Education / Environment

Bronx kids row and sail home happy

Joe Hirsch

One of three sailboats docked at Hunts Point Riverside Park on Aug. 7 after a three-day, 35-mile trek.


Three-day trip means new experiences for local kids

One of three sailboats docked at Hunts Point Riverside Park on Aug. 7 after a three-day, 35-mile trek.

Twenty teens in three 20-foot sailboats made land at Hunts Point Riverside Park on August 10, after three days of recreation, rustic relaxation, and lots of rowing.

After months of hard work building the boats, the young people from local non-profit Rocking the Boat finally got to enjoy the fruits of their labor, embarking on a 35-mile trek that started on a small, island preserve off the coast of Greenwich, Connecticut.

The crews sailed and rowed south toward the Bronx from there, making overnight stops at Rye Playland and a City Island yacht club along the way.

Ramon Martinez and Rigoberto Montecino, 15-year-old friends who attend the Bronx Academy of Letters, stepped off the sailboat they had helped build, and headed back to the Rocking the Boat campus, carrying their clothing and camping gear slung over their shoulders like sailors returning from six months at sea.

“It was a great trip. Everybody does a little part,” said Martinez, showing the blisters on his hands from three days of rowing when the winds were too weak for sailing.

Rye Playland was the most enjoyable of the three stops, Martinez said without hesitation.

“We got to go on every ride at least two times,” he said. “I’m a little kid, I need to play.”

The Calf Island preserve off Greenwich could have been better, had clouds of mosquitos not buzzed in their ears incessantly on the first night. But the views from City Island two nights later were to die for.

“To see the whole city, with a lot of lights, just like in the pictures,” mused Montecino.

“It was just too good to be true, that perfect moment, just like on a postcard,” Martinez finished his friend’s thought.

The staff and boatbuilding teens drove from Rocking the Boat’s Hunts Point campus to Connecticut three days earlier, after a separate group had made the reverse trip, rowing and sailing from Riverside Park down to the remote island via Rye and City Island, then driving back to the Bronx.

Everything went smoothly, “beside a couple of bug bites and sunburns,” and a mast breaking in high winds on the Bronx River shortly before their return, said Bryce LeFort, who heads Rocking the Boat’s boatbuilding program.

The starry night skies of a remote island without power, a suburban amusement park and a yacht club were revelations to the twenty teens, most of whom had never spent a night outside the city.

“It was not what I expected at all,” said Perla Reyes, 16, who attends the High School for Environmental Studies. “It was very out of my comfort zone. I’m used to my bed. There I had to pitch a tent.”

Like the others, Reyes said she looks forward to going on another maritime adventure sometime soon. But as much as she enjoyed being away, she said she was glad when she saw the distant glow of the city while camping out on lightless Calf Island.

“The lights of the city were comforting,” she said.

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