Believe it or not, this tranquil scene wasn't taken somewhere in the Catskills - nope, this is Alley Pond, namesake pond of the nearby Alley Pond Environmental Center in Queens. Queens, NY? Yes, Queens, NY! I and a few other Sebago club members went there on Saturday, Sept. 29 to participate in their National Estuary Day Festival - and we had a GREAT time! OK, the pond itself is not an estuary, but nearby Little Neck Bay counts, and the APEC throws a wonderful party in honor of the day.
Festivities! It was very family oriented - all sorts of arts and crafts going on here, lots of kids having a good time...not a Nintendo in sight!
Live music - sort of folky stuff, they got a couple of good singalongs going, that is indeed a washtub bass, and there was a tambourine just sort of laying around in a way most tempting to youngsters.
Sebago had a table, and Jerry the Sea Kayak Committee Chair and I were slated to do some demos. They weren't supposed to start 'til one, though, and we got there towards the start of the day, so I had a little time to walk around the pond. I watched this great blue heron for a while, but eventually as more people started walking around, the bird recalled an urgent appointment elsewhere & cleared out.
I was quite enchanted by these absolutely beautiful berries. Never saw berries quite as pretty. Unfortunately it turns out that it's too bad I was seeing them at all -
They are porcelainberries, which turn out to be a highly aggressive invasive species.
HIGHLY aggressive. They appear to have taken over this entire tree. Some of the people who work at the APEC told me about them. They apparently have entire work days devoted to pulling these things out, but can't make a dent. Too bad!
Looking down the boardwalk that leads on around the pond, with spots for quiet observation on the bank. From this picture, would you ever guess -
that we were just yards away from Northern Boulevard? Well, there's proof!
This is Paprika the Ferret. The center has a number of animals - snakes, lizards, tortoises, guinea pigs, rabbits & 2 ferrets. I never actually met a ferret before & Paprika seemed like an absolute sweetheart. I knew that people kept these as pets, but I'd always been skeptical about how good a pet a weasel could make - well, she's not exactly a pet, but she's a very friendly, curious, and gentle little creature. Assuming you're not a prairie dog, at least. She was on her way out to be the "show" part of some animal show and tells that were part of the day's events.
Here's Paprika and Corey, the young man who was handling the animal demonstrations - very enthusiastic, very knowledgeable about all the animals they had there (I now know how you can tell when a ball python, I think it was, doesn't feel like coming out of it's cage - frankly I never thought of snakes as particularly having feelings one way or another about being handled, but they do!). Here, I think Paprika was doing her sea-otter impression as Corey talked about animals she is & is not related to. The kids were loving it.
Even more, though, they loved when it was time for everybody who wanted to to actually pet Paprika. That was where I was really impressed - she was so friendly about it, just looked like she wanted to meet everyone. The lady with the badge happens to be one of the board members, I didn't get her name but I told her what a great time I was having.
Of course the whole point in my being there was as part of 3 skills demos. These were TONS of fun. Even the infamous mudpack roll, in a weird way, once I knew I was going to be able to get out of it without scaring the children who were watching. Never scare the children if you can possibly help it. Look goofy, but don't scare the kids. Jerry did most of the talking, which suits me fine, he had a good spiel. We'd start out with basics - here, we're doing some control strokes.
Then we moved on to a little bracing -
talking about how we can catch ourselves if we get knocked a little off balance -
Then on to high bracing & sculling for support, if one were in rougher conditions & got knocked down a little worse...
Next we start talking about OK, so what if you DO go over, maybe you need to be rescued. We started by demonstrating an eskimo bow rescue, easy & quick. - I've just done the whole flip-smack the hull-wave hands routine, Jerry's gotten his bow into my hands & in a minute I flip rightside up. At this point we really started needing to check that we had enough water - it hadn't rained for a while, and a quick pre-demo sounding with paddles showed a lot of 2-foot deep water. Fortunately there was a nice deeper spot right near the spectator area.
For a good demo, eventually somebody has to come out of their boat. Yeah, wet exits are the traditional way but I decided standing up & jumping out was more fun when you've got a bunch of kids watching. Particularly fun the first time when Jerry was talking about something & had no idea what I was doing...which was of course stealing focus in the worst way. Hee hee hee.
I'd do a paddle float for starters. Not that easy in 2-foot water, you try it sometime!
then we'd do a nice t-rescue
t-rescue part 2, Jerry gets me back in my boat. Funny thing was by the 3rd demo I was slowing down a bit - that may also have been residual confusion from the mud-pack roll though.
then Jerry talked about the differences between the 2 kinds of paddles we had.
Hand rolls were not originally part of the plan, but there'd been some discussion of how we could pull a spare paddle off our deck to roll if somehow your first paddle gets knocked from your hands, and then one of the kids said "What if you lose both paddles?" and I said "Well, I'm not making any promises but I'll give it a shot..." - Jerry standing by just in case.
And up no problem, and from that point on Tony the Membership Chair, who was on land answering questions, decided to add that to the routine, which was fine. Except by the 3rd demo some little prima donna wasn't happy with just doing one. No, I decided to do a 2nd one. Tucked, capsized, apparently went about 2/3rds of the way over and then just stopped as my head squished into the mud. Kayaks "walk" by more than their own width when they roll, and my boat had walked right out of our nice little rolling hole. So there I was partially capsized with my head stuck in the mud. That's when it's nice to know that you've got people standing by and all it would take is a hull smack and they're gonna come get you. First I thought I'd see if I could just push myself rightside up - that worked fine & somehow the mud didn't stick too badly.
The kids might not have guessed that anything had gone awry except that Prof. MJ (who took these, thanks!) asked if I'd hit the bottom the minute I was rightside up & available for answer. Of course I was about to crack up & instantly admitted to sticking my head in the mud. Ah well, sometimes you demo what NOT to do! Anyways, here we are at the end. "Say goodnight, Gracie". "Goodnight, Gracie!". Of course when I finally got into a shower that night I started laughing again - I washed a whole lot of very fine gravel out of my hair! Lots of fun, though, and all the kids really seemed to enjoy it. Next time I'm checking depth before EVERY roll, though!
Windmill at APEC.
And here is a scene which I was told I had to document due to it's rarity - how often do I get to watch 2 other people load my boat onto somebody else's car? Unusual end to an awfully nice day. I'm so glad things worked out such that I could make it - neat place, the Alley Pond Environmental Center!