Boats & Birds: It’s Summer on the Sound!

Most of us have had cabin fever during the COVID pandemic; some of us have weathered it better than others. And, the weather is better – and warmer – on average. So, more boats are out. Some of ours are too!

We’ve been sailing since April, albeit very sparingly for obvious reasons. Things are opening up gradually with select low-risk on water activities. We’ve managed some private classes and lessons for individuals or family who’ve quarantined together, and some of our Sailing Club members have gotten out.

In this pic: our Pearson 10M, Kilroy, with the ‘Gold Coast’ of Long Island in the background – and closer than you think (just as City Island is)!

Memorial Day Weekend is a benchmark of the beginning of the summer season. We usually ramp up for it. This weekend was quite slow, due both to weather and pandemic precautions. But, we got some folks out.

In that pic: teens enjoying a sail with the folks on the Sound recently. Memorial Day, in fact! Note the greenery surrounding the Sound. Plenty of bird sanctuary.

And, we got to simply observe. And we were reminded of one of the things that make City Island special as a sailing location and destination: wildlife. Fish and birds abound.

The sailing in Long Island Sound is arguably the best in the New York Tri-State region: gentle currents, abundant room, little commercial traffic, clean water one can swim in, scenery everywhere, tree lined shores, etc. It’s excellent for beginner and expert alike, with yacht clubs and sailing associations lining both coasts, and any number of one-design racing classes well represented. Junior programs; race weeks. Pick-up and JAM sails (Jib & Main). Coastal and the occasional National Championship. Cruising destination par excellence. Breeding ground of Olympians. And, perhaps the best place for people to just learn how to sail.

Plus, we have the plumage…

In that pic: a family, flock, or whatever one calls a gathering of snowy egrets. Eastchester Bay, on the west side of City Island, Memorial Day. S. Card, photo.

No, it’s not important to see birds to learn how to sail or enjoy quality Club sailing. But it is important to see them as a sign of a healthy ecosystem that’s clean and fun to play in. Plus, all other things being equal (and they’re not), why wouldn’t you want to see them? They’re one of the attractions of the Sound in general as well as City Island.

In that pic: Geese and goslings. Rodman’s Neck, off City Island, Memorial Day. Shot taken by our DP, Captain Card, while taking a quick fishing break. He did hook one weakfish and lost it. Signs of life…

Here are birds we see routinely or occasionally here…

  • Amazon parrots (no shit!)
  • Black capped night herons
  • Canada geese
  • Cormorants
  • Ducks
  • Egrets
  • Great herons
  • Gulls
  • Hawks
  • Osprey
  • Swans
  • Terns
In that pic: family returning from a sail aboard one of our boats on Saturday, May 30. Parents: grads of our program and now cruisers. Kids: taking a shine to the daysailing and cruising, and who knows… maybe future wave shredders on the race course!

Osprey attempt to nest each spring on the frame over our pier. The gulls always outsmart them and dash those dreams on the ramp and rocks. Amazon parrots are fairly well distributed around the region, surprisingly; City Island had a large population that appeared to have disappeared, but we’ve been seeing them again the last two seasons. They hang out right in our marina and are a hoot (ouch) to watch and listen to.

In that pic: a lone osprey captured doing a fly-by against the tall radio tower next to City Island – the single best beacon, or navigation aid, in Western Long Island Sound.

All the others? Seen along the shore, off our docks, from our boats, etc, etc.

So, if you want to mix some bird watching with your boating, or you just appreciate a calmer, healthier environment in which to enjoy top tier sailing….

Birds of a feather know what’s better.

In that pic: an egret or heron (who knows? who cares…). Picturesque, yet pedestrian… this kind of scenery is an everyday thing on the waters around City Island and Long Island Sound. Come capture your own scenes!

We’re not just IN the news… we help produce it!

When media needs a captained boat rental for tv, film, ad & photo shoots, we often get the call.

In that pic: USA Network journalists/drone pilots in action from our Carolina Skiff on Long Island Sound. The foredeck is like a drone heliport, and the open profile of the stable skiff facilitate shooting in any direction from on board. Here’s a sample of what they captured before their drone landed:

Still frame from video aired by USA Network on northjersey.com – an aerial piece about burials at NYC’s cemetery (potters field) on Hart Island, adjacent to City Island.

This isn’t anything new for New York Sailing Center. We’ve been featured on cable, network TV, and in print since soon after we opened in the fall of 1997 with on-water classes starting in April of 1998. And, we’ve helped produce the full spectrum of the same things for other purposes.

Our Director and HBIC (Head Bozo in Charge), Captain Stephen Glenn Card, is a solid photographer if slightly shakier on the video front. However, he’s an all-around rock star on setting things up – and then keeping clear – so pros get their shots: by still lens, video, and anything attached to a drone. Somehow it just comes naturally to him.

In that pic: a glassy calm photo session from City Island Harbor, looking out over Long Island Sound. That’s the ‘Gold Coast’ of Nassau County, Long Island in the background. This was a lengthy piece in New York Magazine last summer. We took NY Mag out for stills from our Carolina Skiff and aerials via drone, ranging from the Brother Islands in the East River out to some small islands off Westchester in the Sound. Foreground of pic: the Chimney Sweeps, large rock islets off City Island.

