2006-08-10 / Top Stories

Landlubber Goes Kayaking Solo Under Sebago Club Supervision

By Melissa Prince

Rookie kayaker paddles on waters of Jamaica Bay.                 John WrightRookie kayaker paddles on waters of Jamaica Bay. John Wright What happens when a city girl with no experience in the great outdoors, who can't swim, is assigned to write a report on kayaking on the waters of Jamaica Bay? Surprisingly, she had a pretty good time.

At the Sebago Canoe Club on Aug-ust 5, I found myself preparing to be placed in a kayak, tipped over and possibly drowned. I figured either way, the Canarsie Courier would get a good story.

I met Tony Pignatello, the membership committee chair and eventual kayak tutor and he explained that all of the volunteers at Sebago endure various assessments to guarantee they are cap-able to serve as trip leaders and assistants.

After a quick tour, I was introduced to Elizabeth Green, Saturday's head trip leader, as well as staffers Minh Nguyen and Jerry Dunne. After giving everyone a kayak, paddle, personal flotation device (PFD), bottled water and sunscreen, Green showed us some basic paddling techniques and told the small group about different signals that are used in case of emergencies.

Before I knew it, I was in my kayak trying the Front Stroke. I felt a bit awkward, but the kayak moved forward. In my mind, the craft seemed so unstable that I feared it would go over momentarily. I slowly and methodically paddled in a circle and began to get the hang of it.

I began thinking it wasn't too bad until my arms were overwhelmed with fatigue. I had only been on the water for about 20 minutes, merely practicing before we actually began a three-mile trek, but I was exhausted. Green then told us we were setting out on Jamaica Bay, so I got in line with 14 other participants.

Ten minutes into the journey, my arms were on fire. Not only was I struggling to keep up with the group, but I was also having extreme difficulty remaining centered. I told Pig-natello of my distress so he offered to tow me, a request I eagerly accepted. He placed a connecting line from the back of his kayak to the front of mine. I still paddled, but this way I was sure to stay with the group.

With the tow in place, I was able to enjoy my surroundings. The scenery was beautiful, as the water sparkled brightly under the clear sky. Though temperatures were in the mid-80s, a breeze made it feel comfortably warm.

We took a break to allow everyone to chat, rest and drink water before the return trip. That proved to be just as strenuous, but more relaxing than the outbound trip.

I finished the tour without capsizing, an accomplishment for which I'm personally proud.

Overall, kayaking was an enjoyable undertaking. I highly recommend it, particularly at the Sebago Canoe Club at 1408 Paerdegat Avenue North (off Avenue N), where the staff and participants are accommodating, helpful and friendly and where you can kayak every Wednesday evening at 5:30 p.m. and on Saturdays at 9:30 free of charge. For more information and to sign up for an excursion by kayak, call 1-718-241-3683.

As for me, I think my next venture will take place on dry land.

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