On Saturday, August 4th, a group of canoeists could be seen paddling peacefully down the East River at sunset. It was the North Brooklyn Boat Club (NBBC) on their first open canoe paddle of the season, offering local residents a rare chance to reconnect to their waterways.
“It should be an awesome trip to a very unique—and otherwise inaccessible—location on the North Brooklyn coast,” said NBBC committee member Will Elkins, who helped navigate the trip, along with fellow member Bleecker Wheeler.
The canoeists took off from the NBBC’s interim boathouse on 49 Ash Street for the three-hour excursion. After being skilled in safety basics, they paddled down North Brooklyn’s coastline to the Bushwick Inlet.
It was the first canoe paddle open to non-NBBC members. “Before, we just had trips to help [members] get more skilled, but we wanted to open it up to the public and make it a learning experience,” Elkins said.
Participants of all experience levels enjoyed the paddle. For several, this was their first time in a canoe. “I’ve been kayaking before, but never canoeing, so I wanted to try this out,” said Wynne of Sunnyside, Queens. Wynne and others enjoyed learning several new paddle maneuvers thanks to Elkin’s adept instruction.
Many canoeists were glad to leave the hustle and bustle of city life far behind them on shore. “It’s wonderful out on the water, away from cars honking—all that noise,” explained Fung Lim, an NBBC member.
Once at the Inlet, the crew stopped for a brief dinner and watched the sun set along the city skyline, a magnificent view that can only be experienced from the water. They also listened as Elkins described the waterway’s storied history.
At dusk, the crew returned to the boathouse, where they drank beer and enjoyed a good conversation around the campfire. Everyone was already looking forward to future events with the NBBC. Several boaters were eager to sign up for the second open canoe paddle on August 11th, which will venture down Newtown Creek. Elkins is also considering themed trips.
“We could do a decayed urban history tour where we learn about historic buildings. Or a bird watching tour, where we spot different species,” Elkins said. “We’d also like to get more involved with the Newtown Creek Alliance. They’re just ideas at this point, but I think they’d be really interesting.”
The NBBC is interested in providing tours that are both exploratory and educational. Paddlers can learn about Newtown Creek’s ecosystem, its ill-fated past, and the steps that are being taken to ensure a better future for the Creek and those who interact with it.
“It was worse than the Exxon Valdez spill,” said Elkins during the canoe trip, describing the oil spill that seeped into Newtown Creek. Elkins noted that oil residue is often seen on the surface of the Creek, at odds with the secluded beauty of areas like Bushwick Inlet.
But Lim is enthusiastic about the Creek’s future, thanks to relief efforts by many organizations. “We’ve finally started a cleaning-up program, so people can start reclaiming the waterways again,” he said. “People love the water, sometimes just being near it. New York City has more coastline than many cities, so our waterways really are our greatest resource.”
Those interesting in learning more about the NBBC, their events, or how to become a member, can visit http://northbrooklynboatclub.org.