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Mount Sinai Yacht Club

Sea Cadets Kerry Monaghan, Abby Fairchild and Olivia Wilcox arrive back to Mount Sinai Aug. 27. Photo by Alex Petroski

Nine days on the open seas traveling about 800 miles with complete strangers might sound like a punishment to most, but for six teenage young women it was a voyage that fostered personal growth and new friendships, and even blazed a trail for others.

On Aug. 18, six U.S. Naval Sea Cadets — all young women between 14 and 17 years old — set sail from Mount Sinai Harbor on a training voyage aimed at teaching them the rigors of seamanship and leadership. The Naval Sea Cadet Corps was founded in 1958 at the request of the U.S. Navy meant to serve as a youth development program for those interested in pursuing a future in the United States Armed Forces. The cadets were joined on the trip by three adults — officers of the East Moriches-based Theodore Roosevelt Division of the Sea Cadets Lt. Robert Garceau and Lt. j.g. Nereida Gonzalez, as well as Capt. Roger Noakes, whose personal vessel was used for the voyage, as it has been for similar training missions for the last four years. This voyage was unique in one specific way, however: it was the first time it was made with a crew of all female cadets, an idea brought to fruition thanks to one of them.

“I go to different divisions and speak to the cadets about the trainings, and so the chief came to me and said, ‘How come you don’t have an all-female [training journey]?’” said Garceau upon returning to Mount Sinai Yacht Club Aug. 27 following the excursion, referring to Chief Petty Officer Kerry Monaghan, 17, an Islip native who has been in the Sea Cadets program for four years. Garceau explained there were logistical concerns about the tight quarters on Noakes’ 38-foot sailboat — the Nada — and creating enough space for privacy for the female cadets and the male lieutenant and captain who would be on the trip. The lieutenant said he spoke to some of the women in his division, ran the request up the chain of command and eventually got the idea greenlit.

“I love the fact that she came to me and said something, brought it to my attention, and I discussed it with the captain and discussed it with cadets, my female cadets, to see who was interested,” he said. He and Noakes spent the nine days sleeping on the deck of the Nada, exposed to the elements, to ensure the cadets were given proper quarters. “It was rainy, wet, you’re out in the weather, but to make it happen that’s the sacrifices we had to do, and it was very well worth it. We will just expand it from here.”

Noakes, a South Setauket resident, has been offering up his personal vessel and time for this use as part of his nonprofit organization Sailing Nada Adventures, an initiative Garceau referred to as “beyond fantastic.” The Nada has its own interesting history, as it was built by author Nigel Calder, who was renowned as a sailing guru, according to Noakes. Noakes said he found the “missing” boat in Port Jefferson in 2010 with a different name, and through some research determined it was the Nada. After some restoration efforts, the vessel returned to the water to take students on voyages of discovery east from Mount Sinai and north to the Gulf of Maine.

“We wanted to use her for the betterment of anyone who encountered her,” he said of the boat. “We’re particularly focused on adolescent youth, to help build their confidence and take them into an environment which is something completely different than they probably have ever experienced before and show them that not only can they cope with them, but they can thrive.”

“We were just a group of girls who saw this training and we were like, ‘Yeah, I want to do that too,’ and why shouldn’t we? I think that would be great if some girl saw this and said, ‘Yeah I want to be a sailor, I want to join Sea Cadets.’”

— Kerry Monaghan

Mission accomplished, according to the cadets who were on board.

“Being out on this trip was truly an amazing experience, because you got to feel the rough seas, and you also got to feel the nice seas,” said Olivia Wilcox, 15, a Shoreham resident who has been in the program since February. “We got a lot of good lessons from really inspiring people.”

She said she joined the program because she hopes to attend college at either West Point or Annapolis military academies, and one day work in Army Intelligence. Although, she said during one of the five stops on the trip in Provincetown, Massachusetts, after visiting a U.S. Coast Guard Station, several of the cadets decided the Coast Guard might be the way to go.