When the shoot calls for talent on a boat with a particular look and lighting, we can supply the boats and time the lighting. For one shoot, Captain Card was hired to captain a 40-foot sailboat for a few days that was the main location for a short independent movie. Departing Sag Harbor each morning, he drove the boat to wherever the director wanted the background to be, and oriented the sailboat for the best lighting. There was a go-fast chaseboat available for some of the shooting, and some crew and talent transfers, but most of it was from right on board the sailboat, and Captain Card brought them along from the dock

At anchor for one scene, the lighting wasn’t quite working out. So, he rigged a bridle from bow to stern which the anchor line could be slid along, letting him instantly and exactly change the boat’s angle to the sun as the DP needed in the moment. Brilliant! Idea, that is… the lighting was more subtle on purpose.

In that pic: New York’s Channel 5 did a series a few summers ago called Closer Than You Think,” about things to see and do in NYC that were, well… yeah. Closer. They did a piece on City Island, and we got most of the air time as well as a lengthy thanks/mention in the studio segment with the reporters. We were featured, of course, but we were also very involved in all aspects of setting up the shoot: scenes from our pier (as in this pic), chase boat, and video from both. It’s a fun video; check it out here!

We absolutely love doing this stuff, whether it’s zooming around in our go-fast Carolina Skiff to chase down a sailboat in a shoot, cruising to a destination for scenery, or whatever actually. We still love just being on the water. Never grows old.

We Started Sailing!

Well, yeah – we went out on that super warm day in February, but that doesn’t count.  We officially kicked off our 2018 sailing season on March 31 and Easter Sunday, April 1.  No foolin!  On both days we chose our Pearson 10M, Kilroy Was Here.  (Our Pearson 26, Second Wind, was an option as well.)

The Longest Season in the NortheastSM – another way we give you MORE.

Anywho, Saturday saw light and variable breezes to start out, including a little motionless hang time.  It’s all good in the Sound and its surrounding bays and harbors… there’s little current, and very predictable commercial traffic.  Soon, enough wind picks up to sail meaningfully, even as little as 5 knots.  (Don’t try that in NY Harbor and the Rivers.)

See the trimaran between the boys? It was our only sailing company the whole weekend. it seemed to appear from Manhasset Bay, a quick sail even for a monohull from City Island or vice versa. Kept photo bombing us!

Later, the southwesterly picked up just like a summer sea breeze, but cooler of course.  We made it to Stepping Stones Lighthouse, our modest goal, before that and rode it almost to Fort Totten off Little Neck Bay.

Sailing wing on wing up the Sound as we cruise back toward Stepping Stone Lighthouse on Saturday. Open Long Island Sound is behind and to the right.

We passed the light again, then decided that was plenty of fun and rode the building breeze back in to get docked up.  This was a Club sail with two members present- Adam (graduate of several of our courses who went on to bareboat in the BVI based on that), and Piers, a recent learn-to-sail graduate who’s going to take 105 next weekend and 103 & 104 as the season progresses.

The wind picked up nicely after reaching the light on Saturday and we flew back north before turning into Eastchester Bay to berth the boat.

Easter Sunday was a teen outing put together by a long-standing client and friend of the Sailing Center, Jim, who has a small daysailor of his own.  The young adults had a blast, all taking turns steering, and eventually letting Jim have a shot.

Teen trip on Easter Sunday! One more hiding out of sight somewhere, plus the Dad of two who put it together. Stepping Stones starting to look familiar back there?

We did the true City Island-style Lighthouse Loop!   Okay – technically, not – we didn’t go around Stepping Stones.  Not worth it; tricky passage and waste of distance and time.  But we went just past it and turned and looped alongside.  Good enough.  Then, we went very close to Gangway Rock, cutting between it and it’s very nearby gong buoy.  How  close?  THIS close…

Gangway Rock Light, off Manhasset Neck. Gorgeous picnic spot – there’s a deeply curved bight with a beach that locals call Half Moon Bay. That’s an osprey flying in the photo. Almost always a next on the lights near City Island, making for numerous birdwatching (and listening) options.

Then, on to Execution if the wind held and the teens steered well.  And both did their duty.  So, we went all the way around Execution and its red nun on the far side, and then tacked to head back to City Island Harbor and then around into our off-season slip for Kilroy on the Eastchester Bay side.  Lovely ride.

Approaching Execution Rock Lighthouse, Easter Sunday. Fun, easy and safe itinerary – out around the light and back! Have to look at the chart and see what marks the safe passage, but if you bother, it’s easy.

Did we mention the fun?..

Post faux-Titanico fun on Easter Sunday aboard Kilroy Was Here.

Want to get in on it?

Our Sailing Club has Skipper memberships for those of you who are ready to just go.  We also have Social/Crew memberships for those who are not.  Want to bridge the gap?  Of course, as a school, we have courses, clinics and even private instruction.  We have what you might need not just to skipper a day sailor in Long Island Sound, but to cruise the whole thing or charter a Bareboat yacht in the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, or anywhere else charter companies exist for that.

Want to see some clips?  Here are two on Insta…

Saturday’s Club Sail

Easter Sunday Teen Sail

Want to learn more?  Here you go…

Sailing Club Memberships

Sailing Courses, Clinics & Privates

Instructional Sailing Vacations