, also offered lots of local knowledge, and made “SECURITE” calls on his VHS radio, advising powerboats to be aware of four kayakers crossing the busy channel and asking them to minimize their wakes.
Bob added some amusement to the end of the trip when we were loading our kayaks back on the car. Bob had his end of the kayak in one hand, and the beautiful “snail-shell” he just plucked from the bay, in his other hand.
Well on the way to the car, Bob had the escargot scared out of him, when the critter, acting like a fish out of water, was slithering out of its shell onto Bob’s hand. The animal was returned to the water immediately. Bob never knew he was supposed to be wary of shells.
Additional Pictures by Lynne, trip planning and navigation by Paul, on water communication by Troy, Map and narrative by Bob.
This just in from ALAN.
Well, after a few official & unofficial April paddles the new paddling season has officially begun (though for a few of us lucky ones, the 2014 season never ended!)
NACK held its first peer practices of the season this past Monday & though it seemed that having a Nassau County option may have bled off some attendance from the Timber Point session, it still was a very productive & enjoyable evening for the foursome who turned up @Great River. A nice outing, capped off by another beautiful, trademark Connetquot sunset. -with no bugs! (yet)
Under a warm late afternoon sun & with now-reasonable water temps we practiced various advanced ruddering strokes & assisted rescues right off the launch area for a while.
And even though early arrivals Tom & Debbie had already warmed up with a paddle downriver & around Nicoll Island, they were more than happy to then lead Ron & myself down & around for another lap.
A steady wind out of the South with some wind driven waves greeted us as we turned into the bay. Was a nice mix of conditions.
Once we were headed back upriver, a quick stop at the ‘drowning hole’ was made to try some practice rolls; then back to home base to call it a night.
Only complaint (if there was to be one) would be the dusk/dark park closures at Timber Pt & Heckscher killed any plans of us catching the full moon rise over the bay that night.
-May have to ‘Go West’ next month to Alhambra or J.Burns for that June Moon.
See you out on the water… -Alan M.
We weren’t disappointed on our return trip to the Carmans River.
This just in from Ron Scall.
This past Saturday I had my first opportunity to go on a group paddle with NACK. Up until now my interaction with the group was limited to pool sessions.