The trip got off to an inauspicious start, with weather taking a turn for the worse early on, at one point sending the Nada in reverse due to headwinds and rough waves, according to Garceau, a Mount Sinai native who has since relocated to Pennsylvania.

“Right off the bat you’re supposed to be learning everything as we go, and this kind of put a damper on that because everybody was sick,” he said. “It made it difficult that way. They pushed through it, they wanted to continue, and we did.”

Erika Mattschull, 16, of East Northport, said she joined the Sea Cadets because she comes from a military family, making her fifth or sixth generation in her family to purse a life of military service. She reflected on what the all-female cadets trip might do to impact other girls like her.

“It would mean a lot to me if more people found out about the Sea Cadets, especially females, because then more trainings like this would probably open up, so it would really be good,” she said. “It was definitely a great experience, I’ll remember it forever.”

Monaghan, who celebrated her 17th birthday on the voyage, also reflected on the idea of serving as a role model for younger girls.

“I would be honored,” she said. “That’s crazy, I mean, we were just a group of girls who saw this training and we were like, ‘Yeah, I want to do that too,’ and why shouldn’t we? I think that would be great if some girl saw this and said, ‘Yeah I want to be a sailor, I want to join Sea Cadets.’”

Sea Cadets Erika Mattschull, Olivia Zhang and Natalie Puello arrive back to Mount Sinai Aug. 27. Photo by Alex Petroski

As members of the Mount Sinai Yacht Club in Cedar Beach came out June 10 for the 15th annual blessing of the fleet, most understood, as old of a tradition it is, the blessing is time-honored way to guarantee
a successful boating season.

“This is for the entire season to make sure [the club’s members] have a safe and fun boating season,” said Reverend Jerry Nedelka, Venerable Canon for the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island. He has conducted
the blessing of the fleet ceremony for nearly two decades. “This is a great opportunity for fellowship among friends and club members.”

This year Nedelka and Reverend Francis Lasrado of Infant Jesus R.C. Church in Port Jefferson, held up a cross and gave blessings to the many boats, both large and small, of the yacht club’s members as they crossed in front of the marina. The reverends even blessed the Town of Brookhaven’s pump out boat as it crawled its way across the harbor to the mouth of the Long Island Sound.

The blessing was attended by club trustee Bill Dick along with various local government officials including
Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) and Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point).

“This … shows our strong, community-focused mindset,” Dick said.

Anker said the club plays a big park protecting the local harbor front and environment, especially when it comes to the repair of the channel that travels from Mount Sinai Harbor into the Sound, which is constantly affected by erosion and storms.

“They are good stewards of our environment,” Anker said. “They are an anchor in the marina community, and
they have been instrumental in efforts to repair the channel.”

Mount Sinai Harbor. File photo by Desirée Keegan

Councilwoman Jane Bonner is getting by with a little help from a friend.

Bonner (C-Rocky Point) has aided the Town of Brookhaven to begin a long overdue jetty reconstruction project in Mount Sinai Harbor. She, along with Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and others on the town board, helped secure $5.6 million in town funding to go toward rebuilding the east and west jetties at the mouth of the harbor. The project will increase boater safety making navigation easier and could allow dredging that will bring back the winter shell-fishing season.

The issue has been a top priority for Bonner since 2010, when her office commissioned a study along with the Army Corps of Engineers to assess the need for improvements to the jetties, she said during a press conference Sept. 19 at Mount Sinai Yacht Club.

At the time, rocks had collapsed, submerging the seaward ends of the jetties at high tide, and the elevation of the jetty stones above the water at high tide was less than four feet in some places. Bonner and Romaine saw a more pressing need to address the problem after Hurricane Irene, Superstorm Sandy and other storms caused further damage, though they weren’t able to secure enough funding to complete the project until this year.

