Saturday, May 31, 2008

Clean it up...


Volunteer boaters are needed for Saturday, June 28 to help remove litter from the river accesses, shorelines and islands along targeted sections of the Lower Delaware River between Easton-Phillipsburg and Riegelsville.

Operation RiverBright offers a wonderful opportunity for recreational paddlers, fishermen, local residents, and organizations to give something back to the river by helping clean-up unsightly trash and debris.

To register and/or learn more about RiverBright
please contact me at

Further details about meeting time and place, shuttle arrangements and other details will be provided to registered volunteers.

Delaware River Greenway Partnership began sponsoring river cleanups in 1998 and continues to serve as the main sponsor. Other event participants and/or sponsors include the Lower Delaware Wild & Scenic River Management Committee, Delaware Valley Division of the American Canoe Association, New Jersey Youth Corps of Phillipsburg, and National Canoe Safety Patrol - Lower Delaware Chapter.

Monday, May 26, 2008

A Trying Trip...

A group of paddlers "raft-up" to wait for the stragglers who struggled with a relentless headwind.

The 17th Annual United Nations International School canoe/camp trip took place last week during the coldest and windiest weather of the entire spring.

This class of 110 fourteen year old students representing thirty-some nationalities were tested like no other. Tuesday featured a steady rain during most of the 13 miles between Dingmans Ferry Bridge and Walpack Bend. Wednesday was mostly sunny but we fought a stiff and steady headwind for all of the 10 miles down to Worthington. Thursday featured periods of sun punctuated by heavy rain showers with 40 mph tailwind gusts. At one point I saw an Old Town Discovery canoe flip underneath the Portland RR Bridge, and while broadside to the wind it blew down the river like tumbleweed.

Despite the extra-challenging conditions I suspect this class will carry fond memories back to school for the next group. The weather was kind during the campground activities and everyone made the most of these rain free moments along the Delaware River.

The twenty river safeties had plenty of action with a total of 6 or 7 boats capsizing during days 2 & 3. That's one of the main reasons we're on the trip.

Resting on the beach below Mary Rift while the unfortunate "swimmers" dry off and change clothes.

It was March 1992 that I moved to Lambertville to work for the Delaware Riverkeeper. My first project was to organize the UNIS trip. At that point in time I was an avid hack paddler. But I knew enough about the potential hazards involved to worry about how to safely lead 85 teens and several teachers from Manhattan down a 38 mile stretch of the river, with two nights camping involved.

The quest to make this trip work safely and still be enjoyable led me to the National Canoe Safety Patrol training weekend in Barryville, NY. Ultimately it led me to American Canoe Association courses, river rescue training and ACA Instructor Certification. Over the years the safety planning and running of the trip has evolved to become the single most important aspect of this "right-of-passage" for 9th grade UNIS students. A few of us have done safety for nearly all of the 17 trips. The first students that paddled down the Delaware with Gene Berliner and me are now about 31 years old. I have a photo of Fred Stine of Riverkeeper and me from year #2 and we both had dark brown hair, now turned thoroughly gray and white.

That's a long time running an annual canoe trip.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Lovely Rain...

Pictured above plunging through Skinners Falls, the new Howler looks just like the old one, except its beautifully restored and there is no hole on the hull. I'll need to find another use for the duct tape.

A nice soaker keeps the river and its tributaries running strong, a welcome condition in advance of the impending UN School trip. This helps to ensure that we'll have some current to carry us through the headwinds, speaking of which, last Sunday the headwinds were brutal on the Delaware River with gusts over 30 mph.

The Howler can buck a stiff headwind so long as the boat is facing into it. Turn sideways and there's a good chance of being flipped over.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

High Season...

Above: ACA members from the Delaware Valley Division enjoy surfing despite a persistent headwind.

Below: A pickerel frog poses during lunch break. This was shot with the cell phone.

May is the primary paddling season thanks to the annual United Nations International School canoe/camp trip, this will mark the 17th annual! Also, this year the Delaware Valley Division of the American Canoe Association reconstituted the Upper Delaware River Camping Trip at Landers Campground, locate in Narrowsburg, NY.

The UNIS trip took me to Manhattan to present a River Safety course to 110 thirteen-year old students representing thirty-some countries. I traveled up there by train a day early to stay over with my older brother Howie's son Jake who is finishing his Junior year at Columbia U.

I wanted to visit Jake and experience the dorm life, and the trip to the UNIS campus presented a great excuse. Jake is an incredibly intelligent and talented kid. Great writer and musician, like his Uncle John? His father is a major fine arts photographer and his mother a writer in her own right (and phD in English). Jake is also unspeakably undomesticated.

He and his six roommates presented the most depraved kind of dorm environment in terms of biological hazards found proliferating in the bathroom, kitchen and most of the bedrooms, especially Jake's bedroom, where I had to sleep. First step was to go out and purchase two pillows as Jake's brown little spittle-stained rags appeared to be slithering across the bed.

I can't describe all the activities that I either observed or joined, but it was an eye-opening, albeit nostril closing experience. I got at least 5 hours sleep -- these guys don't start partying until after my bedtime, around 10:30 PM. I left with the distinct impression that these students are determined to live to the fullest what remains of their surreal, teenage lives. These are Obama fans and their reasons definitely resonate.

The UNIS safety presentation went well enough, once I established my "rapport" with the estudientes. That was established with growls and threats. My main goal was to leave them with a sense of what a three day canoe trip will look and feel like, and to be completely prepared for three days on the river; rain-or-shine they will be paddling through the mountains. It's a formidable physical challenge for these kids to paddle nearly forty miles and camp-out a few nights. Most have never seen a canoe or been in a tent. Yet this event has become a right-of-passage for the incoming freshman class. I'll be joining Delaware Riverkeeper and over twenty other safety officers, all of whom have varying degrees of river rescue experience. Most are involved with the National Canoe Safety Patrol - Upper Delaware Chapter.

The Upper Delaware River camp-out was a much needed visit to "church" and an opportunity to hang out with some of the better paddlers in the region. We did the stretch between Callicoon and Lackawaxen. Twenty-four beautiful river miles, two campfires and a potluck dinner made for a nice "service." We did a little ACA business but mostly it was casual hanging out.

On the way up to the Upper Delaware I stopped at Hampton Park and met a guy who had a newly restored Mad River Howler for sale, just like my old one, but in perfect shape and beautifully restored in all its purple whitewater glory. This is huge because I was able to afford a few hundred dollars (a GREAT price and less than paid for the old beater). A new whitewater canoe that would be big enough for me would be over $1000. I'm set for another few years for solo river tripping and whitewater paddling.