Last Saturday was a day on which my body cried out for the waterfront.  The weather turned the simplest tasks into moist ordeals, so after my second mechanical failure of the day – the right pedal of my bike followed my sunglasses in simply falling to pieces during normal use – I was more than ready to view Brooklyn from afar for a couple hours.  I headed up to the North Brooklyn Boat Club‘s space up on Ash street, where I met up with the group heading out for what was the club’s very first public paddle.

This is the first season for the club, and the eclectic fleet of canoes and kayaks they’ve managed to accumulate has finally reached a critical point that allows them to lead public trips.  Legally, liability is covered by a waiver and having participants join the American Canoe Association for the duration of the trip, which accounts for the $5 participation fee.  Real safety, however, derives from the competence of the group itself, which on this trip allowed the several first-time paddlers attending to learn a few strokes and quickly get out on the water without incident.  The NBBC is serious about safety without becoming so bogged down in protocol that no one actually ever gets wet, the most important factor of which is simply understanding the physical reality of being on the East River in a small craft.  About that…

Gliding down the Newtown Creek gives one a much different perspective of that waterway.  While it certainly didn’t feel clean  – the water itself has a murky, oily quality to it that I find unsettling, particularly at night – the calming effect of being on it changed my experience of the day dramatically.  The stiff breeze on the river itself made for slow going, but this died off the moment we turned into Bushwick Inlet.  Gliding in, crumbling industrial infrastructure provided the backdrop for a calm embayment that fostered schools of small silver fish jumping from the water and wading shorebirds.  We hopped out for a snack and to skip stones as the sun went down behind Manhattan.  After turning on the boat lights, we paddled back out into the river to find that the wind was now at our backs, leaving us to simply steer back into the creek, where a cheery fire and a drink awaited us at the boathouse.  Check out the photos on the Greenpointer’s facebook page for more views of the paddle and keep an eye here and on the NBBC’s website to join the next one.

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