Councilwoman Jane Bonner thanks state Sen. Ken LaValle for helping to secure $3 million in funding to rebuild jetties in Mount Sinai Harbor. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Councilwoman Jane Bonner thanks state Sen. Ken LaValle for helping to secure $3 million in funding to rebuild jetties in Mount Sinai Harbor. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Bonner reached out to state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) to see if his department could kick in some additional funds to help the town reach the $10 million budget needed to complete the project.

Initially, LaValle offered Bonner $1 million.

“I was not shy, I was not embarrassed to tell him it wasn’t good enough and that we needed more money,” she said. “He actually called me at home to let me know. His first words were, ‘How’s $3 million, is that enough?’ And I said, ‘It’ll have to do Senator,’ so thank you from the bottom of my heart.’”

LaValle helped secure an extra $2 million with the help of senate majority leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport).

“From day one I’ve always had as my mantra that local control was very, very important,” LaValle said. “It is nothing but a pleasure working with Supervisor Romaine and [Councilwoman Bonner], who is always looking out for her council district, and always says, ‘Senator, I could use your help.’ It’s working with the localities to identify the problems, and make it a priority. That’s how we started with $1 million and ended up with $3 million to get this done.”

Reconstructing the jetties, according to Bonner, is critical for thousands of residents who utilize Mount Sinai Harbor for recreational and commercial reasons.

“This peninsula is not just a yacht club — we have working boatyards, we have recreational fisherman, we have fishermen and women that derive their income from this harbor,” Bonner said standing on the porch of the club. “This is truly a hub — it’s a working harbor and we are very fortunate and very blessed to be surrounded by so many people that will benefit from this project being done.”

John Howell, commodore for the Mount Sinai Yacht Club, said he has witnessed how dangerous the waters have been first hand.

“This is truly a hub — it’s a working harbor and we are very fortunate and very blessed to be surrounded by so many people that will benefit from this project being done.”

—Jane Bonner

He said he’s boated through Hell Gate, a narrow tidal straight in the East River that has the reputation of being unsafe, and said even that doesn’t compare to his harbor.

“I’ve been through Hell Gate many times through many conditions, and I can attest that our little entrance here is worse than Hell Gate,” he said.

The undertaking will help improve boater safety, as there is a large sand bar that extends deep through the middle of the channel that boats get stuck on, but according to Romaine, as part of replacing the jetties, Suffolk County has agreed to also do interface dredging at the mouth of the harbor once the jetty has been rebuilt and stabilized. As a result, winter shell fishing could resume. The harbor was closed for shell fishing for the first time last winter.

The Town of Brookhaven is hoping for added assistance from the neighboring Village of Port Jefferson, which will directly benefit from the project.

According to Romaine, the east jetty is collapsing and creating an erosion problem at Port Jefferson Village Beach. Brookhaven Town is the only municipality in charge of a jetty. The Army Corps of Engineers maintains all other jetties on Long Island but the Mount Sinai Harbor’s. While the town has always budgeted the $5.6 million, it could never get the rest of the funding needed, so now with LaValle’s contribution, Bonner said she hopes Port Jefferson Village will “step up to the plate with the difference” because the area would “benefit greatly from these two jetties.”

Port Jefferson Village Mayor Margot Garant did not respond to requests for comment.

Ralph Davenport, from Ralph’s Fishing Station & Marina in Mount Sinai, said he is excited to hear the harbor will be a safer place for recreational and commercial boaters.

“If you were a person who didn’t know this harbor and were looking for a safe place to come in, odds are that you would crash on the way in,” he said. “Big boats used to be able to come in and out of this harbor years ago, with no problem at all, and now it’s a hazard. It used to be the easiest harbor on the North Shore to navigate in, and now it’s one of the worst. So hopefully next year’s time we’ll dig the sandbar out of the way enough where the people can navigate safely again.”

It was a beautiful day in Mount Sinai on Sunday, as more than 35 boats of all sizes were blessed by Rev. Jerry Nedelka at the Mount Sinai Yacht Club’s 11th annual Blessing of the Fleet.

Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point), Yacht Club Trustee Bill Dick and other members of the club joined Nedelka to wish the boats a safe journey.

 

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